I was sitting in one of my English lit classes last week when my professor said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Community is not having to explain your references. She was referring to readers who understand author’s allusions without the help of outside sources, like Google or SparkNotes, as belonging to the elitist society. But it made me think of OCF.
OCF, for me and I think for a lot of other college students, is a place where I can fully be myself. Not that my non-Orthodox friends don’t respect my religion, but they just don’t get it the way my Orthodox friends do. Only at OCF can I say something like “I’m going to Vesperal Liturgy tonight for the feast day of the Presentation to the Temple” and people know what I’m talking about.
A few weekends ago, when the big snowstorm hit the east coast, several of my OCF friends attended my church in Pittsburgh because they couldn’t drive to their usual church (we are blessed to have a lot of Orthodox churches in Pittsburgh). Walking into the church that day and seeing so many of my friends filled me with warmth and joy. There’s such comfort in knowing there are other students like you, who you can pray with, who get your Orthodox jokes. That the same people you stand next to in the pew singing hymns are the same people you stand next to that same afternoon at the basketball game scream-singing Uptown Funk.
Love, friendship, familiarity, all of it, my professor went on, is found when the people you are communicating with don’t need clarification. I don’t have to explain why I get up that morning to teach church school then go to Liturgy. I don’t have to explain why I order a veggie burger at a burger joint for dinner on a Wednesday. I don’t have to explain why I get super excited when I can order a regular burger at a burger joint for dinner on a Wednesday. (Fast-free days are the best, am I right?).
One of the four pillars of OCF is fellowship. One of my friends from my OCF chapter said to me the other day, “I feel closer to all of you guys, even if we don’t share that much personal stuff.” Maybe we don’t sit around at our meetings talking about the latest drama between our roommates, but we talk about bettering our spiritual selves and journeying towards Christ and I don’t think it gets much more personal than that. And the most wonderful part of it all, is that you don’t feel weird or uncomfortable talking about it. Our salvation goes deeper than the petty arguments that skim the surface of our daily lives; it exposes the meat and guts of who we are. To risk that kind of vulnerability, you need a loving community, where the people know you, support you, understand you. And that’s what OCF is.