When I was younger, one of my favorite songs was“This Little Light of Mine”. The best part of the song, at least in my 4 year old opinion was when you sing, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine!” To be honest I had no idea what a bushel was, but it was the only time my mom would ever let me enthusiastically scream the word “no”. This year, our OCF theme is John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (NKJV).” During the time of my absolute love for the song, I was also afraid of the dark, as I am sure most kids are. Monsters under the bed and in the closets can be the perfect means of traumatizing someone, especially a young kid. I used to sleep with a night light, I’ll admit it. I also could only fall asleep listening to music, usually byzantine chant. Somehow, with my small nightlight and byzantine chant playing in the background, the room didn’t seem as dark.
Today, I no longer sleep with a nightlight, nor do I have to listen to music to fall asleep. I wouldn’t say I am afraid of the dark the way I was when I was a kid, but I am afraid of the darkness. Almost every Tuesday morning, a group from my OCF goes to the local church at 6 am for First Hour Prayers. The entire service is lit by candles. Usually only one for each of us, and the votives for the icons at the Iconostasis. Somehow, even in the dark, we see. It is one of the most beautiful services, and it is mainly dark. If my candle were to go out, I wouldn’t be able to see. That is just one candle. So thinking back to the song from earlier, if I were to hide my light, what effect would it have on the light of the world?
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Every little bit counts!”? Sometimes I think to myself, “does it really?” If I were to add a drop of water to a container every day would the water level rise? Probably, but why am I telling you this? Because even if your light doesn’t make up the entire candle that is the Orthodox Church, if you hide it under “a bushel” eventually it will make a change. If I were to extinguish my flame, the light will get just a little bit dimmer. Now think about the drastic new statistic that has recently come to light. 60% of teens and young adults are leaving the Christian Church. That’s over half! So if over half of the population is extinguishing their flame, how much harder will it be for people to see? We face a crisis today, some may even say it’s an epidemic. 70% of America’s teen and young adult population have been found to be depressed. Their flame is starting to struggle, but it is hard to find your way in the dark, so you have to fight to keep it lit. Maybe the person next to them has a strong flame, that might help them see a little bit. But still, they look for other ways to make the flame burn brighter, and while it may burn brighter for a short time, eventually it will die again. We fill our lives with distractions, things to make us feel better praying that the light becomes strong again. But there is only one way to make our flame strong, and it isn’t drugs, alcohol, or other risk behaviors that make us feel good. It’s God. The only person who can steady our flame is God. Now, there are resources to help, like OCF for example, but unless we allow God to strengthen our flame, it will dim.
Earlier I talked about being afraid of the darkness. What is the darkness? As many people know I love C.S. Lewis, his books are as relatable now, as they were when he wrote them. In The Chronicles of Narnia:Prince Caspian, chapter 9, Lucy sees a bear, she is used to the animals in Narnia being friendly and talking, so she approaches the bear and tries talking to it. She gets very close to the bear and it still hasn’t “responded” the way she expected it to. Finally, the bear has enough and lunges at Lucy, but thankfully just in time, Peter kills the bear before it can hurt Lucy. Now you might wonder why I am telling you this, but it gives context to what Lucy is about to say that I think is super important. Lucy and Susan walk off to the side while the boys deal with the bear, she says, “Such a horrible idea has just come into my head…Wouldn’t it be dreadful if one day, in our world at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you would never know which were which.” We live in a world of darkness. What Lucy says here I think could be used to describe some of that darkness. To say “what if men went dark on the inside and look normal on the outside; how would we know who was who?” We are bombarded everyday with darkness, sometimes we can see it, other times it is disguised as normal. Now think back to John 1:5, “…The darkness did not overcome [the light].” God can help steady our light, for He is the light and the giver of light, and all who believe in him will be illumined with the light of Christ. Think about Lucy in Narnia acknowledging that there was darkness she couldn’t see. We have a darkness that will be overcome with light of Christ. So, like in the song, scream “no” when asked if you should hide your light. Share Christ’s light that He has lit in you so that we can overcome the darkness with the One who is the Light.
Hi, I am Evyenia Pyle, and I am the publications student this year! I am in my second year of college studying speech and hearing sciences! I play 12 instruments as of right now, and in my free time I play with my dog. I am really excited about this upportunity. Never hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, or if you are interested in writing a blog! email@example.com
Read our New Year’s post on some habits to consider installing your life–it’s never too late to start!
I should make something super clear–in no way, shape, or form do I presume to know anything about what’s going on. Ever. My life is easiest when I sit down with something tasty and someone else makes decisions for me.
However, if I was to write a post about reading during the New Year (oh, wow, what’s that over there? Hmm…) then I would be awfully remiss if I didn’t participate myself. How could I expect something from you that I myself was unwilling to do?
Furthermore, our community naturally creates support and accountability. A tough choice becomes easier when we all make it together.
As such, I wanted to share with you my reading of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, a book recommended to me by my sister. You may have heard of her. She’s kind of a big deal.
My copy of Mere Christianity is covered in red ink and riddled with dog ears. Lewis could turn a phrase so well, I swear, I underlined every fifth line. Let me just throw a couple of my favorite down right here:
“The Son of God became man to enable men to become sons of God.” (Tweet this!)
(When you pray)…”The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.” (Or this!)
“…He uses material things like bread and wine to put new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.” (Or this!)
“We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way–centered on money or pleasure or ambition–and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.” (Or this!)
“…it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” (Or this!)
Mere Christianity is a long walk, through which Lewis holds your hand the entire time. It isn’t so much long in size (my copy is 191 pages) as it is in attention to detail. Lewis begins with human nature, the law, the ability to discern between right and wrong, and step-by-step, slowly but surely, comes to understand Christianity and God manifested all the way down to, by the end of the book, our daily lives and our every moments.
As I said, Lewis walks with you through his logical progressions. As a convert himself, self-admittedly one who was outspoken against Christianity, he is intimately familiar with the natural objections that Christians often face at different points in their spiritual lives, whether from internal doubts or external questions. Anticipatory and consistent, Lewis gives comprehensible context and support for many tenants of the faith that, which while they are inherently held to be true, are often difficult to back up. This makes Mere Christianity an especially good read for the college student, I would argue–I find verbally explaining my faith, and the certainty thereof, much easier now.
Lewis does more than just “prove” Christianity, if you will. In establishing the Christian God as the only reasonable solution to, you know, everything going on in the universe ever, Lewis provides and expounds upon a context through which things like forgiveness, sexual morality, charity, hope, and faith can all be understood more fully in their role in the church. Those examples up there? They’re all chapters in the book. Faith even has two chapters (and they’re both called “Faith” ’cause Lewis is just that hysterically plain.)
By the time you arrive at that quote I put about (“When you pray…the real Son of God is at your side”), Lewis has irrefutably taken you from, “So, there’s a moral law all humans naturally follow,” to, “Christ literally stands directly next you when you pray and tries to help you out.” The experience shook me. I couldn’t believe that we had started somewhere so simple–“Yeah, okay, duh, there’s a moral law”–and ended up here, with Christ actively trying to infuse life in the “tin soldier” (Lewis’ construction) that my fallen self was trying to so hard to remain. I always had the vision of myself, working hard to get to Christ. I never thought about how hard He must–and does–work to get to me.
I’d really recommend Mere Christianity as a read. The chapters are bite-sized (some are five, six pages), Lewis uses familiar language, and cracks at least one joke every ten pages. It was impactful but not onerous; firm but not demanding. Here are some ideas on how to read Mere Christianity with your OCF chapter:
Choose a chapter or section to read. If you want to focus on why Christianity is true, go with Book I. If you want a review of the basics like you’ve never had before, go with Book II (but keep in mind that he was Anglican, not Orthodox). If you want to talk spiritual life, go with something from Books III and IV.
Make photocopies of a chapter and take turns reading out loud at a meeting. It’s probably better to read it altogether than to give everyone another homework assignment to add to their list.
To get the conversation going, ask people what points or illustrations stood out to them the most. It should be pretty easy since Lewis has such a way with words.
Talk about how you can apply what Lewis says to your daily life in and out of the classroom.
Encourage people to mark things they like, write them down in a journal, heck, even put them up on social media as a way to have their highlights stick with them.