Come Receive the Light

Come Receive the Light

by Demetra Chiafos

Every year on Pascha, the church goes dark and the priest emerges from the altar holding a single candle, its flame burning brightly. He chants, “Come, receive the light from the light that is never overtaken by night.” It is simple in its beauty, and it contains Christ’s promise to us. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Drink from the well of eternal life and never thirst again. Come, receive the light.

This promise is beautifully comforting. Unfortunately, the world we live in is full of darkness, and we are flooded with heartbreaking news. Even in our own lives, our own cities, on our own college campuses, suffering is never too far out of reach. We live in a broken world. However, despite this brokenness, Christians are called to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ reigns triumphant, ever drawing us closer to His eternal Kingdom.

When we acknowledge that this earthly life is not permanent, orienting ourselves toward Christ and His eternal Kingdom, we begin to see the world differently. When we focus on Christ triumphing over death, shattering the gates of Hades by dying on the Cross, we begin to see His candle through the darkness much more clearly. At OCF’s Summer Leadership Institute, we talked about how Christ never forsakes us. Even when it feels like God isn’t answering our prayers, or like senseless evil surrounds us, God will never abandon us. As it is written in Psalms 139:7-12 (NKJV):

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.

The OCF story that I tell frequently, however, is how my OCF chapter and parish community at school were there for me during one of the most difficult weeks of my life. My dad passed away during finals week in December of 2018. At its most intense and acute, grief felt like a physical ache that would never go away. I felt blinded by it, stumbling through each day, trying to do the things that needed to be done.

However, through my OCF chapter, God made the night “shine as the day” like in the Psalm. I texted our group chat that I didn’t want to be alone and they surrounded me like my personal battalion of angels. My dad died Sunday night. They compared schedules and made sure that one of them was with me Monday through Friday until I could get home, studying with me, eating lunch with me, or taking me to church. Anything I needed, anything they could say or do, they were there. No questions asked.

They are the perfect example of Christ’s love: eager to serve, immediate to help. There’s a quote attributed to Fred Rogers about how even in the times of worst despair throughout history, there have always been helpers, and instead of despairing we should look for the helpers. Through this experience, I have realized that to be true. There are always so many helpers: those who stand up for their bullied peers in high school, those who give the food they’re holding to the homeless with no second thought, those who have ripped the shirt off their back to staunch someone else’s bleeding. My friends who rallied around me in my time of need. I can think of more examples than I can list here.

 “Come, receive the light.” It is indeed a promise that no matter how dark our world gets, the light will never be overtaken. Beyond a promise, though, it is also a calling. We are called to be the helpers and to embody Christ’s light. Let us all approach Christ, our good and loving God, and rejoice in Him—for no matter how dark the world looks, He will never abandon us.

 

Demetra Chiafos

Demetra Chiafos

Guest Author

 My name is Demetra Chiafos and I am a senior at The Ohio State University! I am originally from Iowa. My dual degree is in dance and the Japanese language. This is my third year as a member of the student leadership board for the OSU OCF chapter. I love reading, writing, and traveling. I also play piano and sing in the choir at my school parish!

From the Beyond: Life Post-OCF

From the Beyond: Life Post-OCF

Hello from the beyond! The scary unknown that is post grad, the uncharted territory of working adulthood.

An update: Upon graduating from Pitt and passing on the OCF baton, I embarked on a new great adventure. I am spending the next two years as a teaching fellow with the Alliance for Catholic Education (which you should all check out: ace.nd.edu) and am spending the next two years teaching middle school language arts in Mobile, AL while pursuing my Masters of Education from Notre Dame.

Though I’m still a novice at this working thing, I’d like to reflect and share with you some humble thoughts.

1. You’re probably going to spiritually struggle more.

College is hard, no doubt. I don’t need to tell you that. Being on your own and navigating your relationship with God, establishing a personal faith life, etc. all the things OCF warns you about and supports you through are valid struggles. But that’s the thing — OCF is there for you. You have a support team, a lifeboat of other Orthodox college students captained by a spiritual or lay advisor who help you navigate the turbulent waters of college.

When you leave OCF, you leave the lifeboat. You’re now aboard your own little dinghy, all alone, still not really sure how to sail the waters. If you’re like me, you’ve moved WAY far from home or anyone you know. This is another huge change in your life, but without the structure, comfort, and help of OCF.

2. That being said, OCF will still help.

OCF has gifted you with an arsenal of friends, mentors, and resources. Use them! Reach out to your friends when you struggle, those who have gone before you and have this whole working thing under their belt, those who are also experiencing it for the first time, and those still in the safety of senior year. Reach out to your chapter spiritual advisor, a speaker you particularly enjoyed. Admit you are struggling and embrace it! The soil is fertile for growth, all you need to do is nurture it. You’re going to be changing and growing in so many ways — don’t neglect your spiritual struggles and changes but give them the tools they need to flourish.

3. Love God, and love your neighbor.

Maybe this is more Emma – specific advice, as I spend my days with a hormonal group of 60 middleschoolers. Sometimes, it’s really hard to love them. Like, really hard, especially when they ask you to go to the bathroom for the fifteenth time that day after you already said no the first fourteen times.. No matter what field you go into, you’re probably going to have to work with people you’ll struggle to love. In college, you often have more choice about the groups with which you surround yourself — your roommates, study buddies, club members. In work, not so much. You might not like your boss or your co-workers. But, you have to love them. And don’t just love them because you have to, because it’s a a commandment. Really try. Get to know them. Find Christ within them. In doing so, you will find Christ within yourself. And your work life will be a whole lot easier.

And of course, never forget God. Pray. Love. Give glory and thanks. In a way, we always talk about the things that change in our life — college, working, where we live, who are friends are — but it’s so much simpler than that. The one thing in our life that never changes is Christ and His love for us. So, while you’re in the midst of these crazy changes, remember the constants. And you will be just fine.


Emma is the former chairman of the OCF SLB. After graduating from Pitt, Emma joined the Alliance for Catholic Education as a Teaching Fellow. She currently lives in Mobile, AL where she teaches middle school language arts and is pursing her Masters of Education from Notre Dame.

November Regional Feature: Southeast Region

November Regional Feature: Southeast Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. November is the month for the Southeast Region, which includes Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee, and southern Kentucky.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southeast, the enchanting Fevronia Koufogazos–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Southeast All-Stars!

Yianni Margiotis, North Carolina District Leader, UNC-Charlotte

My name is Yianni Margiotis, and I am a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I am a double major in in Biology and Psychology, and I am currently applying to dental school. I am a student district leader of NC for OCF. I’m from Charlotte, NC, and I am somewhat of a basketball globetrotter. 

How did you get involved in OCF?

I first heard about OCF in my senior year in high school. Unfortunately, the university I was going to attend did not have an active chapter. Niko Wilk and Isabella Calpakis, great friends of mine and the founders of Charlotte’s chapter, successfully started OCF. Once I started college, I decided to attend an OCF meeting. Our chapter was small at first, but after a few years, the Charlotte OCF has grown tremendously, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of a wonderful group of Orthodox college students.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

I have two amazing memories. My first greatest memory was attending my first Workdaze, a biannual event where Orthodox Christian college students from all over the Southeast get together for fellowship, community service, and to be in the presence of Christ. It was wonderful to meet so many college students with the same interest as me, along with the same faith. My second greatest memory was an ordinary OCF meeting that was held last year in 2016. It was ordinary because we have meetings twice a month per usual, however it’s great to see how far we have come as a chapter here in Charlotte.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

In our region, we currently have over 110 college students attending Workdaze this fall. The last event that was held, which was in the spring, the number of college students was 68. It’s amazing to see how the message of Workdaze has spread to others and how new college students can see how great of a time it is to look forward to.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

My advice for someone who is in my position currently, which is the Student District Leader of NC (or in this case, any state), would be to get to know as many people in OCF as you can in your district and keep in contact with them. By doing this, they can see that they are not in this alone. You have to set an example of how an Orthodox college student is suppose to act; that you can go through your college years with clarity of mind knowing that Christ is helping you every step of the way.

Adriana Lane, Media Team Member, NC State Design School

My name is Adriana Lane! I am a sophomore in the Design School at NC State University in Raleigh, NC, but I grew up in Greensboro, NC. I am planning to double major in both Design and Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. I would love to own a design company one day, and I love donuts and coffee! I am a member of the Media Team for the Southeast region; we create social media content to promote OCF.

How did you get involved in OCF?

I got involved in OCF at NC State during my freshman year through friends of mine. My first major event that I attended was Workdaze in the fall of last year, and I immediately fell in love with OCF.

What are some of your greatest memories/experiences from OCF?

Some of the greatest memories that I have had through OCF would definitely be at Workdaze. I was able to meet so many new friends and connect with Orthodox college students around the Southeast.

What’s something cool going on in your chapter/district/region that you’d like to share?

Workdaze is a retreat that we have once a semester in the Southeast! It is probably the best weekend out of my semester, and I look forward to it all year. We all come to the Diakonia Center (one of the most beautiful places on earth), and we volunteer for a weekend. It is a great way to see old friends and make new ones! As college students, I feel that we often get so caught up in our daily lives that we often put our faith on the back burner. For me personally, I find that this weekend is so important and provides a spiritual rejuvenation that helps me remember what really matters.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc…) across the nation?

If I was to give someone advice in my position, I would probably say have fun and find a way to enjoy what you are doing. I am so thankful for the Southeast Media Team, they have all taught me so much. They are the most amazing and hardworking people, and we all have so much fun with what we do!

Why Real Break Is Better Than Camp

Why Real Break Is Better Than Camp

I know…a bunch of you are ready to fight me for such a bold and biased title.  I would say they paid me to write this, but being part of the SLB is entirely voluntary. Just hear me out, and afterward you are welcome to write Ben a counter-argument.  

1) You finally get to spend a week focused on your spiritual growth.

Most campers don’t know how to take ownership of their spiritual journey…they’re still trying to figure out if their skirts are long enough or if the counselors think they’re “cool”. Then, the counselors themselves are more focused on their campers’ experience at camp, or at least they should be.

Real Break is a chance to turn the focus back on you and your faith. While you are on your trip, whether it is a service project or a pilgrimage, you will have a moment, or ten, when this sense of peace fills you and you are simply reminded that “this came about from the Lord, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” Psalm 117(118):23

2) It’s like camp, but in March, with better food, and for adults-in-training

Confession time: I still miss camp, even after four years of adulting. Post Camp Depression (PCD) never truly goes away. But, to spend a week, away from the pressures of work and school and social media, surrounded by your brothers and sisters in Christ…I don’t know about you, but that was my favorite part about camp and is my favorite part about Real Break. You’re with 10 to 20 other college kids…adults…adults-in-training, and nobody knows anybody, yet within the first day, you will find that you have become a family.

Note: If you’re that person that decided to spend your Real Break maintaining your snap streaks…don’t. I promise you’ll get more out of it if you go off the grid. I recommend journaling (with pen and paper) instead.

3) Real Break is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

The trips and retreats organized by OCF are truly unique. First, they are pan-Orthodox. Unlike most church camps, your Real Break trip will have students from a variety of jurisdictions and from all over North America. The group itself is about as diverse as it gets.

Second, the trip’s mission presents a unique opportunity. The places you go and the things you’ll do will allow you to grow as an Orthodox Christian and simultaneously interact with a community that is not your own, yet welcomes you with open arms. Each Real Break trip has a different mission, but all have the same objective: to provide college students with a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I genuinely believe we accomplish that year after year.


Hi y’all! My name is Anna Sobchak, and I am so excited to be the Real Break Student Leader for this coming year. My OCF story has been filled with amazing brothers and sisters in Christ, some that I see at church every Sunday, and others that I’ve met through our National Programs, such as Real Break. Whether it’s dancing through the streets of Thessaloniki, praying on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, or hiking up to the monasteries of Meteora, these are the moments that have defined my college experience, and I can’t wait to share that with all of you.

Parish Life | Gaining Perspective as a College Student

Parish Life | Gaining Perspective as a College Student

I couldn’t be more blessed with my parish here in Chicago.

There are tons of Orthodox churches all across the city. I know that different students from different OCFs way across the city go to different churches, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find the one in which I feel both comfortable and pushed to be better; welcomed, and supported.

Parish life can be something over which we gloss in OCF. Many of our pillars–fellowship, education, service–replicate exactly those that are utilized by the many healthy parishes across the nation. OCF organizes service trips; so do many churches. OCF organizes Scripture study and book readings; so do many churches.

Now, OCF serves these similar functions as the parish for a distinct reason: As a college student, it can be quite tricky to become engaged in these aspects of parish life. Church youth groups are often geared toward younger students, and rightfully so: once those youth leave for college, they can no longer be members of the group.

Meanwhile, the adults of the parish–even those on the younger side–have likely been members of the parish for a few years. Their concerns are perhaps starting a family, settling in to their profession, creating a state of permanence that a nomadic college student simply cannot. They’re at a different stage in their life.

And accordingly, OCF creates a community of the like-minded, similar-staged college students, that we may be buttressed by these pillars of education and fellowship and service in the Church.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Colclough.

That being said, we must recognize a crucial point: Both college life, and by extension, OCF life are not meant to replicate the aforementioned permanence of a fledgling adult who has landed in a home, has a home parish, and has some real consistency to their lives. College and OCF life are, by their nature, transient.

We forget this because we spend years–long, hard, awful years–in high school being told that the end is college; that we must appropriately cite our sources, because we will have to do that in college; that we must do extracurricular activities, because colleges will like that. Our paradigm for decision-making and effort is solely based on college as an end goal. But it is not an end. It is a means to an end.

The end of all things is Christ. The end of all things is the second coming and eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven. As Orthodox Christians, standing in the face of this truth, everything we do must be geared toward arriving at this end as prepared and humble servants; as guests wearing the wedding garments; as virgins with oil in our lamps.

As such, my encouragement to you today is to examine: what are your ends? Do you do what you do to get good grades? To get a good job? To make money? To have a family? To live a happy life? Perhaps, even, do you do what you do because it feels good in the moment? I cannot tell you how you should divide your efforts on a daily basis, but I do know that the Lord said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” If there’s something in your life that isn’t leading you to the kingdom, you have to sit and think about that.

It is in this mindset and in this spirit that I return to my original point: I am so blessed with the parish that I have. It is youthful, thriving, and joyous. If I wanted to show anyone what Orthodoxy looks like–not in a monastery on a hill or a village in the home country–but in the center of a city in America, I would take them here.

But I don’t participate in that parish nearly as much as I should. Don’t get me wrong: I go to church every week that I’m in Chicago. (Okay, I was really sick like two weeks ago, but you get the point.) But my involvement with OCF–good, valuable, important to me–fools me into believing that I needn’t involve myself with my parish.

However, I know that, as the future rolls ever toward me, parish involvement is on my horizon. I know that, to make it to the kingdom, I need a home parish. I need that stability, that consistent involvement, those people who know me well through my faith. I know that my opportunities to serve, to learn, and to commune will no longer come from OCF in the nearing future. And I have to start preparing for that.

My prayer is that the Lord helps me do this. It is difficult, to pull oneself far back, to such a wide-reaching perspective–but, it allows the self to make more level-headed, forward-thinking decisions. It is only by looking at the long-term can we gain the insight needed to change the short-term.