As September has officially come to a close, and October has started, I have been looking back at our blog contributions. I was very moved at the sight of blog posts written by other students who also wanted to serve the Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Throughout September we focused on the OCF theme, John 1:5, “And the light shines in the darkness, and then darkness did not overcome it.” After spending a month reflecting on our theme, and reading other student’s reflections I found the Epistle reading on the last Sunday of September to be a perfect compliment to our work so far this year. This past Sunday we heard the Epistle of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians. Paul writes, “Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ…So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:6-15).” It is fitting for Paul to write this, if we remember the story of his conversion to Christianity he is a physical example of Christ’s light overcoming darkness.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read about a man named Saul who persecuted Christians, in fact it was on his way to persecute the Christians in Damascus that he was given, “a wake up call” so to speak. We read in Acts 9 that a bright light shone forth from the heavens and God said to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”. Through that bright light Saul found himself blind and journeyed to Damascus without eating or drinking. He was found by St. Annanias who was recently celebrated (the 1st of October), (we honestly couldn’t have planned this better if we tried) and Annanais helped Saul receive his sight again. It is said in Acts 9:18 that “immediately things like scales fell from his eyes”. Saul was then baptized and his name became Paul, who is one of the most widely recognized church fathers, in fact in the icon of Saints Peter and Paul we see them holding a church together. In my opinion this was a huge breakthrough in seeing that God can create light from the darkness. In all actuality it was the light of Christ that took Saul’s sight to show him where to find the truth. The fact of the matter is, Saul found the truth without seeing! What faith! I don’t know if I would have been able to have faith like that. Yet, a man who had once killed people for declaring a man as the Christ, was now himself proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah. The man who once hunted the people who followed Christ became the one who was being hunted.
The man who was once blinded by the light is now writing to the people of Corinth that, Christ is the light who overcomes the darkness. Let’s go back to what he wrote. “Brethren, it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” So basically, the Light, aka God, through us is shining His light to give us more light so we can glorify God. That’s a lot of light. Okay what’s next, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” Our Earthly bodies will one day fail, we are going to die, but with Christ’s light we will have eternal life. If Christ lives in us, we will never die, so while our Earthly bodies will, our spirit will not. So, through Christ’s not only will I be illumined, but I will live in life everlasting with God. How cool is that?! I mean, think about it. If I were hearing this I would definitely say, “sign me up!” It is like that flashlight infomercial I gave in an earlier blog (read it here https://www.ocf.net/turning-on-the-light/) I wrote about how we have flashlight that guides us in our lives.
So, the other part of the epistle I will leave to your interpretation, but think about this: Paul’s conversion was that of light, when Jesus was baptized the heavens opened and the heavens house the sun which produces light, and on the feast of the Transfiguration we hear that when Moses came down from Mount Tabor his face was still glowing and shining because it had been in the presence of Christ’s light, and we even see that his face was too bright for some of the people with him! It all comes back to light. Imagine your face glowing because you were in such deep communion with God that His light shone so brightly that it hurt other people’s eyes. I think our goal should be to achieve that, but not just because it’s amazing, but because Christ causes the light to shine in the darkness. What if you are a beacon that guides people to Christ with your light? That sounds to me like the best job ever! So the point I’m trying to make is that even in the darkness Christ’s light will shine, whether it be through you, me, or it blinds someone because they didn’t listen to anyone else. Paul went from killing Christians and persecuting the church to being the one depicted in icons as holding up the church! Someone who made it their life’s mission to destroy the church, became one of the biggest protectors of the faith! If God’s light can shine so brightly that it brings the biggest persecutor to the faith, then maybe even a little bit of that light in us will cause us to bring multitudes as Sts Peter and Paul did. Christ’s light will never be overcome by the darkness. Don’t forget that. He has illumined us all with His divine grace. The Light of lights, the True God, and the giver of light, may He intercede for us as we go through college, a time with lots of darkness that needs to be overcome.
Publications Student Leader
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 opportunity. Never hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, or if you are interested in writing a blog! firstname.lastname@example.org
Why does it seem like there’s so much hate and pain in the world? Shootings and many acts of violence plague our nation. Division in politics and the politicization of these traumatic events turn tragedy into arguments with seemingly no end in sight. The media paints a picture of our nation of intense pain and suffering of the people that desensitizes us to violence.
“Thoughts and prayers” are given freely on social media. Many people disregard their power either in their unfaithfulness or their desire to see political action. But are prayers that useless? No. We live in fallen world, so there is going to be pain, disease and suffering.
Prayers are a source of strength. They’re not supposed to be magic wishes to just make the problems go away. Tragedies happen, and that’s it, we can’t control it, but we can control our reaction to it. If we ask our Lord for strength, we can bear the tragedies ever more gracefully and with humility. We can really extend our hearts to those who need them through prayer. Sending prayers calls our Lord and His saints to grant forgiveness and bestow strength. Send prayers, partake in the healing that Christ grants.
In the Epistle reading from today, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-13 & 5:24-28, St. Paul gives us advice for how to conduct our lives within this fallen world:
Brethren, God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
The antidote for the suffering in the world is the peace of heaven which is experienced in our relationship with Christ Jesus. When we partake in the sacraments, pray to Him and do good things in His name, we can join in on the healing of the world and perform His will “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Our generation is feeling a lot of loneliness and isolation that can tragically manifest itself in violence. Social media can connect us but also make us feel disconnected. We have to learn and force ourselves to go out into our lives and our college campuses to love as He loves. The pain and suffering can feel like there’s darkness all around us. Luckily, we have light, we have The Light and The Way! Be the beacon of God’s love that our world so desperately needs. Love so that you may bring light into the darkness, emboldened by God’s presence in your life and the humanity we all share.
Reminiscent is the morning prayer of St. Philaret,
“Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray Yourself in me. Amen.”
Next time you see a tragedy on the news, write down the names of the victims, pray for their souls, and pray for the strength of their families. Forgive others, and come to know Christ. Pray He strengthens you to participate in the healing and love that our fallen world thirsts for.
St. Dionysios (commemorated October 3) is said to be the same Dionysios who was converted to Christianity by the preaching of St. Paul in Athens. St. Paul gave his famous sermon on the Unknown God of the Athenians on a place called the Areopagus, the place where the court of appeals (also called the Areopagus) met. It was thus among lawyers and educated men that St. Paul proclaimed that God “does not dwell in temples made by hands.” While most of the hearers that day in Athens rejected and mocked St. Paul’s teaching, a few were converted and two are listed by name: a woman named Damaris and one Dionysios the Areopagite.
Now, not to go too far down a historical rabbit hole, but I should probably mention that many scholars dispute whether or not the writings attributed to St. Dionysios, known collectively as the Corpus Dionysiacum, were, in fact, written by the same Dionysios mentioned in Acts or by anyone in the first century for that matter. It is claimed that the language in his writings and some of the liturgical allusions he makes could not possibly have been historically appropriate until the fifth or sixth century after Christ. Thus, in spite of his commemoration by the Church as both the Pauline convert and the author of an elegant body of theological writing, you may hear the Athenian lawyer referred to as “Dionysios the Areopagite” and the theological writer as “Pseudo-Dionysios.”
Whew. Let’s crawl back out of that one. St. Maximos the Confessor, who relied heavily on the writings of St. Dionysios for his own theological thought, accepted the Church’s defense that there was only one Dionysios and that he was the convert of St. Paul in Athens and the author. That’s good enough for me.
What’s really important about St. Dionysios is not the century in which he lived, but what he shared with us through his complex, but beautiful writings. St. Dionysios thought a lot about words and images and meaning. He wondered at what the relationship between the words and images of Scripture and the reality they described could be. Was God actually a pillar of fire in Exodus? In what way are the angels actually winged men and wheels of fire and six-winged, many-eyed creatures? Why do we call God Wisdom and Love and Truth? How is that we could ever be called wise or loving or truthful if these are the names or attributes of God? How can we know God if He is of a different nature than any created thing?
Big questions, right? Here’s a little of what I take away from the exposition St. Dionysios gives of his own experience of God.
God goes outside of Himself to create, and so all Creation is outside of and apart from God, and yet, in creating, God imbues all things with Himself in a manner proper to their purpose, their logos or ordering principle. All things–from blades of grass to words on a page to the angels in heaven to you and me– are intended to reveal God while never encompassing or defining him. Thus, when the sun gives light, it symbolizes the Illumination which Christ brings; when a dog is living, it symbolizes the Life which God alone gives; when a man is good, it symbolizes the only One who is good. Dionysios is quick to remind us, though, that while God is the source of illumination, of life, of goodness, he is actually beyond all those things. You can’t get stuck in the image. As soon as you think you’ve found God in a reflection in the world, you realize that He is not there. Dionysios sees this not as a flaw in the Creation, but as its divine purpose–that everything created can point to the Creator without itself becoming an idol in His place. Our very being is found in our ability to be icons of God, in our reflecting the One Who Is. The entire created order reveals God in its very existence, and yet nothing in the world is anything like God.
That’s a lot to take in and really just a little of what St. Dionysios has to say. Here are a few more of his contributions: