This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine

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.

Evyenia Pyle

Evyenia Pyle

Publications Student

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! publicationsstudent@ocf.net 

From High School to College: The First Forty Days

From High School to College: The First Forty Days

Noah was in the ark for forty days and forty nights. Moses retreated on Mt. Sinai for forty days. Jesus met Symeon in the temple on his 40th day. Jesus fasted after his baptism for forty days. There were forty days between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven. We fast for forty days to prepare for the two great feasts of the Christian year, Pascha and Nativity. In each Orthodox Christian’s life, we are churched on our 40th day of life and are remembered on our 40th day of death.

Image from OrthodoxWiki

Image from OrthodoxWiki

It seems that there’s something very special about a period of forty days in the Orthodox tradition. In Scripture, forty signifies a completed time, a long period of time during which something of significance is accomplished. The end of a forty day period signifies the end of one epoch and the dawn of a new. It’s interesting, then, to note that secular research has shown that in the first six weeks of college–in Orthodox-speak that’s the first forty days–most freshman build the habits and peer groups that will stick with them for their entire college careers. In forty days, students decide what groups in which they will participate and with whom they will spend their time–or even if they will stick with college at all. That’s surely an accomplishment of significance.

So what are we as the Church doing to make sure those first forty days of college are holy epochs and not times of confusion, exclusion, loneliness, or regrettable decisions? Obviously, preparing our students to be successful in college doesn’t start when we drop them off on campus for the first time. It takes years of hard work and education to prepare them academically to be successful, and the same goes for preparing them socially and spiritually to handle the pressures and demands of college life. This is the work of families, parish communities, youth programs, and camps–together, we help raise strong, faithful, and grounded young people who are ready to stand on their own on campus. However, there is something we must be doing when they set foot on campus:

We have to show up.

This images is from the Wikimedia Commons

This images is from the Wikimedia Commons

Our Church community must be present as students go through the crucial social transition that occurs in the first few weeks of college. We can’t expect that they will always find us or will automatically feel at home in our parish just because the sign says “Orthodox” on the front. It is our responsibility to make a personal connection with each Orthodox student as they go off to college so that in their forty day period of transition, they know that the doors of the Church are open to them always like the arms of the Theotokos warmly welcoming, embracing, and loving them, giving them space to find their own way while always bearing witness to the truth of Christ and the fruits which His commandments bear. And if we aren’t there to share our message of love and faith, we should be aware that some else will be there with their own message–good or bad.

Again this year, we at OCF have again launched our First Forty Days Initiative. We want to make sure that we do everything we can to help new freshman find a home in OCF and the local parish as soon as they get to campus by forging personal relationships between new students and local clergy, lay people, and other Orthodox students. From now until July 15th, we will be asking for the names and contact information of every Orthodox high school graduate from every background so that we can ensure that their local OCF chapter and spiritual advisor are able and prepared to reach out to them when they arrive on campus.

Let us join together as a Church and in true Orthodox fashion make the first forty days of college a time of spiritual preparation and growth for our college students.

To read more about the First Forty Days Initiative or submit student contact information, visit our website at ocf.net/firstfortydays.