It is by suffering that God has most nearly approached to man; it is by suffering that man draws most nearly to God. –Memorial Church
Every Eastertide, hordes of prospective frosh and their families invade Stanford’s main quad to take pictures in front of Memorial Church. It’s funny to see the profros gape at students biking with no hands and gawk at bona fide CS-majors walking out of a lecture in thrice worn sweatpants. The high-schoolers are a bunch of nuisances when we’re biking to class—gathering in the most inconvenient-sized crowds—but who can blame them? A Stanford education is a ticket to paradise (or so we are led to believe at age 18) and MemChu is at the center of it all.
Too often the shining, wide eyes of the hopeful profro are dimmed as Stanford students become entrapped by the ravenous maw of the quarter system. Our looking-staring-admiring of the gorgeous Church as young frosh is quickly replaced by our studying-staring-glaring at the front page of a nebulous problem set. Struggling with a crisis of meaning, we turn to our work for our purpose and fill our lives to the brim. The worst part? We can never do it all.
Reconciling our desperate search for purpose with the fact that we can never do all we want to seems an impossible task. The classic Stanford response? “Take some time for self-care… stop and smell the roses.” And while self-care and mindfulness are critical, they are not enough to solve this problem. They can help us address symptoms but they don’t solve the real issue: deep down we can never be truly fulfilled by the things of our material world because our souls long for more than what this life has to offer us.
Let’s be clear: the pursuits of many Stanford students are laudable attempts to improve the world around them and build a good life for themselves and their families, but that alone isn’t enough in the face of our mortality. Ultimately, the lives we live and the accomplishments for which we strive are passing. In the words of the late Pope Benedict XVI, “man has no permanence in himself.” Yet the Stanford student tries to live as though he can save himself from death through his legacy.
Today is Good Friday—when Christians around the world commemorate Jesus Christ being nailed to the Cross, bearing the weight of Man’s sins. But despite a Cross adorning the top of the Church that sits at the center of our University, life goes on as usual today. Classes and clubs are meeting, and tonight there will be parties to celebrate the first weekend of spring quarter. This is precisely why we face such a crisis of meaning: we have forgotten what is most important, and instead put ourselves at the center of our world.
So, this Eastertide, instead of simply stopping outside Memorial Church and admiring its beauty, consider the meaning behind its facade (and go inside!). The stunning mosaic shows Christ as He welcomes the righteous into God’s Kingdom for eternity. How can the people of this mosaic be welcomed into God’s perfect Kingdom? It’s not because they led perfect lives: it’s because they acknowledged their past mistakes, recognized that they are not their own saviors, repented, and accepted the Love that Christ offers all of us through His death and Resurrection. They knew they weren’t enough but that Christ was, is, and will be.
This image reminds us of the answer that Christ’s Resurrection has given to the crisis for meaning in our lives: Love is greater than death. The fullness of God’s Love overcomes our broken relationships and our failing grades, it quells our deepest fears and fulfills our deepest longings. Ultimately, as human beings created in God’s image, and created to be in relationship with Him, what we need above all else is to experience His transformative Love. Though all things in our lives seem subservient to the realities of the material world, there exists a greater, transcendent reality which goes beyond this world—a God Who has bridged the divide between our imperfection and His perfection, and offers us eternal life in Love.
Take this Easter season as an opportunity to be a part of this Resurrection. Spend one hour at a Church service and think about something other than yourself, something bigger than yourself. Christ says in Matthew’s Gospel, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The Church is a place full of broken people who know they need healing that they cannot provide for themselves (aka all of us). And Easter is the day that Christians around the world celebrate Christ’s victory over death, acknowledging how our own weaknesses are made whole in His strength. Whether you have never set foot inside a church, haven’t been in years, or were there yesterday, we encourage you to go. Church is a place for people in all stages of faith, from those who are seeking truth, to those who believe in Christ, to those who are skeptical about God even existing. No matter where you are on that spectrum, this is an invitation for you, because not only does God Love you, but He wants to answer your questions. He wants you to wrestle with the Truth, and He’s big enough to handle your doubts about Him.
This call to honestly seek the deepest longings of our heart and repent from our sin is a deeply contrarian one, especially at Stanford where “fake it till you make it” materialism and duck syndrome are the rules of the day. So, instead of sheepishly following the cultural status quo, consider the possibility that there is more to our lives than our material reality. Consider the existential possibility that the God of the universe sent His only Son because of His Love for you; that on this day He took upon himself the brokenness of this world in a tortuous death for you; and that He conquered death to offer you hope and purpose in Loving and serving Him by Loving and serving others.
That seems way better than self-care if you ask us.
There are several services being offered across campus this weekend, including:
- 2:30 PM, The Stations of the Cross, Lake Lagunita
- 7:00 PM, The Stations of the Cross, Main Quad
- 8:00 PM, Catholic Service and Veneration of the Cross, Memorial Church
- 8:00 PM, Easter Vigil Mass, Memorial Church
- 6:30 AM, Sunrise Worship Service with Chi Alpha, Courtyard of Old Union
- 8:30 AM, Catholic Mass, Memorial Church
- 4:30 PM, Catholic Mass, Memorial Church
A full list of Easter services can be found at the ORSL website.