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What Does the Reformation Mean for Us?
A Roundtable Discussion
The Chapel of the Resurrection as a Pilgrimage Site
David Rojas Martínez   |   all discussants

When I was at Valpo, I spent many hours in the Chapel as a student worker. I was able to experience the building in a very personal way—much like my engineer friends experienced Gellersen Hall and my more musically talented friends experienced the VUCA. It seems to me that buildings on this campus have strong characters, and that they each embody something important to this institution. However, none compare to what the Chapel embodies.

These few years later, I have come to understand that time here is a pilgrimage, and the Chapel of the Resurrection is Valpo’s central pilgrimage site. You see, the Chapel embodies something intrinsic to the life of Valparaiso University. Grounded in its Lutheran Christian tradition, the Chapel of the Resurrection embodies Valpo’s journey toward the Light of God.

Perhaps by now you have noticed the Latin phrase In luce tua videmus lucem portrayed in a variety of ways throughout campus, especially on the Arts and Sciences building, where it is emblazoned and surrounded by the word “light” in a plethora of languages. This phrase is both the motto and the essence of VU: In thy light we see light.

The Chapel embodies VU’s journey toward the Light of God by being an entry point into a community, a place for all who want to think deeply as well as for those who simply want to pass by. It is also a place of sending that provides us with an identity that cannot be easily denied or shaken.

At the beginning of the academic year, you may have participated in the opening convocation. Did you see the world that was sitting beside you, behind you, in front of you, and throughout the Chapel on that day? Did you see the world becoming a part of your community and you becoming a part of the world’s community? Did you experience yourself becoming a new individual? If you were anything like I was at my opening convocation, I venture to guess that you most likely did not. That’s okay.

The Lutheran Christian tradition believes that God, through the Holy Spirit and because of Christ, draws all of humanity to God’s own self and transforms it for the good of the world. This happens without our doing anything, per se. In a way, the Chapel functions in a similar way.

On that opening convocation day, you became a fellow pilgrim with people from all over this country and the entire planet. You became a member of a sojourning group of people who gathered with you, on Valpo’s campus, in the Chapel.

At the end of the opening convocation the bells rang, you were dismissed, and you started to live into your Valpo experience. You may choose to never again step foot inside the Chapel. That’s okay. Your days will still be marked by its existence. Those bells keep ringing: every fifteen minutes, every day of the week, every week in a month, every month of the year, for four years. They ring steady like a heartbeat.

While I was at VU, the Chapel staff played hymns on the campanile ten minutes before chapel break every day. I specifically remember the day that a friend who is an atheist mentioned to me that she had heard the bells playing Amazing Grace as she walked to the library, and that it brightened her day. Now when we get together, we chat about things that are important for the good of the world. Often she mentions how, even as an atheist, she felt VU steered her toward thinking deeply about her existence and its implications.

The Chapel continues to do this for us even when we are not physically present there, and as it sends us out of this place into the greater world. A pilgrimage never truly ends, but transforms into another journey.

The Chapel is here for just that purpose: to prepare you for the travels awaiting you. It does this by being a place to think deeply about your place in this world and by carrying you in its prayers as you grow and leave. The theologian Joerg Rieger reminds us that life, as faith, is not a static thing. This existence in perpetual movement as an act of faith and this living, Rieger tells us, is a part of the human story.

As you live into who you are called to be, please know this: The Chapel community never stops praying for you.

One day in December or May, you will find yourself in a cap and gown, hugging friends, taking pictures with beaming people who love you, and saying goodbye to this campus as you go out into the world, much as I did.

On my last day here as a student, I sat on a pew in the Chapel with four close friends. At the beginning of my time at Valpo I had not known a single one of them, but over the years, as the bells tolled, we ultimately spent hours together, learning, growing, and living.

We studied different disciplines and came to differing opinions, but our shared experience at Valpo was marked by the Chapel, which brings together aspiring economists, politicians, actors, and theologians in the common search for Light. The site that had gathered us in was now sending us out to new ventures that carried us all over the United States and into the world. Just as it will be for all of you.

I leave you with these words from Martin Luther, wishing you well on your pilgrimage:

This life, therefore, is not righteousness; but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being, but becoming; not rest, but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam, but all is being purified in glory. (Luther, 24) 

David Rojas Martínez graduated in 2015 as a Christ College Associate with majors in international service and theology. He is currently pursuing a master of divinity degree at Luther Seminary and is a soon-to-be deacon of the Lutheran Deaconess Association.

Works Cited

Rieger, Joerg. Traveling: Christian Explorations of Daily Living. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.

Luther, Martin. “Defense of All the Articles,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 32, 1958. Set to poetic form by Grace Brame.

 

Read more from other Roundtable participants:

Brian T. Johnson: Setting the Stage
Ronald K. Rittgers: Loving the Unlovely
Alissa Kretzmann: An Encounter with Grace
David King: Freedom Under the Cross
Nura Esther Zaki: Honoring Our Heritage
Katie Benjamin: Screwups and Saints
Amelia Schroeder: Moving Beyond Disagreements
Thomas Albert Howard: Remembering the Reformation and the Problem of Christian Disunity 

 

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