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Interior of Christ Chapel. | Courtesy Ethan Greb

This summer, I stayed in Hillsdale and worked at the college. One morning, when my uncle offered to drop me off at work, the con­struction around campus quickly sparked a heated con­ver­sation.

“So tell me, Reagan, what does a chapel mean to a liberal-arts edu­cation?” he asked. My uncle didn’t give me a chance to respond. “Exactly. Nothing.”

Proud of his rant-mono­logue, he sat back, slurped his coffee, and com­fortably forgot about it. I sat in silence for the last thirty seconds of the car ride, scram­bling to compose a response. I was bewil­dered, angry, and frus­trated.

On the con­trary to my uncle’s swift dis­missal, a chapel is central to a liberal-arts edu­cation.

The liberal-arts edu­cation is our path to self- gov­er­nance, our instruction to living a happy life, and the key to unlocking human ful­fillment. The liberal arts, if we engage with them, will free us, and we can live pleasant, vir­tuous, and suc­cessful lives according to their lessons.

Unless the good at which this edu­cation is aimed is our eternal hap­piness, refuge, and treasure, even the most dec­o­rated student at com­mencement can step off the stage with the sad awareness that some­thing is missing.

The chapel is important to our edu­cation because it reorients us toward God, our only true ful­fillment. The stature of the chapel reminds us of our smallness.

In our smallness, we remember to hope for some­thing, someone, so much greater than us. We, in our smallness, are like the clay thrown on a potter’s wheel, feeble and full of potential and dependent on a good Creator. Only when the Creator is able to shape us are we able to change, grow, and become ful­filled. When we rec­ognize our smallness, we can identify the uni­versal human-longing within each of us, which is for ultimate reunion with God.

Admitting this need within each of us requires and fosters humility.

The mag­nif­i­cence of Christ Chapel reminds us of the posture of wonder. In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam and Eve in the posture of wonder. As senior Michelle Reid so wisely explained in her con­vo­cation speech, “Wonder is the dec­la­ration that there is some­thing to be delighted in. Wonder begins with humility at the goodness in some­thing else.”

In man’s fall, the natural dis­po­sition of wonder was lost. Now, we must work to recall it.

It is up to us to remember how to live with the humility of wonder, taking in the par­ticular beauties encoun­tered in our daily life. Our grat­itude ought to over­whelm us at the lives we have been given: our edu­cation, our friends, the beauty of the seasons and the ability to behold them. Pause. Wonder at them. Give thanks for them. Let yourself gaze at the details of the chapel, and the changing leaves, and the way your best friend’s laugh lifts the room. These are all inten­tional, del­icate, and sure gifts of our good and mer­ciful God. Delight in them.

The chapel is important because it exists for its own sake. The chapel will not make it easier for us to get a job, help us to start our careers with a high salary, or increase our odds of getting into graduate school. Nor do the liberal arts. But the chapel, like the liberal arts, invites us to prepare our­selves for each of those things. Asking the hard ques­tions and making time for wonder teach us about our­selves through the process of learning about things and people other than our­selves.

Most impor­tantly, the liberal arts will never be enough without God. The most rig­orous moral and intel­lectual edu­cation will never fulfill us if we forget the one to whom all things are aimed.

Christ Chapel reminds us of God: our first beginning, our last end, and our only ful­fillment. And the chapel is a sacred space to meet Him, in the silence of our hearts and in the com­munity of those on our campus.

Reagan Cool is a senior studying the­ology and a columnist on faith and religion.