A cold and biting wind claws its way across campus, and a motley congregation gathered in the East Campus courtyard huddles together slightly closer.
A man stands on the stage, a banner fluttering behind him. The banner says “Live at EC.” EC is short for East Campus. I do not know if “live” means verb, “to live,” or “live”, as in concurrently, alive, simultaneously, this-broadcast-is-live. I live at EC, on the second floor of the east parallel. In a window on the second floor, behind the man standing on the stage, a girl changes into a dress and back into a t-shirt. I do not know her.
The man on the stage insists that he is not here to perform–he is simply here to be himself. The musicians behind him slow jam while he vivaciously reads a testimony to the salvation he finds in God.
It is the night before Easter. We are in the in-between, says another man, later that night. We rush too quickly from Jesus’ death to Jesus’ resurrection because we are uncomfortable with the uncertain temporariness of Jesus’ three-day decease. He pauses to let us feel the in-between.
We are inside now. The second man’s name is Christian. He says that “remembering” is like remembering a test question, but before that, “remembering” meant placing yourself in the remembered event. It meant immersion. It meant feeling the heat of the sun, hearing Jesus gasping for air and choking out his last words, flinching from the soldiers’ fists and the crowd’s condemning voice. Christian comes from Harvard. To help us remember, he reenacts the passion of Christ as a one-man show, from the Garden of Gesthemane until the tomb is sealed by Joseph of Arimathea. He wheezes, whispers, spits, and screams as Jesus did, or as Pilate did, or as Peter did. He stops before the resurrection, in the in-between. It is not Easter yet, only the night before Easter–Easter Vigil.
I miss every Easter Triduum service hosted by the Tech Catholic Community. On Holy Thursday I am in class. On Good Friday I have an exam. On Easter Vigil I am here. The chicken and rice prepared by the hospitality team is warm, and delicious. It is the only food I eat all day.
I am asked to emcee for part of the concert. I gel my hair and put on a tie. Dress code is “happy colors.” I wear white.
The performers I announce are talented–incredibly so. Some come from Berklee. They are singer-songwriters, voice principals, Christians. One has navy-blue hair. She plays the guitar and sings with a navy-blue voice. A man in a denim jacket plays a green violin. “I can’t feel my fingers,” he laughs. “That’s okay, though.” He performs a medley that ends with Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”
Passersby pause, curious. Two police cars patrol unassumingly in the street. I talk to a girl from Tanzania and remark offhandedly that there will be a lunar eclipse later tonight. The full moon will bleed crimson-red for three hours before returning to its usual white. She is surprised and asks if that is the reason for the concert. I tell her that the reason for the concert is not the lunar eclipse. The reason for the concert is Easter. The lunar eclipse is a convenient metaphor.
“I’m so happy this is happening,” says another passerby, who is also my friend and hallmate. We dance to “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, covered by Nahid. Next to me, five people huddled in a beige blanket dance in tandem, like a hot potato.
I talk to people that I have not seen recently and ask how they are doing. It is cold outside, but the people are warm and the mood is celebratory.
Before the concert, the volunteers and performers gather in Talbot Lounge and pray. They pray for salvation, for MIT, for a burning revolution in campus spiritualism, for people to know God, for strength against demons and idols. Our demons and idols no longer look like Satan or Baal; they are intellectualism, schoolwork, careers, meritocracy, stress, depression, despair, suicide. An MIT freshman who lives three floors above me sings a song she wrote for Matthew and for Christina.
Later in Talbot Lounge, when the stage has moved inside because the wind outside is too cold, the Berklee musicians end their set with an acoustic guitar-and-violin cover of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” We laugh and sing. There are warm drinks. My boots are covered in mud, but I sit on the floor and unzip my jacket. The music is alive, and so am I, and so, I suppose, is MIT.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them — Matthew 18:20.