April 16, 2019
Notre Dame….described in French newspapers this morning as our Lady, our history, our heart. The iconic cathedral sits at the every center of Paris – distance is literally measured from it. But to be honest, the church has become a historic marker and has not been the living heart nor the center of Parisian life for some time. Most people know Notre Dame as a tourist attraction, not a living church. Articles note that 30,000 visitors are there nearly every day and that it is “also a Catholic place of worship.” Also?
I heard it variously described as an example of medieval architecture, a building made famous because of the Victor Hugo novel, and “the” place to visit after you’ve seen the Eiffel Tour. Tourist sites describe the millions who visit the monument – only later including that it is a functioning church – where tourists then have to be told how to behave if mass is taking place.
So, what exactly burned yesterday? In short, the forest. The Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris is often affectionately referred to as The Forest because of the many wooden beams used in its construction. Each beam from a different tree. 1300 of them. Replacing them will require the cultivation of trees planted hundreds of years ago but people who could have never known they would be felled for such a time as this. Cathedral care is a long game.
If you want to take the pulse of a people, look at what has to be explained. Google felt compelled to draw the outline around the chapel – earlier generations would have known – and seen – the cross shaped sanctuary without seeing it in red. It is being described today as a “tragic loss of architecture…”
The fact that it happened during Holy Week was not missed by everyone. References to the resurrection are heard and videos were posted on social media of young Parisians gathered, kneeling, holding their rosaries, singing “Ave Maria” as the church burned. The USA Today noted, “All was not lost at Notre Dame. The religious statues that sat atop the cathedral were recently removed as part of a $6.8 million renovation of the towering spire that fell to the ground in Monday’s blaze. Some of the sacred artifacts housed at the cathedral are safe, too, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.” Indeed, all is not lost – and even if Notre Dame had burned to the ground and disappeared into the Seine, the Church would stand. The Church endures.
Dan Rather put it well: “Why has the burning of Notre Dame moved so many? Because we believe in beauty, majesty, faith, art, history and the human expression thereof. We recognize in this cathedral our common humanity.” He goes on to say, “a scar now emerges in our connections to our past, our future and each other.” A scar…
In much the same the way that the Cross of Calvary stands not as a relic but as a contemporary source of redemptive power that draws, confronts, transforms and ignobles men and women today as it did 2000 years ago, so too churches – certainly cathedrals – are not monuments to the past but living contemporary sources of hope through which the world can see and experience the substantial, beautiful and winsome Gospel of God. If it is just a buliding a burned yesterday then the millions being committed to rebuild it will for naught – if the burning of Notre Dame ignites this Holy Week embers of faith in human hearts which had grown cold and fans them into flame – then much like the Cross, the Church too is serving as a redemptive agent of God’s wisdom and grace.
Some people gathered just to watch it burn – others had their hearts set aflame. Which one of those two people are you?
Carmen talks in this episode with Tommy Binion from the Heritage Foundation about:
- Tax Freedom Day
- Mueller Report to be released on Thursday
- Sanctuary cities
- Ilhan Omar’s comments about 9/11
Carmen then talks with Ron Deal from Family Life Today about Blended and Blessed event and challenges faced by blended families of all kinds.