My heart sank when I turned on the news and saw the tall spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, glowing bright red and then collapsing. A moan could be heard throughout the crowd of people and tears came to their eyes. My eyes also got a little teary. I had the opportunity to visit it back in 1993. It is as magnificent and beautiful as they say it is.
Looking at the pictures of rubble piled up from the devastating damage done to the architectural masterpiece, I marveled at what endured the inferno. Standing in the sanctuary littered with charred debris and dangling wreckage around it, the cross remained where it always stood, unscathed. I couldn’t help but think of the hymn we had just sung not long ago, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory:” (ELW #324)
Constructed on a small island in the middle of the city some 850 years ago, it had a seating capacity of about 6,000. The wow and wonder built into the magnificent megastructure were accomplished by individuals who knew they would die before it was completed. Yet, they did it realizing that there was a greater reality than earth which transcended this life. That extraordinary edifice took almost 200 years to erect, but the project portrayed the intent to reflect the sacred infinite weightiness of the Almighty God.
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’er take me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me,
Lo! It glows with peace and joy.
Clips from television and pictures on the internet showed the cross aglow in the backdrop of the blackened interior.
The symbolism of the cross withstanding the raging fir points to eternal consolation in the face of death and destruction. Whatever ornateness was obliterated by the disaster, it confronted the world with the simplicity, centrality and durability of the cross.
Yet, the heart of God is more concerned over where the hearts of the people are, rather than with the mangled remnants of a building made to glorify God. I hope that this tragedy will help to motivate people to reach out with the love of God. I’ve heard that it will take years to restore that awe-inspiring cathedral. Seeing what was shockingly destroyed, brought the words of Jesus again to my mind, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” He was not referring to the glorious temple built in Jerusalem. He meant his own body. Darkened in their understanding, many missed what he getting at. It happened on the third day just as he said, for the church is the living body of Christ. The transcendence conveyed by the Notre Dame church is real in the resurrected body of Christ.
The first reading that we will hear on the seven Sundays of our Easter season is from the book of Acts. Acts describes the struggles that the early church had as it spread the Gospel.
In the Risen Christ’s Name,