Our Lady of Paris

I have never been to Paris, nor is it a city which which has occupied my imagination. But its great Cathedral of Our Lady has been a cultural and spiritual center for 850 years. Built upon the site of a Roman temple, the place has been one of hope for even longer.

Some draw a firm line between stone and wood and human lives. We can be very thankful that no lives were lost in this terrible fire at Our Lady of Paris. Yet great buildings are more than their construction materials. They have their own lives, as the places which thousands and millions have inhabited.

In the case of a cathedral, centuries of prayer, of work, of alms giving, of serving food, of great arts, of holding the body of Christ make them more than dead stone. While the stones are not alive, many living souls would have sacrificed their lives to preserve this great place, a national symbol, a worldwide cultural treasure, and a place of living faith.

The scenes of the burning affected people worldwide. Some recall prior calamities, like 9/11. Many recall the importance of this great building in their lives. Scenes from the Paris streets showed people, standing and kneeling, singing hymns, as they watched the flames on the skyline. The old growth timbers may be only charcoal and ash, stones and vaults may have tumbled, treasures of art lost to the flames. But every part of this great cathedral still standing, preserved for the present and future, is cause for thanksgiving. We rejoice in the mighty work of firefighters and hope for the recovery of the one who was seriously injured.

In Holy Week, Christians will recall Jesus' prophecy that the great stones of the temple would fall. Rebuild we will, yet all our human structures will one day be no more. Let us build on the kind of foundations that endure: justice, caring communities, kindness, welcome, thankfulness.

If our buildings are places where that happens, they will be treasured.

Sky News. The altar of Notre-Dame following the fire. 15 April 2019.


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