I watched, with millions around the world, with horror and disbelief, as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burned on Monday in Holy Week.
It is a building I know well; I’ve led quiet days in Paris, & for me Notre Dame has been for many years a “touching place” where the veil between the material world and the transcendent is very thin. Its atmosphere, its beauty and sense of awe is (was) profound. Also, as a Medievalist (I did a Master’s degree in Medieval Art & Iconography) I loved the intricate mystery of the building, especially the glorious 13th Century glazing scheme; at the time of writing I know that at least one of the great rose windows is intact, and I will keep my fingers crossed for the rest.
But it’s a human image that always sticks in my memory about Notre Dame; I remember, years ago, seeing a young couple sitting in the nave, arm in arm and clearly in love. She was white and he was black; safe and accepted & themselves embraced by the sanctity and sanctuary of that great House of God.
We are still in Easter tide; the eggs may have been all scoffed, the Simnel cake all eaten and the Easter Bunny put to bed until next year; but the truth of the Resurrection, the presence of Christ in our midst with the promise of New Life and Hope will live in our hearts always.
Soon after the fire was put out, an atheist friend of mine commented upon the scale of the blackened interior, with black charred debris and forlorn destruction; but the cross on the high altar was still there, with shafts of light cutting across. “What a wonderful Easter picture” she said.
And it was indeed.
Each of us has traumas and tragedies in our lives, but through God’s love, we come through the “the valley of the shadow of death” to Resurrection.
As will Notre Dame.
It will become a symbol of rebirth, of renewal, of hope, reminding us that Easter is for ever.