Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…

(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…

(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

18 comments on “Before and after…the question

  1. says:

    Beautiful words, my friend. Sums it all up.

  2. Prior... says:

    I do get the sentiment and all – but we are the church and we bring our sanctuary with us. And with no disrespect – sometimes people place too much emphasis on the building-
    And it is a sad loss but they will rebuild – and I guess they rescued many statues because four days before the fire they were removed – but to me this is a reminder that “we” are the church and we bring our sanctuary with us – and all is passing as this is not our true home

    • Oh I agree— the art teacher and historian in me grieves over the physical loss but as the Christian I have seen that such churches have simply become Christian museums — all because the faithful have all but fallen away as secularism far outpaces Christianity in Europe — Just as I see the same demise taking place here— so my hope in the mourning that folks are experiencing will be a catalyst in their beginning to comprehend their mourning as not over merely something cultural or physical but as their own loss of their faith — a call back to God rather than racing toward the black abyss of cultural secularism

  3. GP Cox says:

    Thankfully, as of right now, over $1 Billion dollars have been pledged for the restoration!!

    • It is a blessing— it will never be what it was but may it always be symbolic of our hope and of our better selves

      • GP Cox says:

        One of the most historic buildings in the world, having survived war after war !! Have they seriously determined what started it? All I keep hearing is ‘an accident’.

      • I think we will always hear that it was an accident. Before the flames were even out, they were claiming accident…Who does that?Don’t we wait until until we can send in arsonist teams to investigate, etc? Ruling out this or that??
        So I fear the French may always claim it as an accident because if it was anything other than, would they be prepared for what that would entail?
        I don’t know the answer to that.

      • GP Cox says:

        Now that you bring it up – I seriously don’t think they would.

      • Not that I’m a conspiracy type person— I just see France for what she has become— once a nation proud of her Christian/ Catholic heritage— now she runs quickly from any association of such

      • GP Cox says:

        And that is truly a shame. But then again, France has made a habit in her history of running away.

  4. hatrack4 says:

    Centuries ago, maybe only a century, when something burned, it became a ruin that is visited by pilgrims. I will be one who would not want to go to the rebuilt Notre Dame. I never made it into Paris proper, so I never saw the old one, but if they rebuild, it would not be the same. In time, no one will know the difference. But I did go to the Heidelberg Castle, more than once. Eisenhower insisted on it not being bombed and it was by-passed by the advancing forces. Ike thought it had seen enough damage. The castle remains, mostly a ruin.

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