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

when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


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


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Animal crackers. What would the mayor think?

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.
Victor Hugo


(the mayor sporting her Andrew Jackson Tee shirt back in her office in Woobooville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Like the good little aide to the mayor that I am, I had to go on a bit of an extended visit
this past week in order to carry out my mayorial aide duties while the mayor was in her
Atlanta office… (aka, I had to babysit).
While in her Atlanta office, she was able to meet with a few of her local constituents
who live in the metro Woobooville district.
Then yesterday I had to drive her back here to her satellite office in rural Woobooville
(mom is coming to town to help give a shower this weekend).

In the meantime, as the aide to the mayor, it is my responsibility to help keep her
abreast of the latest current events…

And thus reading a recent article about the iconic box of Animal Crackers…

along with the uber animal rights activists PETA,
I just knew that this was one issue that I would need to share with the mayor…
It was also an issue that I knew the mayor would blow a gasket over.

This particular mayor cannot abide by the idiocy of the ongoing  PC mania that is
currently sweeping our culture…
Everything from 150-year-old monuments hurting the feelings of the overly sensitive
to now a cookie box depicting circus animals in cages causing outrage with radical
activists…

But I suppose we forgot…the circus is soon going to be a thing of the past.


(the mayor is aghast)

These animal crackers just so happen to be the very same iconic animal crackers
that my mother bought for me nearly 60 years ago…
all in order to keep me occupied in the grocery store as I accompanied her
during her weekly grocery trips—

It seems that the animal rights activists are livid and are forcing the hand of Nabisco
for their continued depiction of animals in their circus train cage…
the same iconic image used since the cookies first came out in 1902.

The mayor was so preoccupied with this latest tale that she could not focus on her meeting
with a local representative from the society of the jealous.


(Percy takes over everything that is Autumn’s when she’s here…hence filling out the car seat)

It seems that PETA has demanded that Nabisco redesign their cookie boxes to depict
cage-free animals.
And sure, updating packaging, rebranding, and new designs, for some companies
and products can certainly bring about a resurgence in sales—but think about Coke when
they wanted to tweak the flavor for the changing times…that did not help but actually  hurt sales.

And whereas the mayor believes in the protection of all animals…
but for plastic squids…

She believes the creation of laws and the changing of how zoos, circuses, and even
sanctuaries care for the animals under their charge is paramount as we have been
charged by God to care for them…but the notion that angry activists can twist the
screws on anyone they find who is out of step with their overly
political correctness—bringing about an intimidation which comes at any and all costs
is just something she finds maddening…

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/fortune-nabisco_frees_its_animal_crackers_after_a_peta_pro-rtime/category/finance+

On your knees…

Certain thoughts are prayers.
There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body,
the soul is on its knees.

Victor Hugo

lightstock-60129-man-kneeling-in-prayer-in-the-middle-of-a-rural-road
(image courtesy the web)

“On your knees…”

A command that conjures many an image in one’s mind…depending on your age or experiences….

“On your knees…”

A command often dictated by one who is about to behead or otherwise kill another.

“On your knees…”

A common urban phrase used predominantly by a hip hop culture for the demeaning demand that another,
most often a woman, perform a lewed act.

“On your knees…”

A command given once by kings as they prepared to knight their subjects.

“On you knees…”

Children were once known to learn at their mother’s knee.

“On your knees…”

A sign of submission.
As in someone commanding another to…beg…
Begging for mercy,
or for one’s own life…

Yet for me,
upon my knees…
is the only place I long to be…

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

2 Philippians 2:9-11

in the shadows

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

To think of shadows is a serious thing.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0515
(a jackdaw at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As the winter wanes and spring advances, the evening shadows slowly retreat from whence they came.
Or so it seems to the causal observer…
those innocents who observe the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet the shadows that secretly veil this earth…
grow ever far reaching …
while hidden from plain site…they slink around undetected

There are those who know the dangers because they can actually see..
the shape shifting shadows that dart in and out…
hidden far from reality’s plain sight
Chasing and dogging those who seek the One True Light….

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
1Peter 5:8 (Phillips)

What lies beneath

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.
Ezra Taft Benson

Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0112
(a blending melange of colors in an Alaskan stream as the salmon move up stream / Gregory Cook / 2015)

What lies beneath, underneath, below. . .
supporting you,
lifting you,
holding you. . . ?

Is it firm and sound
or
shifting and sinking?

Any builder or architect worth their salts knows that before building, be it home or skyscraper, a solid foundation must first be set, poured or laid—
Pylons are driven down to bedrock and footings are poured for anchoring. . .
everything that goes up, must first be sound underneath.

Life rocks along. . .everything is as it should be, relatively perfect.
Happy,
flowing,
carefree. . .

We ride the waves of mediocracy hoping always to rise upward, never ever downward,
chasing the proverbial dream. . .
Then one day, out of the blue, catastrophe strikes. . .
Our world is rocked to its core.

We either fold or we hold on. . .
Survival determined by. . .
what lies beneath. . .

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
Isaiah 28:16

fall of the legends

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.
One Stab–Legends of the Fall

“History has its truth, and so has legend. Legendary truth is of another nature than historical truth. Legendary truth is invention whose result is reality. Furthermore, history and legend have the same goal; to depict eternal man beneath momentary man.”
― Victor Hugo

IMG_0758
( Schönbrunn Palace Gardens / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook 2012)

Each day, another individual who lives in our limelight, bites the dust. . .

A well known major network news anchor embellishes his in-field reporting (aka tells lies).

Another older well known and long married nationally syndicated news story reporter has been carrying on a tawdry and torrid, and now very public, affair with a much younger married woman.

A revered married and highly decorated Army General is accused of disclosing highly classified information to his biographer who also happened to be his key love interest.

Another news anchor fails to disclose his political contributions to a high profile presidential candidate which now clouds his “non biased” honest reporting.

A beloved actor and comedian is suddenly accused of a litany of sexual assaults spanning the past 30 years.

The hottest new NFL quarterback hopeful, who was living the life of the fast and furious, has spent the past 6 months of the off season cleaning up in re-hab.

Many an up and coming national political figure has been discovered to be leading a dubious double life—

Plug in any name from any state or any county and it would all sadly fit. . .

It seems that each and every day we read, we hear, we watch as another national and / or local “famous” figure falls quickly from grace.

And it’s not always a famous individual. . .

Atlanta is coming off of an unprecedented, and very nationally embarrassing, public trial of a myriad of its city school system educators who cheated on their students National Standardized tests.
Teachers going to jail for cheating.
The very people who stress to their students the importance of honesty.

It’s pretty obvious that we are living in a world that is less than keen on taking the high road.
Perhaps we’ve become a low road kind of people.
As in low is easy, cheesy and sleazy.

Morality seems to have hit the road long ago. . .moving on without leaving a forwarding address.
The current mindset is simply one of no remorse— but rather remorse comes only with being caught at whatever it was one was simply caught doing.

Mea culpas have become so common place that we have come to expect contrition as opposed to valor.

It sure seems as if man is a flawed and fractured creature.

One would think that we are a most hopeless lot.
That we are in such sorry shape that God has washed His hands of us and simply moved on. . .
And that would pretty much sum up what we deserve.
We’ve made our beds and are now destined to lie them.
Dante painted the picture rather vividly in 1337 with his 9 rings of hell. . .
Hell in a hand basket with no looking back.

And yet. . .

Within the dark days of our fallen ways, there remains a single ray of hope. . .

Grace.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:1-10