In case you haven’t checked the news yet, there was a horrific fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that has the world “in tears”, but for different reasons.
While it’s quite early to be making sharp comments, I wanted to remark on the ironies. Europe is in love with the shell of its tradition. It loves its old cathedrals, its museums, its “histories”, and its “humanitarianism”. It wants to hang on to these things, and it seems to remember all about where they came from – or at least it remembers where the buildings come from. But it has no interest in maintaining the core. Last I heard, no one was going to mass (a Catholic service) in Notre Dame. It could be said that the casualties were only a single firefighter, but I think it’s more accurate to say that up to this point, the casualties consisted of all of France.
Following the religious wars, Europe has come to hate “Christianity” proper. But just as it long held Notre Dame, it held its humanitarianism – the perverted/polluted child, so to speak, of Christianity. Both are in collapse. Notre Dame has long been empty, and the foundation of humanitarianism has evaporated such that it is gradually disappearing. The church burning is just an ironic symbol. All that remains now is a shell.
It’s even more ironic that it was the spire that burned and collapsed. For those of you who don’t understand medieval architecture: the spire is the part of the cathedral that is said to point to heaven, where God resides.
Is there hope? It’s funny how people don’t notice something collapsing until it’s in a blaze. Last week it seems I heard about the French government wanting to raise funds for renovations by selling post cards (though it’d make up only a fraction of the cost). Now a billionaire has pledged 100M euros and tons of people around the world are offering to restore it. I hope these same people so interested in the reconstruction will attend an opening, celebration service when the place is rebuilt and restored. Maybe then, when they enter the building with new appreciation and see its wonders and its beautiful works that call their attention to things higher than this world, they’ll remember what France – and Europe at large – is truly missing at heart: God.
Once upon a time, the people of Paris came together to build a cathedral out of love for God, Mary, and their faith (and perhaps for some competition with their neighbors). They were not forced to build such magnificent structures, and their effort has for over eight centuries felt timeless. In an era where things are disposable, people were reminded of the loss of treasure. In an era where art has been transformed into porn and the facades of great structures turned into the backdrops of tourist photos, people were again reminded of the magnificence of art long neglected.
I pray God bless the French and rebuild their faith as they rebuild his church.