Notre Dame de Paris in Flames

The Tuesday of Holy Week dawns grim and grey. One of the most celebrated buildings of western Christendom has been gutted by fire. Anyone with a feeling for history, for beauty, for cultural significance must feel sadness at the loss of so much that has formed a backdrop to our lives. The cathedral has always been there. The role it has played in the life of the people of France and of Europe as a whole is incalculable. Inevitably, the media are busy capturing sound-bites from eye-witnesses and politicians, and it is good to see and hear acknowledgement of the courage of the firefighters and those who did their best to ensure that more was not lost; but we in England, at least, have heard nothing from those who are most deeply affected — the canons and parishioners who worship day by day at its altars, for whom the cathedral is a spiritual home rather than a glorious monument. Is it stretching things too far to say that something analogous can happen with Holy Week?

It is easy to make Holy Week a time of sharp contrasts, to spill a Caravaggio-like spotlight on Judas’s betrayal of Jesus and the anguished dialogue between Peter and his Lord that follows, for example, in today’s gospel (John 13.21–33, 36–38). Easy, but perhaps not quite right. Holy Week concentrates our attention on the meaning of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection; but we remember those events liturgically every day at Mass. What we bring to Holy Week is really the result of our fidelity and reflection at other times. Holy Week intensifies our experience, so to say, but it is not a substitute for the rest of the liturgical year.

The poignant images of Notre Dame de Paris in flames will not quickly be forgotten, even as the work of rebuilding begins. In the same way, we do not forget the betrayals and brutality of Holy Week during the rest of the year but use them as a spur to greater devotion to the central mysteries of our Faith and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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6 thoughts on “Notre Dame de Paris in Flames”

  1. On this morning’s television news one of the journalists allowed into the devastated interior of Notre Dame in the early hours of this morning reported that through the dust and smoke and greyness the crucifix shone defiantly on what was left of the altar.

    • I too read that the crucifix remained, but it never shines defiantly, if I may say so, only ever with tender love and compassion. ‘He was never wroth’is a phrase I return to again and again. So different from us!

      • Thank you, Sister. I had to read the first Lesson in church a few Sundays ago. “My ways are not your ways”. Thank you for reminding me about the tender love and compassion.

  2. Although shocked by the initial images I was immediately reminded of the York Minster fire and how beautifully it has been restored. I was also reminded that our great medieval buildings are very far from their originals having been built and rebuilt, repaired and restored over the centuries, much like our own life’s work.

  3. Through the devastation of the ruins of the fire of the Notre Dame and of the Crucifixion the eternal light of the Cross reminds us of our Lord’s sacrifice for us all. Redemption, peace and love from God for everyone.

  4. Yesterday when I came home I made a twitter-check and saw the trend. It took a few minutes, but then, as I wrote my daughter to inform her, the words flowed.
    Inspiration. Expression. Reflection. An arrow to the heart…

    A Fire in Paris

    Notre Dame Cathedral

    …it’s Holy Week

    All I see is Jesus…

    The Temple that fell, and rose again in Three Days

    All I see is Jesus, His Burning Heart consumed with Love…

    All I see is pain and grief, heartache and sorrow, so much loss

    So many tears, so many souls

    Mass after Mass, decade after decade

    Saint after saint, waiting for more

    silence unfolding…
    mercy coming…

    HOPE, waiting

    A New Generation Living, without

    But God is Good and Love
    Always Finds A Way

    Easter is right around the corner…
    All eyes on Paris…

    All Eyes On Him

    …a burnt offering…

    A Candle In The Dark

    — jbem 4/15/2019

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