May 2019: We Remember and Pray for a Congregation
Sadly, as I write this Notre Dame has just been consumed by fire in what was a terrible loss of a building that obviously meant so much to many people. It was the lead item on the News and I saw the bulletin after the collapse of the spire. There was talk of a national treasure, ancient building, architectural wonder they even managed a religious meeting place. They did not mention it was a congregation’s church but they did catch a word with a member of the clergy. He talked about the tragedy of it happening while it was being renovated. I think I might have said ‘just before the joy of Easter’
The next day a young nun had far more idea of what was important ‘The church is made of living stones and we are not consumed by this fire.’ I couldn’t find the actual clip again but that is the gist of her thought. In fact I didn’t hear anyone say thank goodness no one was hurt, there was rightly praise for the fire men. No doubt many brave actions will become known. The unspoken wonder is that no one perished.
However during that fateful day and last Sunday people came for worship, everything would be gearing up for Easter. They had no idea that this gothic masterpiece, certain to outlive them and their children’s children was about to have a near death experience. Watching the coverage of this as with New Zealand I was struck by the people there. Young and old were shocked but also not strangers to these venues.
I remember the fires at Windsor, York Minster, Glasgow School of art (twice) and of course the Royal Clarence in Exeter. All but one of these came about when restoration was taking place in or around these precious buildings. All have or are being rebuilt. Notre Dame will certainly go back up but it will take a while. I suspect it may not be the same builders but we will probably never know the cause. I am sure those involved in the renovation feel sick to their stomachs to think one of them might have missed something at the end of the day. They were working in a vast and complex structure. I know fire can lie dormant from activity days before.
In the gospels various references appear about the building time of the Temple and its size and grandeur. The religious leaders mistake Jesus challenge of bodily resurrection with the three day restoration of their treasured Temple. If those readings occur at this time some will wish that Notre-Dame could just whizz back into view three days later; completely restored
When we think on this we may grasp that where there is a will there is a way. In the case of God anything is possible but sadly I don’t think the French are about to be blessed with such a miracle. In the case of humanity structure, landscape, ideals can be returned if the move is popular. In fact resurrection is possible if one plans ahead but you need God for that particular thrill and its venue is heaven, not here.
Jesus promises resurrection to those who believe in him and those who seek and offer forgiveness. It is a very simple request really. Much easier than making a Queen’s Castle that was uniquely decorated afresh, or whipping up some very complicated windows for a Minster etc. If we are able to rise to the challenge on earth why is a simple password to heaven so rarely used?
The media looked at the structure, the aching wonder of the place and its more colourful past. They failed to grasp why it was built with love and resounded with worship even in the modern age. It would be great above all things if those two activities are paramount in her restoration. After all Notre-Dame is His church and living stones make all the difference.