I had another blog post planned for today but I decided to write about what’s on my mind.
Yesterday, the cathedral of Notre Dame burned in Paris.
The spire fell. The roof collapsed. People from around the world watched, heartbroken, gutted, as fire swept through a house of worship that had stood for nearly a thousand years. All over social media people posted their stories of visiting Paris, loving Paris, being inspired by Paris and this landmark of the city that stood for 700 years before the Eiffel Tower was built.
On my last trip to Paris, I posted my own blog post on my feelings about the city. This was my contribution to yesterday’s grieving on Instagram:
And the more I thought about it, the more my sadness washed away. Because once you realize that it’s the spirit of a place that moves you, not the mortar and stone, then you can’t grieve what was destroyed in a fire. Because fire does not destroy love, faith, worship, community, hope.
Notre Dame was - is - a symbol. Of civilization, of art, of creativity and devotion and, perhaps most importantly, continuity.
It has always been there. My grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents’ would have seen a very old cathedral in the middle of Paris. Humanity doesn’t have many of these monuments, especially living ones, like Notre Dame was (is.) We have a fair amount of desiccated antiquities and ruins but someplace like Notre Dame, that decorated for Christmas and Easter, held regular services and hosted a continuous parade of guests and tourists is extremely rare.
So I think Parisians, especially, but the rest of us too treasured the life we felt there. If a building as grand and as beautiful as Notre Dame could thrive for centuries, then just maybe we - ourselves, our nations, our communities - could too.
Losing that dream hurts.
Until you remember that we are all dust. And we are all more.
We are bones and skin and failing organs. And we are laughter and passion and dreams.
Notre Dame is a spire and stained glass and stones. And it is faith, memory, and celebration.
For me, I won’t grieve the loss of stone and slate when there is so much to celebrate.
As of the time that I’m writing this, there has been no death associated with this fire. The Paris fire department was able to save part of the structure, all of the surrounding buildings and was able to remove many relics and pieces of art from the cathedral. After I read this thread on Twitter, I was doubly impressed with them. Further, stories are starting to come out about the Chaplain of the Paris firefighters who was the one to save the sacrament and the blessed crown of thorns. (The French word for firefighters is pompiers. That is a really great word, right?)
You take all that into account and then you see a photo like this and, well, all I can do is give thanks.
On a total writer-ly note however… I’m just saying… just imagine what ancient secrets and priceless treasures could be revealed by a huge fire at a thousand year old building site. I mean, if Dan Brown doesn’t write that plot bunny, I might take it up.
To my beautiful Parisian and French readers, I’m sending warm healing thoughts your way.
And for all of you who observe Passover and Easter this weekend, have a blessed celebration.
The blog will be back next week with my usual dorkiness.