The fact that the fire in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris occurred during Holy Week has led me to think of it through a spiritual lens. Holy Week is the time between Palm Sunday (which marks Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey) and Easter (the day of Jesus' resurrection).
Holy Week is packed with commemorations of events considered sacred by Christians around the world. Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples, providing the foundation for Holy Communion. Jesus foretold that he would be betrayed by one of own disciples and that another would deny his knowledge of Jesus three times. Jesus was taken captive and accused by false witnesses. When the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, offered to release Jesus, the crowd cried instead for the release of Barabbas — who was being held for murder and causing an insurrection in Jerusalem.
Pilate bent to the will of the crowd. Jesus was taken away, had a crown of thorns placed upon his head, was crucified, died and was buried. Until this point in history, after human death, there was no more future, but with Jesus, it was different.
As an Episcopalian, I recount that difference during the recitation of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. ... His kingdom will have no end. ... We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."
With Jesus' resurrection comes the promise of eternal life.
Fast forward a couple of millennia.
The burning of the Cathedral of Notre Dame brought tears not only to those in France but to those throughout the world for the loss of beauty, sacredness, history. I felt a hollowness, an almost unrelenting sadness, as I watched the roof burn and the spire fall.
When I woke the next morning to images of the cathedral still standing, I felt relief and hope layer on top of my sadness and sorrow. I felt grateful for what had been saved.
The first image I saw was of the enormous stone walls of the cathedral still standing. The next image was of the cross above the altar glowing, appearing to hover above a statue of the Virgin Mary with her son, Jesus, laid across her lap. This image gave me hope and reminded me of Hebrews 11:1, which says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
While I cannot yet see the rebuilt cathedral, I have faith it will happen.
Once the sun rose over Paris, the stained-glass windows behind the altar became visible. They were still beautiful above the rubble on the floor. The saving of the cathedral is a miracle made manifest by the almost 500 French firefighters who fought the fire for about eight hours. They formed a human train to rescue irreplaceable relics, including the Crown of Thorns said to have been worn by Jesus during his crucifixion.
Also saved were the three round rose windows made of stained glass (the largest of which is 43 feet in diameter) and the pipe organ (with over 8,000 pipes). The challenge now is to make sure the waterlogged structure is stabilized and to reconstruct the cathedral.
This tragic fire ignited support for saving the cathedral. Less than two years ago, Time published an article by Vivienne Walt titled "Notre Dame Cathedral Is Crumbling. Who Will Help Save It?" which laid out the need for massive renovation and rebuilding. At the time, money was hard to raise; since the fire, pledges have poured in.
Last month, Adam Sage wrote an article titled "Vandalism at hundreds of French churches" for The Times. He noted that in 2018, over 875 churches were vandalized in France. Some were burned. Some had art or relics removed. Some were defaced. Last month, Saint-Sulpice, a church used in Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" film, was the target of arson — while people were inside. But little visibility was given to these terrible events.
As we walk through the lessons and meaning of Holy Week, this tragic fire can possibly do more than inspire action around the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral. Perhaps it can help in the rebuilding of faith, hope and gratitude for the grace of God as well as our determination to allow God to work through us, to help make manifest the miracles we so need today.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.