Sam Burnham, Curator
The images of the burning Cathedral Notre Dame captivated the attention of the world. The building itself is such a work of art that losing it was unthinkable.
But it is even bigger than that.
The faith itself is built into the structure. The Rose Window spells out the catechism, carvings tell the story of the Apostles, the Saints, the heroes of the faith. And as the dust settled and the smoke cleared the first photo showed the radiance of a gold cross reflecting light in darkness. At the foot of that cross, overlooking the rubble is the statue of Mary supporting the broken body of her son in her lap as her outstretched arms compel us to disregard the chaos and focus on the silent potential before her.
That potential, as the faithful know well, is the hope of resurrection, of redemption, As the death of Christ triggered fear, chaos, darkness, even a collapse of the world His followers knew. For when the week was new, and the Lord reclaimed His body and walked out of His tomb, the Light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not abide. What was broken was not only whole, but was now the way to heal the broken. A movement that had been thrown into chaos turned back the tide and turned the world upside down.
This is a message that put Notre Dame at the heart of Paris, at the heart of France itself. It is such a symbol of faith, art, architecture, history, and culture that it’s more than the Zero Milestone of the French people. It has become an irreplaceable icon of Western Civilization. It unifies more segments of a life into one symbol than even the Eiffel Tower.
It stands at the center of Western Culture the way churches stand at the center of communities throughout the West. It’s a place of assembly, of education, of art, of music, of faith. It is there for weddings that make new families, baptisms that celebrate new lives, the Eucharist that signifies faith, and funerals that mark our passing while pointing us toward resurrection.
In this capacity the church could help solve issues of poverty, homelessness, education, healthcare, cultural decay, and civic engagement, just has it has for over 1000 years. I mentioned in an earlier post that a church could house solar cells to produce community power. It can serve as an assembly hall. It can serve as a polling precinct. A church can be an irreplaceable hub of a community. And while we see that on a large scale with Notre Dame, we need to resurrect small churches to serve in the mission of restoration of small towns. They are vital to the restoration of spiritual, social, and civic life in these towns.
So as the grand cathedral will rise from the ashes, so must a thousand small churches in a thousand small towns rise again, or perhaps even rise for the first time, to take up the cross of Christ The work of ministry within the community can combine with many other pieces to help us reach the goal.
To bring these churches back we must do what the stature of Mary at Notre Dame compels is to: tune out the chaos, don’t be overwhelmed by the destruction, focus on Christ and the grace for the task. Then we trust in the Resurrection which makes all others possible.
Happy Easter from everyone at ABG.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire