The Symbolism of Notre Dame

I have to admit, the last few days haven’t been the greatest. But the crowning glory was Notre Dame engulfed in flames. It’s hard to explain why it caused me to burst into tears, but it did. Notre Dame is a symbol of France. It’s symbolic of the hundreds of people who have worked on her over the years, who built that incredible cedar ceiling now gone, who spent 200 years building the massive edifice and stone foundation that miraculously still stands. Many consider it to be the “heart” of Paris. It is a massive medieval structure, a marvel of Gothic architecture, a place of religious pilgrimages, and the church that inspired Victor Hugo to write one of his most famous novels, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, to raise public awareness for its restoration.

And, this happened right at the start of Holy Week, which is significant to most believers worldwide, especially the Catholics who call Notre Dame home.

But as I have had time to process it, and wrap my head around it, and have stopped being shocked that this is real, Notre Dame almost burned down… I think there’s something rich and valuable to draw from it.

Notre Dame is a symbol. Of France. Of faith. And many other things. And now, it can be a symbol of restoration. Hope. The city already has plans to restore it. People have donated millions to the cause. They will rebuild the spire and invite a new architect to contribute to the long and wonderful history of Notre Dame. It will rise like a phoenix from its ashes, restored not to its former glory, but to something new. Something I believe will be wonderful, because I know Parisians love Notre Dame. She is their heart and soul.

notredame2

If this had to happen, I’m glad it happened just before Easter. It reminds me of Christ. Torn down. Abandoned. His followers must have stood in horror and watched his downfall. They felt the same helplessness to stop it as the world did, while we watched the spire collapse in flames. All hope seemed lost.

And then, the sun arose on the third day. And a new life began, for his disciples, for his people, for everyone worldwide. Jesus stepped forth anew, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, and invited us all to become part of his movement. To contribute to his long and glorious history.

Over the centuries, Christianity has endured a beating more than once. Gone up in flames. Its people persecuted and murdered. But it has survived. Grown. It continues to evolve, like a church reduced to rubble and rebuilt. No one has ever defeated it. Or torn asunder its foundation. It lives. The light shines through the blackened rubble.

And that is reason to celebrate.

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