By: David Earleywine
My jaw dropped and my heart sank. “How could this happen,” I thought to myself, “How can THE Notre Dame cathedral be in flames?”
The cathedral being on fire is just one of those things I never considered could happen. Not only because of the stony exterior, but because Notre Dame is arguably the most recognizable and revered Catholic Church outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Like the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, or the Great Wall of China, Notre Dame is an iconic landmark that seems to have been around forever. It has about 13 million visitors every year, and I was lucky enough to be one of those visitors.
Almost two years ago to the day, my airplane touched down at the Charles De Gaulle Airport just outside of Paris, France. As this was both my first international and overnight flight, I was battling jet-lag, but was also thrilled about seeing some of the places on my bucket list. The first item of course was Notre Dame. I will always remember walking over the bridge and seeing the two towers rising high in the air. I smiled as I saw the iconic stained glass Rose Window, the gargoyles and statues, as well as the flying buttresses protruding on either side.
After taking in the beauty of the cathedral’s exterior, the next step was to see the interior which was every bit as stunning as the exterior. A replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, the stained glass windows, and the numerous side chapels were all breathtaking. I also was able to attend my first Mass in a foreign country and view the Crown of Thorns in Notre Dame. After seeing both the interior and exterior of the cathedral, I truly understood the original intent of the word ‘awesome’ for the first time. We as humans are struck by beauty and to say Notre Dame is beautiful does not do it justice.
As news stories kept coming about the fire, I quickly learned that Notre Dame had take over 180 years to construct and one day to be significantly damaged. I immediately thought of the exchange in John 2:19-21 which says: 19) Jesus responded and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 20) Then the Jews said, “This temple has been built up over forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” 21) Yet he was speaking about the Temple of his body.”
I was heartbroken as I watched a building burn thousands of miles away. While Notre Dame holds a special place in my heart, I thought how much more heartbroken and frightened the Apostles must have been during the holy days. To see their friend and teacher arrested, tortured, and crucified must have been gut-wrenching. They must have felt this crushing defeat. How must it have felt to see someone they believed in and followed and loved so dearly be destroyed? I can understand why Peter denied Christ three times and why they locked themselves in the upper room.
Yet, we know this isn’t the end of the story. We know that Notre Dame will be rebuilt even if it takes years or decades. We know that Christ did indeed rise after three days. Though destruction may happen, it is not the final word. We know that the tomb was empty. We know that Christ conquered death and rose after three days. We know that we are able to experience this ultimate hope and joy because Christ is Risen. Rejoice in that fact. Happy Easter, everyone!