Finding Hope in Notre Dame | Connecting with Culture
Crying for a building? This is ridiculous, I thought, as I watched the dreadful sight of Notre Dame’s spire, blackened by the engulfing flames. But the whole world seemed to be grieving too.
I had fresh empathy for the Israelites who wept over a building. Like Paris’ cathedral, Solomon’s temple appeared indestructible throughout generations: the unmissable stop on a visit to the capital; the emblem of their country and identity; a place to marvel at the beauty and meet with God.
It would always be there – until it wasn’t.
Some people draw hope from other restored cathedrals – Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand, after the earthquake, and Coventry Cathedral after the blitz, for example.
When these buildings are rebuilt it’s bittersweet. Zerubbabel cheers at the foundations of the second temple, but the older community weeps, perhaps because they knew the glory of the original (Ezra 3:12).
Before his death, Jesus compared his body to a destroyed temple, promising to restore it in three days. His hearers protested – how could something that took as long to build as a temple be restored in three days? Looking at Notre Dame today, we feel the outrageousness of the claim.
Then, when Jesus was crucified and the temple of his body destroyed, his disciples were horrified and fled. The impossible had happened.
This time there was no hope of restoration, for death of a person is greater than the death of a building.
And yet, there is hope. That first Easter Sunday, everything changed – Jesus had not been resuscitated but resurrected, better than before. It was the first time a temple had been destroyed and truly returned with more glory.
In this world, impossible horrors happen daily: centuries of careful preservation are undone in a day; beautiful and seemingly permanent things like buildings, marriages, or health disappear overnight. We are right to lament them.
Jesus’ resurrection reverses the trend: the replacement is more glorious than the former. In heaven, there’ll be no more sickness, carelessness, faithlessness, sorrow. Rather, we anticipate God’s unending, brilliant presence in a city built of jewels: more secure and more beautiful than any we’ve known before.
Though we may grieve Notre Dame and all it represents, we look to Jesus, a temple destroyed but – impossibly – resurrected, renewed, restored with greater glory for all eternity. This is where hope lies.
Tanya is the author of Those Who Wait – Finding God in disappointment, doubt and delay. Follow her writing and get a free book at TanyaMarlow.com
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