Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Hope in desolation: the burning of Notre Dame

Yesterday's belated Palm/Passion Sunday post felt right. Sometimes I get carried away with words. Once in awhile, I think, I manage to say something worth reading or listening to. In his song about the Incarnation, Michael Card sings: "You and me we use so many clumsy words/the point of what we often say is not worth being heard." This rings very true with me, especially in this age of instantaneous electronic communication that tempts me to weigh in an anything and everything.

The first casualty of my wordiness is silence. Observing Holy Week, especially these few days between Palm Sunday and the beginning of the Triduum, requires a heavy dose of silence.

I don't know about you, but watching in horror yesterday as Notre Dame de Paris burned summoned forth no words, just a gasp and feeling of great sorrow and loss, the beginnings of grief. Like virtually everyone else, I was forced to helplessly watch the fire at a distance as the fire brigades of Paris did desperate battle with the flames. What could I say except perhaps a Hail Mary or a Memorare, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin as a beautiful cathedral dedicated to her was besieged by fire?

Photograph taken in the nave of Notre Dame after yesterday's fire


It seems to me that in the wake of such a loss, I need to remind myself that the Church is made of living stones. Yes, the burning of Notre Dame cathedral is a painful way to be reminded of this! Another reality, one of which I was reminded on Ash Wednesday, is that, sooner or later, everything will be reduced to dust, including myself. I suppose my consolation is my belief that I will not remain dust.

Like the woman taken in adultery, I hope that Christ Jesus will lift me from the dust, making me a new creation. The audaciousness of this hope is often lost on me. I am not sure how such a belief ever becomes routinized. Yet, somehow I succeed in doing just that. Witnessing the burning of Notre Dame is but one more proof not only that hope lies beyond optimism but that desolation is the soil from which of hope arises.

Salvation history shows us time and again that the opus Dei is bringing hope from desolation by bringing life from death. This is what Holy Week invites us to experience, whether we observe it in a magnificent cathedral or in the crudest of chapels.

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