With it being Holy Week, I'll be honest that I haven't been paying too much attention to the news. The story hard to ignore was that of the Cathedral of Notre Dame on fire.
Watching the news that night, hearing the eye witness accounts of the spire falling, seeing the pictures of French residents and tourists alike praying, singing "Ave Maria", shocked, and stunned were heartbreaking views into the potential loss of this structure.
Seeing the pictures brought back memories of the humanities class taken during undergraduate years. In that class, we discussed and explored the architecture of Notre Dame. We saw slides of the art, the artifacts, and the relics housed within the cathedral walls. We learned how the wooden framework was assembled at ground level before being painstakingly and gently lifted in place with means that even today still inspire a sense of wonder and amazement.
I was saddened too, at the realization of artifacts within the walls of Notre Dame, possibly never to be seen again. Who knew Notre Dame held the crown of thorns worn by Christ during his crucifixion? Or there is supposed to be a piece of the cross encased in glass. Never having been there, and vaguely recalling that humanities class, not me.
But then I saw it. A picture of the inside of the Cathedral after the fire had been extinguished that went viral. In the midst of the destruction, in the midst of the rubble, in the midst of burnt and charred timbers, the altar cross gleamed. Another picture seen later indicated Michelangelo's "Pieta" (the statue of Mary holding Jesus after he has been taken down from the cross) had also survived the fire.
In that moment of seeing the gold cross shining was the story of Easter and the Resurrection. In the midst of ashes -- there is hope. In the midst of darkness -- there is hope. In the face of obstacle -- there is hope.
The women went to the tomb on Easter morning in the darkness of grief, and in the darkness of the hour. They went, not knowing what to expect when they arrived at the tomb. What they found when they arrived was not what they were expecting at all -- angels surrounded by the brilliance of Light greeted them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen, just as he said."
The next few days will seem like dark days as we reflect and observe Jesus' betrayal, arrest, judgement, crucifixion, and death. The reality of the Cathedral of Notre Dame catching fire with centuries of religious and world history seems a dark time for many as well.
But. . . .
There is hope.
There IS always hope.
As the news began to come out of Paris that pieces of art, artifacts, and relics were safe, of the heroic efforts of many to save these valuable and priceless pieces of humanity, words to a favorite hymn came to mind:
"Built on a rock the church shall stand, even when steeples are falling;
crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling --
calling the young and old to rest, calling the souls of those distressed,
longing for life everlasting." (Built On A Rock, Evangelical Lutheran Worship. @2006).
The words to this hymn are a reminder: when church buildings catch on fire, when steeples fall or are damaged, God's Word will continue to be proclaimed, will continue to be heard, and will continue to provide hope -- and light -- in the midst of ashes and darkness.