The air is full of mourning and crying. The hearts of Christians are bereft; another tribulation of Christendom defiles God’s acre on the Seine. They sang ancient Elysian hymns as Notre Dame de Paris opened a portal to the fires of hell, its sacred relics reduced to ash and silent dust; celestial benedictions drowned out by an ocean of grief and screaming flames. Our Father’s mansion, Our Lady’s seclusion, raped by smoke and consumed by pollution. When the hours of a thousand years fade into darkness and decay, we are left with a soulless shell, a vacant chair and a voiceless prayer. The glory is departed, the blessing ended, the angels are all gone.
“We will rebuild,” they say. “Resurgam Notre Dame!”
Is it half a sin to to put into words the thought, the feeling that what will arise will be a shadow, a mask of healing? The medieval timbers which spied emperors and hunchbacks, which breathed pestilence, war and revolution, can never be replaced. “Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we’ve lived all our great moments and is the epicentre of our lives,” said the President of the Republic. “It’s the story of our books, our paintings. It’s the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens. Tomorrow a national subscription will be launched for people around the country to help rebuild this great Notre Dame. Because that’s what the French people want. That is what their history requires. Because that is our destiny.”
Is it the destiny of secular France to put Mary back in heaven, having ushered her out, torn her soul and rent her breast? Is it the destiny of profane cynics to remember sacred hours, or of the arid enlightenment to reforge from acrid vapours the hallowed glow of blessedness? Notre Dame de Paris was not a work of stained-glass heritage or Gothic gargoyle culture, but a living, breathing monument to the glory of God. Secular France incinerated its sacred spirit centuries ago when it erected its altars to the cult of Liberté. What need the embrace of Our Lady’s sacrificing when Europa’s bed is warm and enticing? May the Refiner’s Fire burn in judgment, cleanse the temple and purge our sin: today is repentance; tomorrow is resurrection.