Maybe you watched with tears as the symbol of a faith and a nation burned today. The 800 year old Notre Dame Cathedral is visited by more people in Paris than the Eiffel Tower each year. It has stood as a symbol of faith and a guardian of the heart of Paris for centuries.
Why are we so saddened at this moment?
Notre Dame is in the cradle of modern and ancient ideas. She is located near where Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls. The church is across the river where the first universities were built. The church is next to the first building that ever provided free health care for the poor under Saint Landry. The church stood for faith as philosophy went astray in front of her towers. The patrons of the church held to faith even as the surrounding country despised belief during the French Revolution. She loomed over Camus and Sartre as they blew up the eternal for the temporal. And she stood for a found generation when Wilde and Hemingway were lost on her streets.
As we are affected by our day and age, the church was not. Notre Dame stood. She stands on an island, separated from the city, yet the heart of it.
Notre Dame Cathedral, the people and faith it housed have not changed. By the spectacle of her spire she spoke of a faith that looks upwards and is unchanged for millenniums. With the majesty of her towers she looks over a city with a single truth and begs them to come in and seek. With the ornate detail of her facade she tells an ancient story written before the presence of man on earth, yet about each man on earth. In her gardens she offers peace, reflection and escape in the busyness of every age.
Faith in the shadow of Notre Dame gave birth to higher learning, political freedom, modern philosophy, thorough theology, beautiful art, and literature in many languages. Christianity made men free and made these things possible and Notre Dame is a reflection of Christian belief.
We weep because we know the absolutes she stands for are squelched by modernity. We weep because she is a symbol of truth in an age of untruth. We weep because her destruction would mean the loss of a symbol of faith, absolutes, and eternity at a time we can least afford it.
While she physically burns, the people of Paris may be unaware of their connections to the past and to faith. The connections that made their lives possible and better, but her walls remember and know where we came from and how we have strayed.
This is why we are sad. This is why we will go to great lengths to restore her.
The Port Royal Society