Notre-Dame and the Cross Amidst the Ruins

“The faith of the Middle Ages built the cathedrals, and here your ancestors came to praise God, to entrust to him their hopes and to express their love for him.”  ~Pope Benedict XVI at Notre-Dame de Paris, 2008


Yesterday, on a Monday in Holy Week, the grand Roman Catholic cathedral of Paris, Notre-Dame de Paris, caught fire and was nearly destroyed. As of yet, the cause of this fire has not been determined; investigations into the blaze will most likely take some time. It has been reported that the Blessed Sacrament, and the precious relic of the Crown of Thorns, were both saved at the outset of the fire.  Needless to say, despite those bits of good news, yesterday was a sad day in Christendom. Notre-Dame de Paris, dedicated to Our Holy Mother, Mary, is heartily loved by Catholics all over the world. We love her in a mysterious way, as we love living things. I wrote about her in February of 2018 in a post titled, The Voting Tombstone in ParisIn the post I wrote:

In 1163, our Catholic ancestors broke ground on Notre-Dame de Paris. This Grand Lady was completed in 1345. It has stood for eight hundred (+) years, speaking to the living as a testament, a tombstone to the persons who built her, to their belief in the Truths of the Catholic Faith.

G.K. Chesterton spoke about the democracy of the dead, the idea that our good ancestors held certain beliefs and stuck with certain traditions; and we ought to consider these beliefs and traditions, not merely dismissing them simply because our ancestors are dead. He said that our ancestors vote with their tombstones, as their tombstones are marked with the cross:

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.” (G. K. Chesterton)

The Grand Lady, Notre-Dame de Paris, is a rather large Catholic voting tombstone that tells us that our eight hundred year old ancestors believed in the Truths of the Roman Catholic Faith.

A truly democratic person would take this voting tombstone seriously.

Oh, Beautiful Lady, how horrible it was to see you burn; how sad it was to witness your anguish!

Last evening, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, held a press conference where he declared that Notre-Dame would be rebuilt.

May it be so.

This morning, crossing the news sites, there are numerous pictures of the charred interior of Notre-Dame; and people are noting one aspect of these, otherwise grievous, pictures: the large golden cross above the altar remains, nearly glowing in the shadows of the maimed cathedral. Always, always, the Holy Cross is our first Love; so, even in the ashes, even in the ashes of our lives, there is hope, because of the Cross. This Cross is, and has always been, the strange hope of the Christian. As G.K. Chesterton stated in the above quote: Catholic tombstones, the tombstones of our ancestors, are marked by the sign of the Holy Cross. Now, Notre-Dame de Paris bears this honor in an unusual way. She is marked by the Holy Cross: the Holy Cross of suffering, yet the Holy Cross of victory and hope.

The Cross, so ignominious to pagans, has been made glorious by Our Redeemer.

I shall leave you, now, on this Tuesday of Holy Week where the Indroit to the Mass reads from Galatians 6: 14:

But it is fitting that we should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is salvation, life, and resurrection for us, by whom we are saved and delivered. 


Hail Notre-Dame de Paris, a living, if yet maimed, testament to the Faith of our Fathers; and tabernacle of the Cross!


~Image: Notre-Dame de Paris, before the fire.

~Pope Benedict XVI speaks on sacred architecture: link.