Notre Dame, Hope & Resurrection
Throughout Holy Week I'll be sharing some prayers from a book I've been using as a prayer guide through Lent: Prayer: Forty Days of Practice. I hope that these prayers and the reflections that accompany them will be meaningful to you as we journey with Jesus through Holy Week.
Prayer for Wednesday of Holy Week:
May I never grow tired of starting over or helping others do the same. My hope is always in renewal and resurrection.
Two days ago, much of the world watched in horror and dismay as a fire raged in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Firefighters were able to save as much of the iconic structure as they could, but the damage was devastating.
Like so many of my friends who have had the fortune of visiting Paris and touring Notre Dame, I had my own memories to draw upon as I watched the story unfold yesterday. I've shared some of those memories before in a devotion:
In 2007, while on an epic trip to London and Paris for our anniversary, Merideth and I found ourselves in the middle of a huge crowd outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Hundreds of police officers held the crowd at bay as large limousines pulled up.
"I think that is Jacques Chirac!" I stage-whispered to Merideth as the then President of France emerged from one of the vehicles. "What is going on here?" A lady turned around and said to us in perfect English. "It's the funeral of Abbe Pierre. He was a famous priest, a man beloved by the people for his work with the homeless."
I learned later that Abbe Pierre was born into a wealthy family, but dedicated his life to ministry and service. After World War II the streets of Paris were filled with thousands of displaced and homeless beggars. He mobilized them, gave them purpose, helped them create businesses, and formed an organization called Emmaus, which now has chapters all over the world.
In his book Reaching For The Invisible God, Philip Yancey wrote about how Pierre and his homeless workers from Emmaeus mobilized to build a hospital ward in a leper colony in India. When the workers in India thanked him, Pierre replied, "No, no it is you who have saved us. We must serve or we die."
I've never forgotten that chilly, grey January day as Merideth and I stood outside Notre Dame with thousands of French people--paying homage to a man who dedicated his life to following Jesus' example and caring for the least of these, and who believed he would die if he did not serve.
Yesterday morning I saw a video taken by a first responder who was inside Notre Dame after the fire was controlled. Unbelievably, there were still candles burning in the nave of the church, lit by visitors to the cathedral, who offered prayers there earlier.
It is a sad fact that sometimes it takes a moment of great loss for us to come to grips with what is good, beautiful and true about the world. But in those moments we also have the opportunity to have our eyes opened to the ways that God is still resurrecting what was lost, or left for dead.
My memory of Notre Dame and what I learned there is but one of the millions of stories of the people who have prayed, worshipped and found grace and peace in her dimly lit environs. That is the true legacy of that holy ground.
I have no doubt that Notre Dame cathedral will be restored one day. And I hope that I will get the chance to stand within her once more, light a candle and marvel at the divinely-inspired way we humans fall to our faces only to rise as we begin again, start over and practice resurrection.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.