I could almost hear a collective ‘gasp’ as the world watched in horror as the roof of the iconic symbol of Catholicism in France and the epitome of Gothic architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral, went up in flames this past Monday. As is often the case these days, the bulletin came through my mobile phone that “Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire.” Turning the television on to CNN, I watched in horror as the central tower collapsed in flames. Having visited the Cathedral a number of times over the years, my great fear was that the Medieval rose windows of incomparable beauty and antiquity together with the famous organ – completely restored only 20 years ago, would be consumed and lost forever in the flames. While it appeared that first responders were slow in arriving on the site, what could not be seen on television was the heroic mobilization of over 500 firefighters to do all they could to save this cultural icon from being totally destroyed by the flames. Precious relics were saved by the heroism of the priest chaplain to the fire fighters of Paris. Thankfully, after a number of hours, the flames were extinguished and miraculously the main structure of the Cathedral with its famous twin towers and classic façade were saved.
The following day, the first photos of the interior of the Cathedral were shared throughout the world. While the nave and sanctuary were strewn with charred debris from the collapsed roof, hovering over what could have been a total disaster was the brilliance of the cross, metaphorically speaking of triumph in the midst of what could very well have been total disaster. Out of the ashes of that moment, the cross spoke of hope and promise for the future. Within a matter of days, over 1 billion dollars was raised for the rebuilding, restoration and conservation of the Cathedral for generations to come. President Macron of France set a goal of accomplishing this within five years!
My sisters and brothers, as we reflect this happy day on the meaning of the Easter mystery in our lives, there is no more fitting historic event that provides a metaphor for us to touch the inner meaning of this central feast of the Christian faith than what has recently transpired in the City of Lights this past week. Out of the ashes has come a new beginning. Out of the dark sadness of what appeared to be certain destruction has come new life. From the cross has come resurrection!
At the Great Easter Vigil, it is the symbol of fire that shatters the darkness of this holy night with the Light of Christ. No longer the frightening symbol of destruction, fire now becomes the refining earthly element that ushers in the transformation of the cosmos into a new creation because of the risen Christ. The darkness of cross and tomb cannot contain the one who will conquer death on the wood of the cross and let love triumph, renew and transform. For in Christ, death give way to new life and with it, unending hope for all who are now buried and rise with him through the waters of Baptism.
And so, my friends, on this Feast of the Resurrection, let our hearts be filled with joy for the one who has brought light out of darkness, hope out of despair, unending life out of death. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it, Alleluia!