It’s a great miracle that human beings were ever passionate about the problem of how to get a ceiling AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE! – NO, HIGHER!! – HIGHER, STILL!!!!! And then it’s an even greater miracle that they dedicated their lives and so many resources to creating all that empty space to float above their heads when they were indoors, just so they could better taste the Infinite even while under a roof.
But the greatest miracle (and the reason why Notre Dame isn’t a “symbol” or “just a building”) is that this holy church really is our Body. Just as the Eucharist is the radical Presence of Christ in this world, our churches are the embodiment of the building not made with hands, the house made with living stones, in other words: us. Not just “us” as a crowd of poor slobs, but us at our eventual, awaited fulfillment, as the beloved Bride decked out for the Wedding of Love.
When we enter a church, we experience the call to be our best selves – the selves we have not yet become – our perfected selves, in harmony and unity, and integrity.
Yes, the Mystical Body continues to live and breathe and have its being in Christ no matter if every church on earth burns to the ground. Yes, the edifice will be restored eventually. For now, though, Notre Dame is reflecting back a different face of the Church: the wounded and blemished body that reels under the weight of sins for which she has expressed an incomplete contrition. The Church’s sorrow over her crimes against human life is not nearly radical enough in light of the crimes committed and not nearly profound enough given who she claims to be in the world.
May our priests and bishops see, in the burning hull of this magnificent cathedral, their own souls, and let them commit to restoring their own company to what Christ demanded of his apostles: powerless service, friendship for the least, a truly meek and humble attitude in front of all of us, particularly the littlest and weakest.
I expect many more flames before we reach the end of this painful chapter. Please remember that it was Christ who said he longed to set the world on fire. Meanwhile, we need to stay awake. Sing songs. Make art. Be kind to one another.