What Is the Message of the Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral?
Flames have gutted the famous cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. All the world was drowned in sorrow on this fateful Spring day. As the images of the collapsing spire spread across the globe, it was hard to believe that this famous building celebrated for centuries for its liturgy, artistic works and splendor is a blackened ruin. It will take decades to rebuild.
A yet worse tragedy awaits if no lessons are learned from the disaster. Unfortunately, this might well happen.
France is a nation steeped in liberal secularism. Throughout the modern era, the nation has suffered from its refusal to include God in public life. Thus, for such secularists, the fire is a tragic accident that destroyed a city landmark and UNESCO world heritage site. Its loss will impact the economy. The damage will be considered a cultural setback. However, they will see no meaning or consequences in the fire outside of the physical fact.
If the fire is reduced to an unfortunate event, its lessons will be in vain. This is not an ordinary occurrence. The episode marks the end of a historical epoch. It is a punishment for humanity that has turned its back upon God. Its providential message speaks not only to France but the world.
Indeed, Notre Dame is a building full of symbolism. Every part of the venerable medieval structure has symbolic meaning and purpose that renders the universe intelligible. The fire could not fail to have its own symbolism that reflects the turbulent and irrational times.
Notre Dame is the beating heart of France that represents everything of its Catholic identity. So important is the church to the nation that playwright Paul Claudel once wrote that Paris is but a highway leading to Notre Dame.
It is easy to see why. The building contained all that is beautiful, poetic and charming in the medieval French spirit. It symbolized the special alliance of the French people with God, as witnessed by the many historical events of both glory and shame that have taken place there. Throughout it all, Notre Dame has survived the best and the worst of times.
Does the fire signify the rupture of this alliance? For a long time, France has maintained the exteriorities of a nation linked to Christianity. Despite its secular government, France has always been structured around the Church.
Now, the rational, esthetic and cohesive exterior structures that defined the French people have come crashing down. Secular, neo-pagan and multi-cultural France has abandoned God. Have now God and the Virgin abandoned France? The nation stands so shattered and despoiled of her unity that a major author recently released a bestselling book titled The French Archipelago.
It would be wrong to read into the fire an exclusively French target. France is the first-born dauGhter of the Church and thus, represents all of Christendom. Truly, the whole West has renounced the Faith, and the world is now punished by being deprived of this marvelous flower that silently beckoned the nations to return. The Holy Week fire in Paris in some way symbolizes the Church in secular Europe that is experiencing a Passion in which She is scourged and unrecognizable.
That is why everyone is shocked and sorrowful. Immersed as it is in unhappiness and godlessness, the world has lost a cause of joy. But more terrible is that there is a foreboding of worse to come. God and the Virgin seem to have left humanity to its own devices. They await its repentance and return to order.