All of us were glued on the Monday of Holy Week to phones and computers and television screens, to twitter feeds and facebook posts as we followed in dismay the blaze that was collapsing roof and spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
I closed my eyes and imagined all the people who had contributed to building Notre Dame Cathedral through the 2 centuries that stretched between 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and 1345. Craftsmen, artists, masons, architects, carpenters, painters, sculptors…all of them gathering around Our Lady in heaven with sorrow over the impending collapse of this magnificent icon of Christianity that bears her name, the cultural and religious heart of the French people and of all Catholics.
Our Lady received them with such gratitude for all they had done in her Son’s honor with a calmness that seemed out of character with all that was happening. And as I prayed, she seemed to say the words she has always said, “Fiat…. You will see that all shall be for God’s glory.”
On Good Friday we remember the horror of the three hours Mary stood beneath the cross to which the Son of God, her son, was nailed. Jeered, derided, mocked…. Betrayed, thirsty, unable to breathe…
Moment by agonizing moment the fire of his love that had burned so brightly when he was alive seemed to flicker more weakly until, at last, she held his lifeless body in her arms.
“Fiat.” Perhaps the hardest Fiat of all.
There are no ashes where there cannot also be glory.
Notre Dame will rise anew from the ashes because of the millions pledged for the Cathedral’s renovation. In five years, as President Macron has promised, France will once again have its cultural and religious heart restored in the Notre Dame Cathedral. It will be a five-year intensive “retreat” for the entire country and for all Catholics as we follow the progress and prepare for the first liturgies of the opening day.
But the “glory” to which Our Lady in heaven referred is more than architectural splendor and a sacred space of worship that represents the heart of Catholicism and the French people.
The glory began already in the darkness of Monday of Holy Week and continues in the hearts of all of us who are yet pondering in our souls what this inferno of Notre Dame means spiritually to us personally, to us as Catholics, to the world as a whole.
In the marrow of our bones, we feel that this devastation of the sacred in the most sacred week of the year, carries with it the mystery of a message in a language we can no longer understand.
We no longer know how NOT to understand…Marian NOT understanding as she stood with peaceful faith at the foot of her dying Son.
We no longer have a comfort level with trusting that even if we don’t understand what is happening we can be absolutely certain that God is reliable and all will be for God’s glory.
This is now Easter week. And once again Our Lady is our guide to understanding the ways of God even in the midst of tragedy and loss.
All eyes have turned to her as she turns the attention of the world to a place of sacred worship of her Son.
We treasure in our hearts what we have seen and heard.
We ponder what it can all mean.
We ask the Holy Spirit to show us the deeper wisdom in all that has happened.
We enter with greater reverence our own sacred buildings of worship that, although they are much humbler than Notre Dame Cathedral, are nonetheless filled with myriads of angels and the presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist.
We rest with the Word in Scripture and let the dust settle so that we might be taught by God whose thoughts are far above our own.
We rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, as Our Lady must have done so, knowing that indeed God has the whole world in his hands.
In the ashes of last week, in the ashes of all of Lent, is the astounding way in which God’s glory, in ways incomprehensible to our little minds, continues to save us from ourselves and from the power of the Evil One.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen. Alleluia!