Christians are accustomed to observing the somber markers of Holy Week — Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday — before the celebration of Easter Sunday.
But none were prepared for the sadness that swept over not only France, but the world, Monday as a devastating fire engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
One need not be a believer — in Christianity or any faith — to feel moved by the damage done to one of the world’s architectural treasures. Much like the nearby Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal in India, Notre Dame is both historic and beloved.
Although firefighters were still battling the blaze late Monday, early indications were that many of the marvels inside — including some of the exquisite stained-glass windows, priceless art works, and much of the interior wood, including pews — were threatened. The damage outside was more readily apparent, including the heartbreaking collapse of the cathedral’s magnificent spire.
The cathedral, which had survived centuries of European turmoil, including the darkest days of Nazi occupation, had stood as a durable testament to faith in the Catholic Church, its host city and the country.
The fire comes amid one of the toughest tests for the church, which is reeling from a global scandal, and for Paris and France, which are dealing with European political turmoil and ongoing domestic strife. French President Emmanuel Macron, who had planned to address the nation about those struggles Monday night, instead turned his attention to Notre Dame.
It’s too soon to know what it will take to rebuild the cathedral, and how much history will be lost in the flames. But the church will endure, and we trust that the French will gain strength from the outpouring of support from around the world.
Indeed, as adherents of Holy Week will celebrate on Sunday, even in the face of great loss there is always hope in the promise of resurrection.