On Monday this past week, fire swept through the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France. While much of the structure survived, its roof was destroyed and its iconic spire toppled. Much of France and much of the world was in shock to see this happen to such a symbol of France, Western Civilization, the Catholic Church and Christianity.
This structure has stood for over 700 years. It had withstood political turmoil and wars, including both World Wars in the 20th Century.
That the fire occurred during Holy Week makes it even harder to take. This is the week when Christians celebrate Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, His institution of the Lord’s Supper and His betrayal on Maundy Thursday, His suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday, and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As of the most recent reports, the fire appears to have been an accident.
It was good that so many of the religious relics and art treasures of the Cathedral were saved. However, something else came out of the fire: a reminder to all Christians of what is really important.
When the fire was out, the cross above the altar seemed almost to glow in the darkened haze. It was as if God Himself was saying, “Hey, everyone! Don’t forget I’m still here, and I’m still doing my thing. Buildings can be replaced, but I am always here!”
Buildings may come and go. People will come and go. However, all Christians should remember that God’s Word lasts forever, and, as long as we have that, we have everything that’s important.
Consider what happened to the Russian Orthodox Church. Following the Communist take-over in 1917, they were stripped of their political power and influence, their property, their treasures, and their wealth. All they had left was God’s Word.
It turns out that was all the church needed. Despite decades of attempts by the Communists to stamp out the church, it thrived and became one of the most spiritual churches in Europe. It survived more than 70 years of Communist rule, and it’s now spiritually stronger than ever.
In 1931, the Communists demolished the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. They intended to replace it with the Palace of the Soviets, which would’ve been the tallest building in the world. Work was underway when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and all the steel that had been allocated for the building had to be converted to armaments.
Following the war, construction on the building stalled when it became clear the ground under the Palace of the Soviets couldn’t support the structure. It was eventually turned into a swimming pool. It was said that pool was used for many clandestine baptisms over the years.
For what it’s worth, the cathedral was rebuilt from 1995 to 2005.
If any good can come from the fire at Notre Dame, it’s that we remember God’s Word is what matters. It’s not the most important thing, it’s the only thing.