You may have seen the news this past week. An 800 year old place of worship and a masterpiece of architecture, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was destroyed by fire. The walls still stand but the roof and its characteristic spire is gone, consumed in a blaze that required 500 firefighters to extinguish. The world is fixated on this event for several reasons. One, the cathedral is iconic and a destination of millions who traveled to Paris. Its flying buttresses are a beautiful example of 13th century architecture and its interior served as a standard for majestic worship spaces. Two, the cathedral used 300 year old trees from ancient forests that were growing over 1,000 years ago. This type of wood is extremely rare and few examples of old growth forests exist as usable lumber or in existing structures. Three, structures like this are constantly being renovated and great care is taken to preserve the characteristics that make them so special so an icon like this burning is almost unheard of. Four, the history in the place is astounding. Kings and emperors were crowned there and people have worshiped there for 800 years. Few buildings in the world can say they've been in use for 800+ years.
Almost 1 billion donated dollars has already flowed into France to pay for the rebuilding of this structure and the preservation of its history. The news reports have emphasized the heroic efforts of people who went inside to grab the relics, like the crown of thorns, and the priceless art contained within the cathedral, saving them from the blaze.
This raised a question in my mind: When is the last time strangers, unsaved people, far from God, donated money to rebuild a church? Notre Dame is amazing in many ways. But most people look at it like a historic structure, a museum, an example of architecture, a relic worth saving. But how many people are looking at it and mourning its destruction because it is a place of worship?
Somehow, the spiritual aspect of it being a cathedral has been replaced with an admiration for its longevity, its historical significance and its role as keeper of art, relics and history. I mourn its destruction because it's something I have always wanted to see. I love history and the preservation of antiques, structures and the stories of people long gone.
One thing the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral has vividly illustrated is that fact that nothing lasts forever. No matter if it has stood for 800 years and stands another 800 years, it eventually will fade from existence and maybe even memory. Nothing in this world lasts forever. We don't usually think about this until something we love is taken from us. We all have things in our possession that we hold as precious - things we value for many reasons. Do we recognize the temporary nature of these things? Even the things we hold tightly and take good care of can be taken away. Notre Dame was under careful renovation, surrounded by scaffolding and still burned.
As the world looks to Notre Dame, there is a collective gasp, similar to the one heard on countless videos of the cathedral spire falling as it burned - a gasp that reminds us that nothing lasts forever. Everyone and everything has an end date. But as we approach Easter, we are reminded once again that there is only one person who has ever defied this expiration date. Jesus died but then rose again on Sunday morning, proving that some things DO live forever.
They'll rebuild the roof of Notre Dame and they'll reopen it to the public one day. People will again marvel at its architecture and beauty. But it's a temporary fix. Nothing lasts forever,. Only those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will see eternity. Celebrate Jesus' gift of eternal life this Easter!