Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fire on Holy Ground

April 15, 2019
Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Paris, April 16, 2019
O Crux, ave, spes unica!
And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt. And Moses said: I will go and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he went forward to see, he called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said: Moses, Moses. And he answered: Here I am. And he said: Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. ~from Exodus 3:2-5

The following is my initial reaction which I posted on Facebook on the afternoon of April 15, 2019 as I watched Notre Dame de Paris burning:
So horrible. I am beside myself. I have been to Mass there a few times. I first went  there with the Thomas girls in 1980 and I remember going to Mass there with my friend Cathy in 1982. The last time I was there was 1999 with Mike. So much history. St. Louis prayed there. Mary Queen of Scots was married there. Marie-Antoinette was churched there after the births of her children. Napoleon was crowned there. The Te Deum was sung there in May 1814 at the Restoration. Millions of French people have worshiped there for almost a thousand years, and on that spot for much longer. It was the center of the Christian community from the Roman times. It was even a holy site for the Gauls in pre-Roman times. Yesterday, palms were carried in triumph one last time. 
Such a calamity has been mentioned in prophecies from several mystics over the years. Here are the words of an alleged seer named Jane Le Royer -- who died in 1798, at the end of the French Revolution:
The thick vapors which I have seen rising from the earth, and obscuring the light of the sun, are the false maxims of irreligion and of license (falsely called liberty) [liberalism], which in part originated in France, and in part came to us from abroad. These have succeeded in confounding all sound principles, and in spreading everywhere such darkness as to obscure the light both of faith and of reason. The storm began in France, which shall be the first theatre of its ravages, after having been its forge."
There have been fires recently in other churches in Paris lately, namely Saint Sulpice and Saint Denis. Other similar things in churches throughout France, so it is not an isolated incident. But the way this fire took over so quickly is unprecedented. 
On Monday of Holy Week. This is an hour of woe.  Intense prayer is needed. This is a sign for the world. More HERE.

I thought the cathedral had burned to the ground. I was devastated and could not watch the news anymore. Later that evening, a friend sent me an article from ChurchPop which had pictures of the interior of the cathedral, and it appeared to be relatively untouched. The timbers in the attic had caused a huge conflagration, causing part of the roof to fall in. But the artisans, craftsmen, stonemasons and architects who built the cathedral made it to withstand all the elements, including fire, with regular maintenance and repairs, of course. Notre Dame was constructed between 1160 and 1260 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, as part of the growing devotion to the Mother of Jesus which swept France and Europe in the 12th century as a result of the teachings and writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and other saints. At the same time spread the "Gothic-style" of architecture, encouraged by the great Abbot Suger.  The term "Gothic" was a derogatory appellation from the Enlightenment; contemporaries called it the "French-style" as opposed to the older "Roman" or "Romanesque-style." 

The men who built Notre Dame de Paris appear to have done their work well. The flying buttresses, part of the genius of "Gothic" architecture, kept the entire building from collapsing. The vaulted ceiling held together as well. Looking at the photos of the sanctuary and high altar, with the candles intact, all I could think of was the burning bush in Exodus, which burned but was not consumed. It reminded me of the Vespers Antiphon for January 1: "Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush, flaming yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us, Mother of God."  I believe it is a sign for the faithful, that the Faith, which appears to be perishing in so many places, will emerge again from the ashes.

 As of this writing, the cause of the fire is still being sought. It is assumed to have been an accident that occurred due to efforts to restore the building. However, the fire is not an isolated incident. Both Saint Sulpice and Saint Denis in Paris have had fires in the last few months. There are other Catholic churches in France and elsewhere in Europe have suffered damage, especially since the beginning of Lent. From The Gatestone Institute:
In Germany, four separate churches were vandalized and/or torched in March alone. "In this country," PI-News, a German news site, explained, "there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity: attacks on mountain-summit crosses, on sacred statues by the wayside, on churches... and recently also on cemeteries." 
In virtually every instance of church attacks, authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals. In those rare instances when the Muslim (or "migrant") identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues. 
"Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols. There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators.... Not a word, not even the slightest hint that could in anyway lead to the suspicion of migrants... It is not the perpetrators who are in danger of being ostracized, but those who dare to associate the desecration of Christian symbols with immigrant imports. They are accused of hatred, hate speech and racism." -- PI News, March 24, 2019. (Read more.)

As Rich Lowry expresses it at The National Review:
A cultural calamity played out on live TV when the Paris cathedral that has been a focal point of Christendom for so long was apparently gutted by a raging fire, destroying a significant part of an inheritance built up over hundreds of years in a few hours. Notre Dame stands for so many qualities that we now lack — patience and staying power, the cultivation of beauty, a deep religious faith, the cultural confidence and ambition to build a timeless monument of our civilization — that the collapse of its spire was almost too much to bear. The great novelist Victor Hugo, who did so much to revive interest in the cathedral when it was in disrepair in the 19th century, wrote how “every surface, every stone of this venerable pile, is a page of the history not only of the country, but of science and art.” It was the work of generations, completed across three centuries, in a triumph over considerable architectural and logistical challenges. It arose at the original site of a pagan temple. Thousands of tons of stone had to be transported from outside Paris, one ox cart or barge at a time. To achieve its soaring height and hold up its ceiling and walls, it relied on the architectural innovations of the rib vault and flying buttress. (Read more.) 

From William Newton at The Federalist:
Those who come to learn more about this structure’s long and tortured past will quickly realize that even this most venerable of buildings has been subject to a catalogue of endless, woeful human stupidities, from acts of iconoclasm and desecration, to awkward interventions and bad restoration. Monday’s conflagration was but the latest indignity to have been suffered by a building that had already suffered a great deal from unfortunate tinkering about.

While initial reporting on the fire was difficult to watch for a number of reasons, those who stayed with the coverage of Monday’s events saw that, as the fire retreated, hopeful reports began to come out. Broadcast and social media allowed people to share stories about and images of objects that had been saved: holy relics, works of art, historic documents, and so on. Later updates showed that some important parts of the old building even appear, rather miraculously, to have survived.

But long before this good news emerged, there was also a very different, and ultimately far more important, form of Good News on offer last night. It took them awhile to realize it, but gradually news commentators noticed that hundreds of Parisian Catholics, many of them young people, were kneeling together on the streets around the burning cathedral for hours, and continued to do so well into the wee hours of the next morning. (Read more.)

Notre Dame has often been threatened in the past, particularly during the French Revolution. According to History:
During the French Revolution in the 1790s, angry mobs and revolutionaries looted the medieval Gothic church—and even declared that it wasn’t a church at all—during a bloody push to remove France’s close ties to the Catholic church. More than two dozen statues affixed to the church facade were publicly decapitated the same year as Marie Antoinette.

Before a furious crowd stormed the Bastille in Paris in 1789, the Church wielded extraordinary power in France. The vast majority of French people were Catholic, Catholicism was the state religion, and the Church owned vast swaths of property and collected heavy tithes from most people’s incomes without paying taxes of its own. But a growing number of French people had tired of the Church’s almost inconceivable power. As the monarchy toppled, then fell, a small group of radical revolutionaries who had been influenced by Enlightenment-era philosophies of freedom of religion and a reason-based society saw their chance to strip the Church of much of its authority. They embarked on a dechristianization campaign, confiscating Church property, trying to get all clergy to swear their loyalty to the new state, and removing the Church’s control over the birth, death and administrative records it had held for so long. The Revolution gained steam, and so did its attempts to strip the Catholic Church of its authority over French life. Parisians massacred and jailed priests during the September Massacres of 1792, and clergy were put on trial during the Reign of Terror. In 1793, the new government announced that public worship was illegal. In response, people rushed into churches, stripping them of religious symbolism. (Read more.) 
 Our Lady has once again saved her cathedral, as a sign of hope for her people, as an inspiration for the faithful and as a miracle for unbelievers. We are reminded of the words of St. Joan of Arc as she burned at Rouen five hundred years ago: "Hold the Cross high, that I may see it through the flames."

 More articles about the condition of the cathedral, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.
It looks like the candles did not even melt. What a miracle! 
The nave. The flying buttresses held out as did much of the vaulted ceiling
Our Lady of Sorrows surrounded by Angels and two Kings of France
The Churching of Marie-Antoinette at Notre Dame in 1781
"Hold the Cross high, that I may see it through the flames."~ Sainte Jeanne d'Arc
More pictures HERE.


1 comment:

elena maria vidal said...

Another quote from St. Joan: "And you shall see that the French will very soon achieve a great task which God will send to the French, and such that almost the whole Kingdom of France will tremble. And I say it, so that when it comes to pass it will be remembered that I said it." ~St. Joan of Arc, at her trial