"Alight, but Never Consumed": The Hidden Message of Notre-Dame
For many—including myself—with the images of smoldering Notre Dame de Paris seared in our mindseyes
, it is difficult to ignore a sort of symbolism of the Church in the West. This was made all the more apparent when Vatican Spokeman, Alessandro Gisotti, released the official response addressing the tragedy while it was still unfolding: “Le Saint-Siège a appris avec incrédulité et tristesse la nouvelle du terrible incendie qui a ravagé la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, symbole de la chrétienté, en France et dans le monde.”
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris—a symbol of Christianity in France and for the World.
Over the years, many writers have pointed to the growing sense of apostasy in Western Europe—not only with less church attendance, the growing materialism and interest in the occult—but also with direct requests for “de-baptism” in France, Herself. The root of this apostasy could very well be a deeply concerning lack of basic catechesis. This lack of catechesis—whether stemming from spiritual acedia or fear in the clergy (or worse, still, a full rejection of supernatural Faith and the culture built upon It)—seems to serve as the kindling to the conflagration of confusion and doubt consuming the West.
Indeed, the tragedy the world witnessed at the destruction of Notre-Dame can be viewed as a symbol of the state of the Church, but the conflagration that engulfed Notre-Dame de Paris has an incredibly Mariological answer to the problems we are facing—and one that should not be overlooked. The answer may be found in the photos that have emerged of the damage done to the interior of the Church.
Considering the extent of the exterior blaze, to see the vaulted Gothic ceilings remain standing and all the Rose Windows, intact, is a miracle. In fact, for all of the holy relics, including the True Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, to have been rescued unscathed as the flames tore through the roof must be considered equally miraculous.
The Mariological symbolism, however, may be less obvious. Like the Burning Bush typology, Notre-Dame de Paris—the Cathedral named for Our Lady, Mother of God-- was “alight, but never consumed”.
Out of the ashes of this Jeweled Tabernacle, we see the Cross of Christ emerging—gleaming triumphantly above the high altar. As Her interior treasures were protected, what remains of this grand Cathedral is, no doubt, the strongest—the most fortified.
These images must be recorded in our collective memories—no doubt, to encourage us to remain faithful to the enduring Truths of our Catholic Faith; well tested, tried as gold in a furnace greater than any earthly one. For those of us who continue to struggle, may we now look to Our Lady and the miracles of Notre-Dame de Paris and remember we struggle with one common goal in mind—for the “Praise of Glory”, for Heaven and the salvation of souls.