The Pain of Losing Notre Dame

I gasped when my husband told me the news. It felt almost as surreal as 9/11. “Please tell me it wasn’t terrorists,” was the first thing I said to him.

I’ve never been to Paris, but I have been to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. I WILL NEVER FORGET THE IMPACT the vaulted ceilings, ancient architecture, and relics had on me as a 19-year-old, alone for the first time outside my own country. I felt connected to something so Beautiful and Big and Beyond. I did some of my best soul reflection and journaling there in July of 1987. It was a huge part of my coming of age. I’ll bet many of you have been to ancient holy places of one kind or another—even if it was the woods behind your childhood home—and can also feel in your bones the loss of such a thing.

The pinch in my stomach over the loss of a building will never be greater than the loss of life, however. This loss gets me in touch with the gut-wrenching pain that millions on our planet are feeling today because of heartbreak on a much greater scale. The kind of loss that makes it difficult to breathe, or to know how to get out of bed in the morning.

In reference to the loss of Notre Dame Cathedral, here’s what Rev. Cameron Trimble posted this morning:

….This happened during Holy Week. We are watching one of our great Christian symbols turn to ash before our eyes. It would be tempting to rush to resurrection by saying, “We will rebuild the Cathedral. All is not lost.”

We will. But let’s not miss the pain of this loss by glossing over how devastating this is for Parisians, and for all of us around the world. Something beautiful and sacred is gone forever. Future generations will never know this Cathedral’s beauty, built so long ago. The 8,000 pipe organ will never again play a mass. Relics protected for hundreds of years are now dust. It’s a profound loss. This changes everything.

Resurrection is meaningful if we feel the pain of the crucifixion. We can’t rush it. We must let it burn us, tear us down, open us up. Then, from those sacred ashes, we rise again to rebuild. Life, death, life again. Paris will rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral, this time in a globalized world that needs it’s symbolism now more than ever. But I pray we remember this day…the pain…the tears…the disbelief. Our heartbreak and subsequent hope are the cornerstones of all that will come next.

On behalf of the many who are facing loss on a magnitude that is making it impossible to find the joy in springtime weather or the simple pleasures that normally make one smile, I find this heartening. We cannot race toward the healed place of resurrection; we must walk slowly through the crucifixion that none of us deserve, facing our share of the world’s pain. But this experience is as much of life as anything else.

Being gutted out by loss may have another dimension to it that I simply can’t see quite yet? To think that there really may be something real to resurrection after all—for ME? And I don’t have to kick the bucket for it to happen?


That’s an Easter message I can appreciate. And it’s only Tuesday of Holy Week.

Thanks, Notre Dame.

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