The image was both horrifying and powerful — the ominous glow of flames lapped the roof of Notre Dame as the Parisian twilight settled into darkness.
Gone was its signature spire, fallen from the charred and weakened structure. The roof collapsed shortly thereafter. As onlookers around the world watched on Monday, they saw not only a medieval edifice succumb to fire but also centuries of history, struggle, religion, refuge and hope seemingly disappear with the rising smoke.
But it would be wrong to believe all is lost.
For one thing, French officials now say the structure at least is saved from “total destruction.” Admittedly, that sentiment has the air of a friend desperately trying to console another in the face of tragedy. Sometimes, simply mourning with those who mourn is better than looking on the bright side.
Nevertheless, the two towers appear to be safe, and fire crews were reportedly diverting their efforts to save the internal artwork in hopes of preserving a sliver of its tremendous history. The cathedral, ironically, was in the middle of a restoration project.
Preserving what’s left is no doubt top of mind for the involved parties. It seems likely for them to give the green light for expert crews to begin rebuilding the damaged portions as soon as possible. Not only is it Paris’ most-visited monument, with roughly 12 million people who flock to it each year, its history is vitally important to the development of Western religion, art and architecture. What college student hasn’t examined its flying buttresses or iconic sculptures?
Despite the efforts, it’s hard to look at the scorched images and believe it will ever have a brighter future. Yet, assuming Notre Dame or its history is finished would be the opposite of what the cathedral stands for.
Notre Dame’s construction — in the purest sense — was a testament to the faith of believers who hoped in a savior to deliver them from trials and pains. Its physical history has mirrored that cause, having weathered the elements and been delivered from wars, invasions and past periods of reconstruction.
It stands as a monument to the faith it houses within, that weak things can be made strong, and that “with God, all things are possible.”
The destruction is devastating, but its timing is in some ways instructive. Easter season reminds Christians of the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. His crucifixion, entombment and resurrection promise all a life after death and a hope after suffering.
His message is the “good news” of the gospel: Hope is not gone, faith is not dead. All is not lost, and neither is Notre Dame.