For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save. those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles – 1 Cor 1:18-23.
In the midst of the street protests that have rocked France for months, Notre-Dame Cathedral located directly in the centre of the city on a small island called Ile de la Cite went on fire. The Cathedral known for its Christian witness around the world during the fire outbreak witnessed ‘thousands of people gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen openly weeping, while others sang hymns or said prayers.’ The fire prompted several churches around Paris, rang their bells in unity and support in response to the blaze in the Holy Week.
The Massive fire which began at around 6:30 p.m. Paris Time that engulfed the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame is not just about the famous Paris cathedral but the power and symbol of Jesus’ Cross. The testimony according to the officials is that ‘the 850-year-old Gothic building’s spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers, has been saved.’ The ‘hauntingly beautiful picture’ of the Cross taken after the devastating fire is an expression of the Power in the Passion Week and Christian faith in general. The cathedral, given the name of one of country’s literary masterpieces, Victor Hugo’s nove Hunchback of Notre-Dame and known simply as Notre Dame de Paris receives over 13 million visitors each year with over 2000 services held every year. According to Philippe Marsset, vicar general, Notre-Dame, the cathedral built 850 years ago, withstood the wars, it withstood the bombing,’ including the 1871 Commune uprising.
The front cover picture of the London’s ‘Evening Standard’ of Tuesday 16th April, 2019 brings to limelight the Cross as the miracle of Notre-Dame. Miracle is real hence, beyond the cost of repairs of the cathedral, I believe, the miracle of the Cross as a symbol of hope for the world is very prophetic and it is a message not only to France, but to Europe and the world in general. Historically, buildings and architecture are not just signs of development, growth and symbols of their villages, towns and cities. Buildings and architecture tells and reveals also the spirituality of their villages, towns and cities. Notre-Dame and other Christian architectures like St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey in London, Birch Freeman Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Badagry, Nigeria and many others, tells the spirituality of their continents, cities and towns. Notre-Dame and other Christian architectures beyond their contributions to European art points us to the manifestation of man’s attempt to create sacred spaces. Notre-Dame and other Christian architecture are not just ‘the master monuments of a city pride’ or just tourism, they are Christian spiritual heritage linking and ‘binding its present to its past.’
The Cross, as the miracle of Notre-Dame fire is a reminder and a call to the Body of Christ to repentance and renewal in this Holy Week with the mindset that we are ‘created to experience the sacred, to provide forms into which spiritual energies flow and reflect a sense of divine’ throughout the world. Simon Jenkins explained that Notre-Dame, like most of today’s cathedral are ‘the outcome not of one genius but of centuries of renewal…’ The Cross as the miracle of Notre-Dame is another opportunity for renewal and revival of Christianity in Europe and the world in general. The topic of the Cross of Christ is an essential and primary element of the Apostle’s preaching. The Cross as the miracle of Notre-Dame calls us to return to its fundamental primacy in the history of humanity. The miracle of Notre-Dame invites us to accept the Cross of Christ thereby bringing about a profound conversion in our ways of relating to God through Jesus Christ.
The argument about the repairs of St Paul after it was ravaged by the Great Fire of 1666 provides a good reflection for Notre-Dame. The repair of Norte-Dame is not just about using the old Gothic structure or classical baroque. The first repair is to repair the place of the Cross of Jesus Christ in our hearts and life together as a nation and as a continent. The reflection is that, beyond tourism and the sadness of Parisians and all of France, the fire at Notre Dame is prophetic and missional especially as it happen at the time of the year when Christians focus on the power of the Cross. The miracle of the Notre Dame is that we stand forgiven at the Cross. Through Christ’s death on the Cross, those who turn to Him are delivered from both the penalty and the power of sin.
Using the words of the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hull, ‘the Church lives the passion … the great cathedral will rise again, just as Christians everywhere will next Sunday on Easter Day celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The African proverbs, Ile Oba to jona, ewa lobukun,’ (The burnt king’s palace adds beauty to it) resonates with the majesty and beauty of Norte-Dame, not just as the house to worship the King of kings, but as a centre for Christian witness. The Pope, calling the cathedral the “architectural jewel of a collective memory” said he hoped the cathedral will rise again to be a “a sign of the faith of those who built it, mother church of your diocese, architectural and spiritual heritage of Paris, France and humanity.”