Two years ago, my family was in Paris and we saved our visit to Notre Dame for this morning – Easter Sunday.
It was, in some ways, a mistake. The cathedral was packed and overflowing – with tourists and worshippers – and there were long queues, but it was also an incredible time to be there with people from all over the world, in a place where people have worshipped for around 850 years, as the priest greeted us, “Today we have come, people from many different places, to celebrate together the resurrection of our Lord!”
And so, I shared the shock and grief, again of people around the world, watching the terrible footage of that beautiful medieval cathedral, burning.
What moved me most were the pictures of people kneeling in the street or singing hymns as they gathered to watch and mourn. ‘Notre Dame is being serenaded,’ said one observer. It was a testament to the significance of a place, a place of cultural and artistic and historic significance, yes, but also a place of faith and faithfulness; that represents the Christian story of death and resurrection that comes to us in our darkest night and kindles hope and renewal.
The hymn that was sung in the streets was Je vous salue Marie, a version of Ave Maria which incorporates the two greetings to Mary in Luke; “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you…”and, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
This is the word of hope that we also sing and cling to this morning – that we are God’s favoured ones; the Lord is with us – and this is the prayer of faith and thanksgiving that we also express – that what was dark and hidden in long months of gestation – or in three days of lying in the tomb – has been revealed to us as the love and life of God that is stronger than death.
Two years ago, there in Notre Dame, we stopped and prayed as a family; thanking God for Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, and for its hope and transforming power in our lives. Like those who gathered on the streets outside the cathedral on Monday night, this year we are encouraged to take our prayers and songs and our stories of hope and renewal out of their traditional structures and into our community and people’s lives, so we can say, “Today we have come, people from many different places, to celebrate together the resurrection of our Lord!”
(Photo Credit: Eric Feferburg/AFP/Getty Images)