Burned Notre Dame is not more real?
People pray at the burning Notre Dame de Paris
When I write this text, Notre Dame de Paris is still on fire. It is hard not to see something symbolic in this fire. Of course, this is a random event that could happen at any time. But still…
This event reminds us of the seemingly well-known “banality”: nothing lasts forever. And the symbol of eternity – the cathedral – is not eternal. Everything will burn, decay, collapse. All cathedrals, all cities and the whole world will once be lost. There is something unusually touching in what the cathedral recalls. And as it recalls – with its fire. Not a cathedral in itself, but its destruction. Is there a better reminder of the transience of everything – and therefore of Eternity, which is not in this world – than a burning cathedral? In a strange way, the destruction of the temple is more religious – it is more eternity than the temple itself.
And why be surprised if we find it difficult to determine the status of Notre Dame: is it a great shrine of the Christian world or a tourist center, a “landmark” that brings good money to the treasury of Paris? Do pilgrims or tourists visit Notre Dame?
I think that we – modern people – are not worthy of Notre Dame. We did not build it – and what relation do we have to those who built it? What does today's Paris have to do with the civilization that spawned Gothic, built cathedrals? Modern people have turned the great cathedral into a profitable attraction, desecrated it. And there is something "logical" in his fire. Notre Dame has long been burned down; for many, many years, decades, centuries, perhaps it is a corpse, for its soul has left. France, the "first daughter of the Church" – how relevant are the cathedrals in it, contemporary? After the collapse of the Titanic, Blok wrote in his diary: "Thank God there is still the ocean." So we say: thank God, there is still fire. Notre Dame is a scarecrow of Christian culture, exhibited in a metropolis screaming (like any other metropolis) that there is no longer any Christian culture. To understand the inappropriateness of Notre Dame in our time, just look at the endless wretchedness of today's, including temple, architecture. We simply did not deserve to behold Notre Dame.
People who build shopping malls don't deserve Notre Dame.
Now everyone, of course, is very sorry for the burnt cathedral, although this is just a building. There is something necrophilic in the craving of modern people for museumification. What would have done in Gothic times with a burnt cathedral? Yes, they would just build a new, maybe better, cathedral. Because the culture was alive. Modern man, of course, cannot create a new temple. He can’t create anything, so keep the remains of a dead culture so carefully. We have museums, not temples.
Nothing lasts forever: neither cathedrals, nor Christian Europe. Christ preached to the Jews, but not they, but the Greeks, Copts, Latins became the main audience of the apostolic sermon. But both old Rome and New collapsed. The main carriers of the Good News were barbarians: Germans and Slavs. They created the current version of Christian civilization, which – who knows – might be coming to an end. Now more than half of Christians live in the third world. They have not yet built their magnificent cathedrals. Nothing lasts forever: Christianity is not forever either. Cling to old symbols, buildings and so on. – idolatry.
Everything will burn, but the Spirit will not burn. Culture will die, faith will not die.
The burning cathedral is better reminiscent of this than a completely restored one, prepared to be devoured by crowds of tourists.
God is not in logs, but in ribs.
The present situation – the situation of victorious atheism, the only authentic religious condition for us – the burnt down cathedral is more needed.
It is real, in contrast to the sights.
And it is thought that in the burnt ruins – symbolic, of course, for the cathedral will be restored – prayer can become genuine again, for these ruins are genuine. The ruins of the church respond to a genuine religious situation.
George Guismans, a classic of French literature, wrote in the 19th century about the bourgeois abomination of desolation that covers the Christian world. In the novel "Bottomless" describes how a hero through acquaintance with Satanism against a background of aversion to bourgeois Paris comes to faith. In the novel On the Way, the hero lives in a monastery, in one of the few surviving centers of genuine Christian life. The novel “Cathedral” is directly devoted to our topic: here Huysmans talks a lot about the nature of Gothic architecture.
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