How sad for Christians who planned a trip to Paris with Easter Mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral as the high point:

Fox News reported:

Crowds lined the embankments across from the cathedral Saturday, taking photos or just staring in shock. The fire collapsed the spire and destroyed the roof of the 12th century monument, and Easter services normally held in Notre Dame are being conducted elsewhere.

Visitor Susan Harlow of Kansas City, Missouri, said: “We didn’t get here in time to see it. And now we probably never will,” given the many years it’s expected to take to repair.

I wonder if anyone there with children heard an Easter explanation like the following. I hope not, but this is, sadly, representative of modern Britain. This comment is from the British site PoliticalBetting.com (emphases mine):

Off-topic:

Over Easter I took my son to Ely Cathedral. Whilst there we talked about Easter, and he said: “It’s where Jesus dies to give children chocolate.”

Which he then extended into a dissertation on the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Easter Bunny.

I must admit that if he formed that into a religion, I’d probably be a follower… :)

Those who normally worship at Notre-Dame were invited to Saint-Eustache Church on the Right Bank for Easter Mass.

Reuters has a splendid photo of Saint-Eustache and reported:

The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, began the service by drawing a parallel between the planned reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, celebrated every year by Christians at Easter.

“We will rise up again and our cathedral will rise up again,” he told the congregation, which included the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the head of the Paris fire service, General Jean-Claude Gallet.

The Independent had more:

Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit handed over a bible that had been rescued from Notre Dame to the firefighters, who held a place of honour at Sunday’s service.

Aupetit thanked city officials for their support amid “the drama” of last Monday’s fire, and “especially you, those for whom this Mass is dedicated” — the firefighters who struggled for nine hours to contain flames that consumed Notre Dame’s roof and collapsed its spire.

He notably thanked fire service chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who saved the most precious thing for Catholics from the fire, the chalice containing consecrated hosts that for Catholics are the body of Christ.

I will have more on Fr Fournier in another post. He truly was on the front line.

The New York Post‘s story on this Easter Mass at Saint-Eustache said that many dignitaries attended not only from France but also other countries.

Let us now consider why Notre-Dame’s bursting into flames for nine hours was so devastating.

It was more than ‘a church’, and no, the faithful will not despair, even though the cathedral is unarguably one of the hallmarks of Western civilisation:

The Spectator‘s Tom Holland assesses Western civilisation correctly in light of the great achievements from the Middle Ages. Our civilisation is a Christian one:

Another Briton, the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos, who is Catholic and Jewish via parentage, wrote a considered article for FrontPage Mag,
‘The Notre Dame Fire: Our Fault, Our Most Grievous Fault’, published on Good Friday, April 19, 2019.

Excerpts follow:

Buildings like Notre Dame do not erupt into flames spontaneously. That’s not how God works, even to punish a civilization as deep in moral ruin as ours. My suspicions, and those of almost everyone I know, are hardly calmed when we see Fox News—yes, even Fox—repeatedly refusing to host an honest discussion of the possibility, even as experts tell French TV that eight hundred year old timber simply doesn’t burn that way without an accelerant. I mean, it’s not as though news networks restrain their hosts from wild speculation during other crises …

Anyway, as of now, no solid evidence has emerged, and our media refuses to discuss the context in which this fire occurred

We can say, however, that the loss of Notre Dame is an especially Christian tragedy. It is a tragedy emblematic of the rapid destruction of Western civilization in the past few decades, a visual reminder of the inferno that has already gutted the Academy. It’s a wonder they didn’t finish off some of these churches first, though of course the cultural warriors of the Left can only squeal in excitement at the sort of brazen defacement they would never be brave enough to commit themselves …

That’s not to say that only Christians are mourning. Notre Dame wasn’t just the spiritual heart of Paris but remains its literal geographic center—the place from which distances are measured. As a cathedral school, it was the center of medieval intellectual life. Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas both taught there. Whatever the later horrors of French postmodernism and poststructuralism, the University of Paris once had a reasonable claim to be the locus of the Western intellectual tradition, leading the world in the study of Aristotle, scholastic theology and reason applied to the mysteries of faith.

Notre Dame is considered the ultimate example of High Gothic style, a popular form for churches because it symbolizes the body of Christ. It is significant and—again, to let my suspicions run amuck—surely no coincidence that this happened during Holy Week, since hope for the resurrection is at the heart of Gothic design. But Notre Dame transcended its role as a place of Catholic worship. As the recently departed Fr. James Schall once remarked about the great cathedrals of Europe, “Each of these extraordinary structures, built somehow in a way I do not wholly understand by ages far poorer than our own, incited me strangely in the thoroughly unexpected way that something which need not exist at all surprises and awakens us when, contrary to our private illusions and expectations, we suddenly discover that it exists and that it is lovely.”

He went on: “The shock and glory of unexpectedly finding such buildings touches almost the peak of human experience. The very foundations of our existence, then, are grounded in this startling realization that we do not already grasp all of reality, especially things of such exalted beauty. We cannot but be humbled by the immediate revelation of how much we have missed. And yet we are glad that, so humbled, we can now inherit what the Earth has borne to us. For we stand to all reality as we do to Durham and to Freiburg and to Litchfield [cathedrals] when we behold them for the first time, when we are given something by the ages that we could not create or even imagine by ourselves.”

For lovers of architecture, the cathedral’s North Rose window is one of the three great surviving roses from the thirteenth century. The rose has Mary at its center. As God shone through Mary, taking on the color of her human nature, so does the sunlight take on the color of the glass. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux put it in the twelfth century, “As a pure ray enters a glass window and emerges unspoiled, but has acquired the color of the glass… the Son of God who entered the most chaste womb of the Virgin, emerged pure, but took on the color of the Virgin, that is, the nature of a man and a comeliness of human form, and he clothed himself in it.”

… Mary—the “Our Lady” of Notre Dame—is proof of the Incarnation. It is her body through which God becomes incarnate and it is she through whom the Word became incarnate and who is taken as a patron by educators. Notre Dame was built to support this understanding, a belief unique to Christianity.

I sense in much of the European coverage of the past week a kind of guilt. France, perhaps more than any other country, deserved some sort of retribution from God, and I think Parisians know it. France doesn’t even record its citizens’ religious beliefs in its national census. No one has any idea what percentage of French people are Christian, though we can be sure the percentage is going down as the number of Muslims goes up. Since the Enlightenment, France has done more than any other country to wipe out Christianity. And it started early. As long ago as 1767, Voltaire described the Christian religion as “sans contredit la plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et la plus sanguinaire qui ait jamais infecté le monde.” (“Without question the most ridiculous, absurd and bloody ever to have infected the world.”)

In the West, we have lost our appreciation of Christianity as a source of reason, hope and joy, and we embrace characterizations of the faith as weak, ridiculous, superstitious and faintly sick—impressions not helped by the current state of the Catholic church hierarchy. The loss is not total, just as many of Notre Dame’s most precious relics and treasures appear to have been saved. But the trajectory is clear.

As for Notre-Dame’s restoration:

It is characteristic of Western civilization to rise again, as even Left-wing medievalists who can’t bring themselves to acknowledge Christianity have to admit. But can we possibly restore what has been lost even if we try? The West has lost its soul, and with that soul, its craft. As we lost our understanding of God as maker, we lost our respect for making things ourselves. We therefore no longer possess either the will or the means to build something like Notre Dame, less still the technical ability to dare attempt a repair. We have forgotten how, and part of me says the Cathedral should be left to stand precisely as it is now to remind us of the fact, unfinished and unrepaired until we rediscover the purpose for which it was constructed in the first place. We don’t have the right to crassly imitate the original.

Hilaire Belloc could say, approvingly and as recently as the twentieth century, that Europe “repairs and finishes.” Could he have said that today? Would he, after hearing Emmanuel Macron’s chilling pledge that Notre Dame will be rebuilt “more beautiful than before”? In 1905, churches in France were declared the property of the state, which raises horrifying prospects for Notre Dame’s reconstruction. Will Macron suggest a “multi-faith prayer space” in order to be “truly inclusive” of France’s “multicultural society”? Don’t bet against it, folks. Already the calls are going out from elitist architects—in Rolling Stone, natch—that the rebuilding should not reflect “white European France.”

Of this nine-hour blaze that defies description, Milo says:

It was alive, and, mesmerized by it, we got a glimpse of our end, of what we have allowed to happen to our greatest institutions, of the defacement done to our curricula and the petty vandalism we allow every day to be performed upon our laws, our customs and our social mores by people who loathe everything about us. And in that acrid smoke lurked a question that haunts me today: Did we deserve this?

Quite possibly, Milo.

This image goes quite well with his article:

Many visitors tweeted their favourite memories of Notre-Dame, whether a rose window …

… or the magnificent vaults …

… or Mass:

This is what the world — not just the West — lost:

Be that as it may, we must keep our sights on higher things:

The frustration is seeing the enemy causing so much destruction and deception among men, but the Lord reminds us to keep our minds on things above. We have eternal life and God’s Kingdom to look forward to.

My prayers go to those who are investigating the blaze and to those who are working towards Notre-Dame’s eventual restoration.

I will have more on this topic tomorrow.