Yesterday I sat with a man approaching his seventieth birthday. As a teenaged police cadet, he had been knocked out in a rugby match. When he came around, the first aiders wanted to take him safely home; but he, suffering from concussion, gave them his early childhood address, from where the family had moved many years earlier.
It was stunning—that is, concussion-like—to see a crowd gather in what is arguably the most secular city in the world, to sing hymns and bear witness to the destruction of Our Lady of Paris. Have we not moved on, years ago?
Church buildings are depositories of faith; reliquaries, if you will. I am an icon of Christ, and a True Nail that once held him to the Cross. The church building holds out the gathered Church for the benefit of pilgrims, and tourists; those who come in search of something too great a mystery to articulate, too real a presence to ignore.
Sometimes the building burns, the deposit of faith—in building and pilgrim alike—is tested and purified, like gold in the fire.
Sometimes what we manage to rescue becomes even more precious. And what is lost, opportunity to begin again.
And sometimes concussion brings us to our senses.
This is not the end, for Notre Dame de Paris, or for any of us who gazed upon her terrible glory.