Cherry blossoms and Spring joy are chief among memories of our last visit to Paris. Courage, fear, flame and heart-stopping toppling spire are chief among my most recent. For years we’ve stayed only a five minute walk away, so early pre-breakfast visits to the Quire of Notre Dame became for us a norm.
And here – among literally millions of others through the ages – we sensed Our Lady Universe quietly watching and waiting with her catholic comprehension. We sensed perpetual presence and self-giving; we knew the one who waits sometimes at the foot of her Son’s cross – indeed at the foot of countless ‘crosses,’ and the Great Soul who, even when her Heart is torn and rent asunder, glows warm without and forever within – the very universal life-bringing breath of God.
Here is our Mother. Yours and mine. Be we people of faith or of no faith. Be we people of particular faith or of no particular faith. Be we ‘hill and vale and tree and flower’ – here is our abiding, giving, suffering, watching, waiting Universal Mother: Notre Dame. Here is the one who births Christos – Anointed – embodied in each of us, inspired and held, and holding, eternally, in the ‘Everlasting Arms’ of the Creator of All Things.
Some will understand, in every age, that, whether showered with cherry blossom or the sparks of destruction, there’s a divinely assayed gold * at the Heart of her. Notre Dame lives on and on and on. And She re-members us as we re-member her: in all, everywhere, everyday. Look upon this gold at her heart – shining in the very midst of disorder and gloom – and never be afraid of the power – indeed the life-giving bread – that is universal metaphor.
I know of her in Nazareth. I feel her in my soul’s depths. I hear her in the prayerful singing of her children as they struggled to respond to the sight of their own heritage on fire in Paris. And as they’ve struggled, throughout history, to respond to the ‘Crucified,’ ‘outside the city walls,’ and also – in every age – elsewhere. I see her now in my neighbour. I pray for and with her in the frame of a friend and poet who is a grieving – but also life-giving – mother. I touch her in ordinary, everyday contact with our planet and her peoples. I awaken to her in and through the passing of scents and nanoseconds, years and aeons. Yes: the Theotokos of history, of all that has been and will be, and of the here and now; Theotokos, the God-bearer, lives and persists in Parisian stone showered even today by cherry blossoms – and in you, and in me.
Notre Dame bénie vit!
*assayed gold: something precious – tested for its ingredients and quality