A Prayer for Our Lady in Paris
It is now roughly 24 hours since the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was devastated by fire. I, as I imagine you, watched with increasing heartsickness as the roof fire spread and the steeple came crashing to the ground. While Notre Dame is not my home-church, I like so many others have made pilgrimage to those prayer-soaked walls. In fact, 13 million people a year were visitors to that beautiful edifice erected in the heart of a city and a place of continuing worship for more than roughly 850 years. I first experienced the cathedral in the early nineteen eighties on a choir tour, and then again in the late 1980s. My last visit was in 2008 when on sabbatical with my family. I still have shaky videos made by my sons of our visit to the cathedral. In the background of the videos you can hear a visiting choir singing the Ubi Charitas by Maurice Duruflé
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est Where charity and love are, there God is
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. The Love of Christ has bound us together as one.
Exultemus et in ipso juncundemur. Let us rejoice and be glad in his love.
Timeamus et amemus Deum Vivum. Let us fear and adore the living God.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero. And let us love him with a pure heart.
Ubi charitas et amor, Deus ibi est. Amen. Where charity and love are, there God is. Amen
The building of Notre Dame took the labor and treasure of many thousands of people for one hundred and eighty two years. Construction began in 1163 and was only completed in 1345. It is hard to imagine any community of believers embarking on such a costly, difficult, and interminable project today. I say “interminable” because many of those who sacrificed to make the cathedral did so knowing that they would not live long enough to see its completion. In our current age, where speed is king, it will be a test of our fortitude to see if, and how, the church will rebuild. I sincerely hope that it does not take another 182 years to see Notre Dame returned to the city of Paris, in something approximating its former glory.
So, today as we are on the eve of Triduum, instead of a Lenten devotion I offer a prayer for Our Lady in Paris.
Our Lady, cathedral whose name reminds us of the gift Mother Mary made in delivering into our world the love of God made flesh. Since the twelfth century you have served as a sanctuary from the troubles and trials of the world — as a place which daily bore witness to the good news that “Where charity and love are, there God is.” We thank you for your long witness through seasons of prosperity and ease, and seasons of neglect and scarcity. Twice you have been ravaged by fire and you bear the wounds of those crucibles even now. Though your interior is now exposed to the sky, may that simply remind us that prayers cannot be contained in any sanctuary, not even one as beautiful and large as you. We pray for our brothers and sisters for whom you are a daily companion, my they find solace in this time of calamity. We pray for ourselves too — that we might rediscover our love of and care for our own places of worship, and even more so, our love and care for those people we meet each day for indeed “the love of Christ has bound us together as one.” Amen.