I sometimes finish the blog late. Often I write the last post long after the fact, and date it to the actual date. I do this because I want to be able to follow the timeline. And I try post photos only from the day of my post.
But not today.
Notre Dame burned today, and I’m still catching up. This afternoon I was teaching students when I learned that the roof of the grand cathedral was engulfed in blistering flame, and we were left aghast at the loss. I was teaching and distracted by the disaster, messages from my brother telegraphing news of the inferno.
You may remember that I was there in November and didn’t make it inside. That was a tragic missed opportunity.
But my trip home from Turkey included a nine hour layover on March 17, 2019. It was a nine hour layover in Paris, in which I escaped the modern morass of Charles de Gaulle airport and returned to the heart of the glorious city.
I didn’t know what to do that day, but the metro took me to the steps of Notre Dame, and early in the grey Parisian morning I ascended to ground level and smiled broadly at the very first thing I saw. I walked forward and stepped inside.
Sunday morning mass was taking place, so I stayed at the periphery, walking solemnly along her elegant aisles, and under her delicate ribbed arches.
I gazed upon her famed rosettes, filtering in the morning light in many-hued lumens.
I passed by worshippers clustered in the foremost pews to pray.
And I looked at radiant beams of sunlight breaking through the shadows that painted the upper reaches of the cathedral where She stretched upward toward the heavens far above.
She was glorious. And she was fragile.
As I was exploring her alcoves, my phone rang and Michael (Dan’s friend in Paris) called, so I hurried out to make my lunch arrangements.
My visit was incomplete, but for some sad reason I didn’t return. Nine hours in Paris, and I didn’t go back.
Next time I am in Paris, I thought, I will return.
Right now, it is Holy Week, and She will never be the same.
Right now, we weep.