Most of us sadly watched the out-of-control fire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, April 15. We feared the worst as the blazes engulfed the cathedral, causing the renowned 300 ft. spire to come crashing down through the roof. Notre Dame Cathedral took nearly 200 years to build beginning in the 12th century and was treasured by Parisians and worldwide tourists alike. Yet remarkably, the gold cross at the altar glistens amidst the smoke and ashes. Below the cross, the Virgin Mary laments the death of her Son, as we lament the destruction of such a beautiful treasure built to glorify God.
For Christians, this scene is symbolic of our faith in Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who died to save us from the darkness of sin. The gold cross represents our hope in Him, He who sacrificed Himself to offer us eternal life in paradise. The cross represents Christ’s infinite love for us. It is an image, which encapsulates the essence of our reward for enduring the struggles of this life. For Christians, God always gives us a sign of hope in the midst of devastation.
This photograph also represents our indelible spirit created in the image of God. Deep within us, we possess the potential for pure goodness, which struggles to manifest itself within our hearts. It is the Holy Spirit in us, which desires to fill us with His light, His goodness and His love. It is that indelible spirit of genuine humanity, which we all possess, that illumines our hearts and minds. It is this light which overcomes the darkness of our tribulations, sufferings, and hardships in our lives. “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Enduring in faith results in victory, just as the cross in Notre Dame gloriously glistens amidst the smoke and ashes of the fire.
When Christians are baptized, we are immersed in water to crucify the flesh, to die to our worldly selves, so that we may rise out of the water as a new creation in Christ. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). It is this spiritual death that allows our true selves, full of goodness and love, to emerge from the embers.
That seed of humanity made in the image of God reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Even the irredeemable can be redeemed. We are commanded by Jesus to view our neighbors as Himself. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-40). According to Rossi (2014), “Isn’t that what others are looking for from us, especially youth? Don’t they want us to see and communicate, sometimes without words, the goodness in them that they can’t see themselves.” When we see others as Christ with the potential for goodness, many rise out of the ruins of their lives to become transformed. Rossi also quoted Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh’s homily of August 14, 1983, “Unless we can look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him.”
I have witnessed the transformation among my own students. When I speak to them with respect, appealing to their better inner self, they sit up more confidently. They relax and sometimes theirs walls begin to crumble. At times, their walls may have been built too high or too wide, but with perseverance and consistency, there is hope.
The golden cross of Notre Dame Cathedral reminds us of hope. It symbolizes the spirit of genuine humanity within us that is striving to be set free. We look beyond the devastation of suffering others have endured, beyond their pain and anger. We communicate goodness and love, compassion and generosity. Rather than judging we empathize. Rather than complaining about circumstances in our own lives, we focus on the blessings. Rather than running from our hardships, we enter headlong into Christ with endurance and joy because He has defeated death. The cross reminds us that Christ rose from the dead and that we, too, can rise out of the ashes of our lives.
Rossi Ph.D., Albert S. 2014. Becoming a Healing Presence. Ancient Faith Publishing. Chesterton, Indiana. pp. 71.
Have a blessed Easter!
Xristos Anesti! Christ is risen!