Last Tuesday morning (16 April) we woke up to the fresh realisation that Notre Dame, the vast Gothic cathedral at the heart of Paris and at the heart of France, and which had survived both revolution and occupation, had been grievously damaged by fire the previous night. At one point it had even seemed that everything would be lost – thankfully it was later reported that the cathedral structure had survived the fire, though it had come within 30 minutes of not doing so.
In her Radio 4 “Thought for the Day” that morning, Rev Lucy Winkett reflected on our sadness at losing such tangible links with our past, and at the changes in the world since Notre Dame had been completed, quoting Heine’s words: “People in those old times had convictions; we moderns only have opinions. And it needs more than a mere opinion to erect a Gothic cathedral.”
Her talk (still available at this link) ended with the words: “When the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral in London was burned down in the 17th century, the architect commissioned to rebuild it, Christopher Wren, sifted through the rubble and found a large stone from the old cathedral with a word already carved on it. He picked it up in front of the assembled workmen and placed it on the ground as the cornerstone of the new cathedral. On it was carved the Latin word Resurgam; I shall rise again.”
That was last Tuesday; today is Easter Day; and “Resurgam” is once more a good way to start, as we reflect on the ongoing story of the One who overcame death and is alive for evermore, and as we look forward to Notre Dame rising from the ashes, and reaching towards the heavens with a new spire – whether it’s a replica of the old, or a design for the 21st century!