April 16, 2019
Not much of the roof survived the devastating fire that consumed the Notre Dame cathedral. But there is one thing emerging from the smoldering ashes -- the spark of hope in renewal and unity.
One of the first pictures from the interior of the cathedral, after the fire was extinguished, was the cross still standing above the altar in the middle of a pile of charred debris that fell from the cathedral's roof. Everyone from political leaders and journalists to businessmen and church officials found a glimmer of hope in the priceless relics that were spared from the flames, smoke, and water. Among the more significant was the Crown of Thorns, believed to have been placed on the head of Jesus at His crucifixion.
While the circumstances were much different, what immediately came to mind as I looked at the images of the cross in the cathedral was the cross made from the twisted metal that emerged from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Similar to the pledge of then-President George W. Bush standing at Ground Zero in New York City, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to rebuild the cathedral that he said was "part of us." Already, corporate leaders and other philanthropists have pledged millions of dollars to rebuild the cathedral that survived over nine centuries of France's often turbulent history. In a nation that's been so divided in recent days, the national, as well as the international unity inspired by the tragedy, reflects the unity that comes from the very faith the structure represents.
It would be hard to miss the spiritual parallels. After all, this is Passion Week, the most significant week of the Christian faith. The devastation and destruction wrought by our sin would overwhelm us except for the hope found in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is that symbol -- of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ -- that is our hope of renewal, the ability to start over.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the hope we have when we accept Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, in a letter to the Corinthians. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." And it is in this newness of life, this fresh beginning, that we have the substance that can truly unite.
My prayer for the people of France is that they do succeed in rebuilding this remarkable edifice that is brimming with history and culture. But more than that, I hope this will draw France and their European neighbors, who were once the vibrant custodians of the Christian faith, beyond the symbolism to the substance of the cross. May we all look to the cross, not as an old relic of the faith from generations departed, but as a celebration of hope found through the Savior that hung on it.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.