Pray for our church
She burns, she burns
The spires are falling
She thirsts, she thirsts
“Paris is burning”
Our hearts are all yearning
Holy Spirit come blowing
The fire is growing…
she cries, she cries.
Monday’s fire in Notre Dame (translated “Our Lady”) Cathedral in Paris burned hot enough to ignite a fire around the globe. These global fires ignited in the hearts of those who looked on with sadness, watching as the flames consumed the infamous cathedral spire that once was the tallest tower in Paris before the Eiffel Tower came to change its landscape forever. It was a scene that will be etched into the hearts of many forever. The pictures alone are worth 1,000 words. But what do these images say?
As the news unfurled, the flames grew higher. Onlookers stood horrified as 100ft plumes of smoke began to engulf the spire. Hope of rescuers coming to put out the flames soon diminished as the flames grew brighter and the entire roof began to blaze.
How many of us noticed the stark imagery as a prophetic vision of the Church?
In the Old Testament scriptures, when God reveals his plans to his prophets, he usually begins with a vision. As in Jeremiah 1:11, “Jeremiah, What do you see?” or in Ezekiel 47:6, “Son of man, Do you see this?” In each case, the Lord invites those who hear Him to look with their eyes at something occurring in the natural, physical world around them in order to understand what God is doing in the spirit or wants to bring from the Heavens into Earth. The prophet Elisha examples this in 2 Kings 6:17-20 when he prays, “‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
It’s no secret the Ecclesia, Christ’s body on earth known as His Church, has been suffering. Like the cracks in the nearly 850 year-old cathedral that prompted its renovations, the Church has been in danger of collapse for quite some time and in need of restoration. Many have compared Pope Francis’ choosing of his name, after Saint Francis of Assisi whom God gave a prophetic call to “rebuild My Church” and confirmed in a dream to Pope Innocent, as a prophetic sign of the times. When the fire consumed the roof of the world’s most iconic churches, many felt in their heart it was more than the loss of art and history but the death of their world.
It was easy for Catholics and fundamentalist followers of the faith to notice the comparison of the cruciform rooftop ablaze like the bloodied body of our Lord at His Crucifixion. The fact this horrible disaster occurred on the first day of Holy Week was not lost on many.
What kind of world shall it be when the bells no longer toll, even for whom they should…
“Son of Man, what do you see?”
In the Scriptures, it does not take the prophets long to answer the Lord’s question. And, the prophets did answer.
Some said Monday’s event was the “wrath of God coming down upon an idolatrous structure.” While others claimed it was “the end of the world.” Still others saw the opportunity for more grace. “Where darkness looms, Grace abounds still more.”
Thankfully, God does not leave us there drowning in our own insight but He guides us by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Spiritual Gifts to see the answer from His perspective. One answer is most like Him. He keeps asking us to seek until we have His answer, “The word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” (Jeremiah 1:13). Here is where we discover the Hand of God at work for our good in all things. And, for those who know Him, His answer is always reassuring. “Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.'”
It’s no secret the French people have been engaged in a battle of faith for several decades. Aren’t we all? And, like the prophecies given to the Old Testament prophets for an appointed time, there are prophecies given today through the same Spirit at work in both private and public revelation that were foretold long ago, awaiting their appointed time. But prophesy isn’t a crystal ball and mankind is not without free will to change its destiny. Jesus proved that. The problem is that we forget.
What the world witnessed this Holy Week was not an act of wrath but an act of God’s Mercy. We forget that alongside God’s Justice is God’s Mercy.
We forget that where His word says, “Repent and Believe in the Gospel!” and people do just that “His mercy endures forever.” We forget when the Lord tells us our faith can move mountains, to let it do just that! We forget when we are told not to be anxious and pray to actually pray first and be at peace. The Church and France, whose influence is affectionately referred to as the “Eldest Daughter of the Church,” are filled with the blood of many martyrs and saints securing within it a rich seed of faith and bountiful harvest. We must never forget this either!
I have no doubt that some were looking upon Monday’s fire like the prophet Jonah looked upon the destruction of Nineveh. And maybe it is true the city was destroyed many years later, but on that day when the prophet delivered the vision, God heard the people’s prayers and He responded with mercy. We must never forget God’s promise of mercy.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9
Rumors abound as to the natural cause of the fire. Some speculate it was arson. Others claim it was the work of religious terrorists who have been desecrating churches and synagogues in France for the last year at the rate of 2 per day. Church officials have yet to officially declare anything but have postulated it was an accident of renovation.
Reports state the only thing completely lost in the fire were the wood from the “Forest,” the name for the intricate lattice work of beams which comprised the roof. The original frame of the cathedral was constructed with wood from nearly 13,000 oak trees. To reach the necessary heights of the cathedral, some of the trees were planted in the early 700s and harvested at the beginning of construction in the 1100s making them over 1,000 years old. These massive oaks bore the weight of the 210 ton lead roof, which made it fire resistant.
The wood was old. The wood was dry.
Not unlike in Jesus’ time, who reminded the Pharisees of his day during his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when he referenced the prophet Habakkuk’s vision, “the stone(s) [did] cry out from the wall, and the beam(s) from the woodwork respond[ed].” It was the wood of the cross which answered the people’s pleas for mercy; And, when the stones cried out against the fire, it was the wood that allowed itself to be consumed. All that remains are the living stones.
“Son of Man, What do you see?”
I see your ancient beauty, your ancient truth, your love of old aflame with passionate desire to respond to the cries of your beloved ones. I see your endless mercy holding up the beams upon your back, sweating fire upon your brow, looking with tender love upon your Bride below. Her sacred womb holds the treasures of your heart. Your body, your blood poured out. I see your broken body begin to crumble at the weight of all you have born throughout the years. I see you looking out at all the somber faces, even those who jeer and slander you, and your heart begins to fail. You call out for water to quench your dry bones, “I thirst.” And no water comes. There is no relief, everyone has forgotten you. A sweet sound of singing faintly rises in the distance. A praise of love, like angels, ministering to you from the heavens. Your Beloved calls to you. It matters not if darkness made you burn, your heart burns now to save her, your Beloved Bride. You have found her gazing up at you from below. Now is the time. One last breath, as the roof collapses over you and the heavens are rend above you, I see you exhale your Spirit. In the remnant, there she lays, your Beloved Bride, her womb kept pure. The fire that purifies has left her undefiled. Her head no longer adorned only by the Ancient One but crowned with the Peace of Heaven. All creation is now exposed to her. All creation is her crown. It is finished.
The blood of martyrs and the purity of the saints has given her a sure foundation. Her foundation remains intact, strong and secure. Her latter days shall be more glorious than the former. No matter what comes against her, she will remain, forever and ever. Amen.
May we never forget God’s mercy from Age to Age. May our hearts burn with true passion for all He has done for us. Let the Living Stones be a monument among us forever and ever, this place is hallowed ground – God’s Glory met us here.
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
– 1 Peter 2:5