This past week you may have seen images of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, but those images were not what you expected to see. The Cathedral caught fire and was severely damaged, while burning for several hours. The timber roof collapsed causing the fire on the inside of the stone walls to rage, all this while firefighters, first responders, and even some priests attempted to save whatever they could while also calming the blaze. One aerial shot of the fire at night was even more disconcerting for me, because the cathedral was built in the shape of the Cross, and so it was just a cross of fire and destruction. With this happening at the beginning of Holy Week, the images are even more powerful.
During Holy Week we ponder the Passion of Jesus who endured the Cross for our sake, yet also we learn a strange word about God in this day and age. This week we begin to tell the story of Jesus’s journey toward the Cross, his last meal with his friends, washing their feet and caring for them, betrayal by one of those friends, his eventual arrest, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. It is truly the holiest of weeks in the life of the Church. In the ancient church, new converts would be in the midst of the most intense portion of their preparation for holy baptism on Easter Sunday. They would begin on Maundy or Holy Thursday service and they would begin three great traditions at the conclusion of this service. These are the Great Fast, The Great Silence, and the Great Prayer. The Great Fast meant they would fast from Holy Thursday until Holy Communion was received again at the Great Vigil on Saturday night waiting for Easter morning. The second is a “great silence,” again until the Easter Vigil, broken only by participation in these services and the essential communication of daily life. The third is the “great prayer,” where congregations would continuously be in prayer until the end of the Great Vigil on Saturday night. We mirror their practices now throughout Holy Week, and some even maintain them fully.
These days we share the great story of our God, revealed in the character of Christ Jesus, proclaimed by thousands of years of church history. We take joy in the fact that we worship a God who comes and knows us in the flesh. We have a God who cares for us - Stands up and protects us - Dies for us - And rescues and saves us. It is outrageous to many still today. One last word about Notre Dame, after the fire settled, people began to enter the grand cathedral, and a photo was taken. In the photograph, the ashes of the timber roof covered the floor, but the golden Cross remained, just as our sin and brokenness might cover us, the love of God in Christ Jesus remains. Might we ponder these words from the hymn “Lift High the Cross,” as we continue to make room for our Crucified and Risen Lord in our souls.
“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore his sacred name.”
Let us love and encourage one another. Grace and Peace, Will, Ed, and our FUMC family