Yesterday I visited the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on the occasion of its reopening after a two-year renovation. The mood was celebratory as many of us wandered the bright, shiny sanctuary whose cosmetic improvements were matched by structural and safety upgrades to ensure the building’s longevity.
On the way home I passed the old Immaculate Conception Church/Jesuit Urban Center, long deconsecrated and with new scaffolding over the front as the former home of Boston College continues its incremental transition into condos. I was sad – even knowing that the work that began there continues, even having had more than ten years to mourn its closing.
And now today we see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris in flames, and it hurts.
It’s OK to mourn a building, a space, a thing. Our lives play out in space, and spaces of prayer are particularly meaningful. We fill them with our hopes and sorrows, and mark out our lives within them.
Living an honest life requires recognition that things fall apart. Nothing lasts forever, and most things don’t even last as long as many of the Cathedral’s elements which have been lost to fire.
Living a Christian life, though, gives us hope – a hope that is not necessarily limited to Christianity but which finds poignant expression in our celebration of Holy Week. We know that God is always ready to draw new life out of darkness and loss. We know that the Son of God, who knew suffering, was raised to glory. We know that the Spirit remains with us, guiding us toward a holy newness, sanctifying what remains.