The brand new boiler had dry fired. With no water inside, and no makeup water being added, it didn't take long for these conditions to develop. Later we were told that the building itself was moments away from igniting under these conditions, and therefore likely would have burned to the ground. There were some who were so thankful that I had decided to drop the supplies off that night, rather than wait until the following day, thus discovering the problem and "saving the building."
Now in the aftermath of all this, what became increasingly clear was that there were some, albeit not all, who clearly worshiped the building more than the God to whom the building had been erected and to whose glory it was dedicated. For years after, I believed that it might have actually been the best thing for the congregation itself if that beautiful building had indeed burned to the ground, despite what would have been a tragic loss of so much early 20th century architecture and stained glass.
Fast forward to this week. I see the exact scenario playing out once again in Paris. While I have no doubt that those parishioners who might regularly attend mass there are devout in their worship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, what I have come to see is that a world in general, which is increasingly hostile toward the triune God that the cathedral was erected to worship. clearly loves the building more than God. In fact too often people love the building but hate the God who is worshiped there. It's sad that we lament the loss of such a grand cathedral, despite that it will indeed be rebuilt and repaired, while we give no thought at all to the loss of Christian value, virtue, morality, guidance, and worship in western society.
There were many signs in the aftermath of this fire to suggest that God is still in control, despite that western society in general rejects Him. That so many holy relics survived, and even much of the interior, while scarred and damaged, can be repaired is itself a miracle. It is a reminder to us that what Isaiah the prophet said long ago: "the grass withers, the flowers fade. But the Word of our God remains forever." There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it would be appropriate, to paraphrase Grundvig's great hymn, to also say "steeples fall, and stained glass fades, but God's Word will endure forever."
I pray that this great cathedral is not rebuilt simply as a monument to the folly of humankind, but that it's glory once again points solely to the glory of the triune God, rather than the glorified self, which so often takes over in our world. I fear the latter, but I pray for the former. In all things, may God be glorified. May we all not only see, but live out the salvation that comes to us through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. May the events we recall this Holy week be more than just words on a page, and may they be seen in all that we say and do.