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Rebuilding A Tabernacle: Notre Dame

April 16, 2019

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“Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” Those tabernacles were the best way that St. Peter could fully express his love of Jesus, but were just another human stab at loving God, and went unbuilt.

Now, in the place of Peter’s crucification, I hear the word that another tabernacle to God has been gutted by fire. Notre Dame In Paris is found to be as fragile as any of us, it’s makers

Right now, today, we tour St. Peter’s in Rome, with a PhD in antiquities and a devout Catholic. She was devastated by the loss last night of Notre Dame in Paris. Her endless knowledge of both religion and history was fully expressed in the sharing of the endless intricate realities of man’s conquest of materials and theology at St. Peter’s Basilica. .

My friend lamented Note Dame’s incineration “The windows are gone, the roof is gone, only a few firefighters were there in 10 minutes and it took an hour to get the rest there. An hour.” She was bereft. But humans made Notre Dame, were keeping it alive and functional, and were traveling there in droves for hundreds of years to revel in its dominance over the earth’s randomness. Whether everyone who goes to see Notre Dame or St. Peter’s now knows it or not, it’s creation and appreciation celebrates our gifts to God.

In those uncounted number of efforts perhaps one of those was repairing the roof, which meant that molten lead was left somewhere, too hot for too long. What was used to keep the rainwater out of Notre Dame Cathedral may have set its ancient, dry, roof timber’s ablaze.

Thousands upon thousands of humans built Notre Dame and chose not to have fire protection woven into it. One of those humans may have ended its viability. Until we fix it. And we will. Because we can.

But we cannot architect faith in our Savior. Not even an architect. Not even in Holy Week. My faith in God is in a different place than any fully designed, engineered, and crafted construction that I might build. Every building simply fails over time, just like every human. The love of God that becomes present in the work I do is without beginning or end – it just is.

We want to build our devotion and then we love what we have built: but faith is not a building. St. Peter was vetoed when he tried to build those tabernacles, but he helped build a place for Grace to the world that fully lives after he is long dead. What 2,000 years has built will still be there tomorrow after every devastation because we did not make it: God did.

We all want to be the architects of our lives, and rely on what we create to manifest what we will be. We try, very hard, to build timeless realities. But knowing how to do things often has precious little to do with what we control in our lives.

I am a state designated “Historic Architect” the 25 year Property Chair of an 1816 church, and work on any number of religious buildings every year, for the last 40 years.

At any number of endless meetings at these places of worship I say that every care must be taken in every aspect of building to the glory of God, and people nod their head. But when I say that if these buildings are gone tomorrow, that they are just things, and that God is what lives, not our constructions, it is disturbing to just about everyone in the room. We want to build tabernacles, just like Peter.

Faith in things has a shelf life. Faith in Jesus is fully detached from our dedications: that love is there, whether we think we earned it, made it, deserve it, or not.

What I, or you, build is just here and now until it is gone. Until we are gone.

Jesus built a huge life in 33 years 2000 years ago. It was ended. But it began again, neither due to him being a great carpenter, nor a cool guy, or anything but the Grace of his Father. Like every thing we build.

In the ashes of our lives, that always end, the knowledge of the reality of faith, and the creation of who we are, it is hard to trust. We trust that the flying buttresses of career, love, and worth will make all this construction here, now, worth it. But none of it earns any love, no matter how joyous our expression is.

All buildings end. All people end. The unending truth of God in our lives is nothing we can construct. It is already there.

Now let’s rebuild Notre Dame.

 

 

Sent by iPhone from Rome

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2019 11:32 am

    Very moving tribute in your post, Duo. As you surely know by now, France has proposed an international design competition to rebuild the spire. It would be interesting to know the answer to the question raised in your post in reference to “rely[ing] on what we create to manifest what we will be.” So with regard to the spire, how should it be rebuilt to manifest what we will be?

    • Duo permalink
      April 18, 2019 1:12 am

      Once the church gave up the building to the stare all control was lost: it is repair, just that, but if PR is desired then all ideas should be on the table and if anything but a perfect reproduction is offered let the protests begin

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