The experience of watching Notre Dame burn is at least a reminder that places matter. Physical places become sacred spaces because they are the places where we find God — or more accurately, places where God finds us. Cathedrals like Notre Dame were built to be a visual teaching tool in a largely illiterate culture. They proclaim the gospel without words. Historian Jon Meacham described the cathedral as a “physical manifestation of an unseen reality.” He said that one of the most important words in scripture is “remember” and that he shows up at mass whether he feels like it or not in order to remember and experience again the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Perhaps the image of the Notre Dame cross glowing amid the smoke and ashes will draw us back to the sacred places where we remember and experience the presence of the One who said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:24-32)
Jim Harnish, Why the Fire Matters