Letter from a Vagabond 15 April 2019 Moloch devours…

NotreDame

On a grey, drizzly day in the summer of 1978, I entered the aged greyed walls of Notre Dame de Paris, purchased a slim taper of a candle and lit it, saying a prayer for love, in gratitude, against the backdrop of the loneliness of that time, the only sound the scuffling of shoes on stone floors and the deep breathing of those around me praying. The Cathedral filled me with the sense of ages as did much of Paris; I knew I was in a solemn place, filled with the memories of the long dead and the hopes of the living surrounding me.

For some hours this afternoon, I watch Notre Dame de Paris burn, its spire tumbling into the hungry flames, as if the god Moloch had taken hold of the church, devouring her as he had the human sacrifices thrown to him. My senses numbed, not wanting feeling to overwhelm me.

Every time I have been in Paris, save the last, I have returned to Notre Dame to light a candle, for love, in gratitude, praying for what needed prayers at that moment.  Wandering Paris in October, my feet took me to many churches, in all of which I lit a candle, but my feet did not carry me to Notre Dame.

When I had paused at the Eiffel Tower, I had been startled by all the security, understandable in this destructive time when some have lost respect for the past, good or bad, that brought us here, hating symbols of so many kinds, so perhaps I feared the same thing or felt Notre Dame would be always waiting for me, paused in eternity for me to light another candle when the time came.

There is no regret I did not go and there is grief she is damaged, though perhaps not beyond repair, work that will not, I am sure, be finished in my lifetime and so a spot I counted upon is taken from me and all the others who come year after year in the millions to pay homage to the structure that has stood against wars and time.  She has suffered damage before and been rebuilt; it’s said not much of what burned today was original.  But Notre Dame has stood, started in the 12thcentury, a miracle of faith climbing to the sky, nestled on her island, the Seine flowing all around her, a symbol of her country, a holy place for Christians of any persuasion, a site of historical weight and a place of spiritual rest.

Today’s burning reminds me of the transitory nature of all things, especially we fragile men, who are here a blink of time compared to Notre Dame. She stood in the background when the king and queen of France lost their heads to the guillotine. She saw Napoleon crown himself and Josephine, she saw him leave to exile, return and be exiled once again.  Places like Notre Dame are center points in history, places that bridge time and carry the spirits of the men and women who rest beneath their walls for a moment into the future when they are gone.

2 Responses to “Letter from a Vagabond 15 April 2019 Moloch devours…”

  1. mabelfrancis Says:

    Beautiful moving words, Mathew. It was truly devastating to see it on TV… This is one place I have been to, wandering in with friends, and haven’t clicked pictures of it because I wanted to go back and do a guided tour and learn about it’s architecture. Also, earlier this week I picked Hugo’s ‘the Hunchback of Notre Dame’ to read and I’m still half way through it when this happens…

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