I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind. - Isaiah 65:17
As I sit down to write the blog for Holy Week and Easter, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is engulfed in flames. A building made of stone that has been standing for over 850 years is being irreparably damaged by fire. I am reminded of Jesus standing before the seemingly eternal and solid temple in Jerusalem and telling the Pharisees that not one stone will be left upon another.
As dreadful as this historic loss would be at any time of year, it is particularly painful on Holy Monday. Holy Week is a time to acknowledge the suffering and losses that plague our earthly lives. It is a time to ‘feel all the feels’ that on ordinary days we often keep ourselves too busy to feel. It is a time to remember the suffering all around us in this world and to let it penetrate our hearts. Having such an historic landmark and significant church building in flames brings Holy Week into particularly painful focus.
But loss is an unavoidable part of human life. While God is always doing a new thing, the changes are not always sunny. A new heavens and a new earth necessarily means the loss of the heavens and earth we’ve always known before. Something new always includes something lost.
As people of faith we are called to trust that loss is never the end of the story. This is our Easter faith. We are resurrection people, called to trust that new life is always on its way, called to trust that God is always with us - even when the world seems dark or painful - even when it is engulfed in flames.
This Holy Week, Christians all over the globe will grieve the loss of Notre Dame Cathedral, even if they have never been there themselves. Countless worshippers, pilgrims and visitors have encountered God within those walls. At the same time, Christians all over the globe will also be traveling together through Holy Week itself, remembering not only the suffering of Jesus but absorbing the suffering of all kinds that surrounds us and affects us every day.
Yet despite all this, on Easter, Christians all over the globe will choose to celebrate the power of God and the resurrection of hope. We will proclaim that when all seemed completely lost for Jesus’ friends, a whole new life unexpectedly began. And we will proclaim that whether we can see it or not, the cycle of Holy Week and Easter is taking place this very day - in Paris, in churches all over the world, and within each one of us.
The readings for this week are here:
The Great Vigil of Easter (Saturday night)