Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Some thoughts about cathedrals

Some have been asking why people are inspired to give to the rebuilding of Notre Dame, but not to help the poor and suffering. To give to the former and not the latter would be a mistake. In fact it would be fundamentally absurd given what the cathedral actually represents.

But, I suspect that in fact many of the people inspired by the grand vision of reality represented by Notre Dame are the same people already inspired by that same vision to give and act on behalf of the poor, the hungry, the distressed, and the oppressed. It is not either or. The same vision inspires both.

Some thoughts about cathedrals, particularly Gothic cathedrals like Notre Dame.

These cathedrals are great hymns of praise composed of wood and stone and glass. They were designed and built by people inspired by a vision of reality in which life is about much more than at first meets the eye  a vision of reality, soaring like a cathedral ceiling, committed to the conviction that, if one has eyes to see, the world is shot through with grandeur and overflowing with meaning and purpose. According to this vision, if one has eyes to see, all of creation, and every human being in particular, shines with all the color of heaven like light shining through stained glass.

The vision of reality that inspired the building of Gothic cathedrals has also inspired saints and others to see the last, the least, the lost, and the lonely lit with the color of heaven. That vision has inspired
people like Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., William Wilberforce, Oscar Romero, and people like them to serve and advocate for the poor, the sick, the distressed and the oppressed. that same vision has inspired some of the grandest art, music, prose, and poetry known to humanity. That same vision has inspired the founding of hospitals, schools and aid agencies. That same vision continues to inspires food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, political advocacy, and countless acts of kindness, hospitality, and generosity. etc.

Many of us are still inspired by this vision of reality. It is a vision rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we celebrate with particular attention this week.

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