A Church Burned…

An Easter Week fire and hope for redemption

Reuters (Philippe Wojazer)

The Church burned, and the world watched.

The Church burned as the faithful and non-faithful looked on together, feeling horror, disbelief, hope, and sorrow, sometimes all at the same time. We watched, most of us feeling helpless to do anything to stop the fire that looked as if would reduce the Church to ash. The massive monument to faith and western civilization looked as if it would end the day as a heap of common rubble.

The Church burned as the wooden structures that had held it up for generations proved just as weak, just as vulnerable to flame as any other wooden structures. There was no divine touch to its architecture that would protect it from the same fires that would consume other buildings of similar stock. The Church burned because, for all its significance, it is merely a building made of things that burn.

The Church burned and the more we all watched, the worse it looked. Plumes of smoke became giant tongues of flame, and finally a billowing inferno across the sky. Piece by piece, the ornate architecture waned and fell. When the roof collapse, we caught a glimpse of the interior. It appeared the fires of Hell itself would consume the Church from the inside out.

The Church burned but firefighters battled the blaze. There was no sudden, supernatural nimbus cloud forming above. There was no gentle, unexpected, dousing rain to provide fodder for braggarts of the faith. The Church burned but brave people saved it — human beings in the same Image as those who had built the structures of the Church to begin with.

The Church burned. But not to the ground.

The Church burned, but it will be rebuilt. When the firefighters had finally contained inferno and stepped inside, they found the altar and, above it, the cross, undamaged amidst the destruction from the collapsed roof. The Church’s heart remains, despite the scars which will change it forever. When the hard work of rebuilding begins (undertaken by people, in that same Image as those who built and saved the structures), the faithful have this cornerstone from which to start. New, modern construction materials will merge with the old. We can look forward to this reconstruction with hope: Hope that it will preserve the original beauty while reinforcing it. We can hope that in repairing the Church, we will make it stronger and safer for our children and their children.

The Church still stands, having suffered a horrible, ravenous fire that almost consumed it and left us sad, angry, and fearful that we might lose it forever. Yet today we can hope that the Church might even be stronger for having burned.