Images of the tragic fire that nearly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris are now seared into our minds. The fire accomplished what centuries of war and revolution could not do — it brought destruction to one of the most majestic symbols of Western civilization and culture. One of the greatest of all Gothic cathedrals appeared as a smoldering ruin, with only its fabled towers and vaulted walls intact.
The sight was heartbreaking to anyone who understood.
One of the most revealing aspects of the response to the fire was that the grief was often expressed in purely secular terms. France, like much of Europe, is an increasingly secular society. One actor in Paris, quoted in the media, said: “It’s not about faith, Notre Dame is a symbol of France.”
Well, Notre Dame may be a symbol of France and a great achievement of European culture, but the great Gothic cathedrals that dominate so much of the European landscape require a far deeper explanation.
The Age of Cathedrals was what historians Will and Ariel Durant rightly called the Age of Faith. The cathedrals cannot be explained by a secular impulse. They were built as testimony to the fact that Christianity shaped the entire worldview of the age. Gothic architecture communicated the transcendence of God and the finitude of humanity.
These buildings sent a message — God is worthy of worship. He demands our worship.
The cathedrals were built as testimonies to truth and the teachings that constitute authentic Christianity. These teachings were often depicted in the stained glass and ornamentation of the giant structures — almost always laid out in the shape of a cross.
The most recognized creed of the Christian church is the Apostles’ Creed, rooted in the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as revealed in the Bible. The celebration of Good Friday and Easter reminds us of the truths about Christ that stand at the center of the Christian faith.
As the creed reminds us, Jesus Christ our Lord was “conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. As the Gospel of John states: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]
As we pass through Good Friday, the commemoration of Christ’s death on the cross, and come to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are confronted with the central truths of Christianity.
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SOURCE: USA Today, R. Albert Mohler Jr.