Restoration

It seems unthinkable that Notre Dame Cathedral should have caught fire this week. The scenes in Paris, relayed live on television, were awful, especially when the spire collapsed. It was feared that the whole cathedral might be lost, but thankfully the damage was not as great as was feared, but it will still take many years to restore it. President Macron maybe a little over-optimistic in hoping for it to be completed in 5 years.  

When great buildings are destroyed, the authorities are faced with a choice. They might choose a completely new design, such as at Coventry Cathedral, or they might opt for a replacement of what was there before, rebuilding as it was, where it was, as at York Minster, after the fire which destroyed the south transept. If you visit it now, you would scarcely notice the difference.Wherever there is damage and destruction there is the hope of reconstruction. 

The restoration of Jesus did not take years, but two days. He was resurrected, as he was, where he was, after the crucifixion. The damage wrought at Calvary was not put right, the marks of the nails were left his hands and his feet, and the spear wound in his side. He was the same but he was also different. He was physically present, he could eat and be touched but he appeared and disappeared. His restoration was not instantly apparent. Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener, the disciples on the way to Emmaus and on the Sea of Galilee failed to recognize him, but perhaps that says more about their clouded state of grief.

But there was, and is, a fundamental continuity in Jesus: he is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who taught, healed and restored is the risen Christ we worship. The Jesus of Calvary who suffered and bears the scars is the risen Christ we pray to. And he has promised to be with us for ever. Heaven and earth may pass way, but his word will remain for ever.

It can take many years before some destroyed buildings can be rebuilt. The time has to be right. The baroque Frauenkirche in Dresden was bombed in 1945. The heat of the fire-storm was so intense that the stone in the supporting piers exploded and the dome collapsed. After the war, the communist authorities had no wish to see the church rebuilt,  its rebuilding was only completed after the reunification of Germany brought new hope. The church, consecrated in 2005, stands as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. It does not hide its scars: dark stones from the old walls pepper the exterior; some faces of angels have been restored and repainted while others remain as they were left after the fire. Visitors to the church are invited to see that injuries leave scars but wounds can heal and we can all dream of hope from new beginnings. 

The Easter message is indeed one of hope. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, then what else can he do? The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian life. St Peter and the apostles were  witnesses to the risen Christ and  proclaimed the good news proudly and fearlessly.

The work of redemption, which Jesus began, was to continue and goes on through the church today.  Christ is risen, Christ is alive and we are now the witnesses to the life of Christ. We carry the risen Christ in us. And that is what makes the Christian faith indestructible. We do not depend on cathedrals and churches. We are bearers of the eternal word. We are the living stones of the church.

The Easter message is that all things can be transformed for good through the grace of God. We may have suffered wounds, but we can learn from them, our scars can enable us to help others. We Christians are called to be angels of hope, to inspire confidence in others who are despairing, whose plight seems hopeless. We have to look for the hope in the risen Christ, hold onto it and share it.

Following the Great Fire of London, St Paul’s Cathedral was destroyed and had to be demolished. When he was examining the site, St Christopher Wren  asked a workman to bring him a stone to mark the proposed centre of the dome. On that stone, taken from an old tomb, was the word ‘Resurgam’ (I shall rise again.’) Wren had that word inscribed on the facade beneath the figure of the phoenix, the mythical bird that is born and rises from the ashes of its predecessor.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!