This Holy Saturday, in the flames of Notre Dame, we can see our Lady.
Today is Holy Saturday. The day seems almost paused; time seems to pass more slowly than usual. The day is pregnant with potential soon to come as we wait for the life-giving joy of Easter, the rise of our Lord and the crux of our hope and faith in Christ.
We jumped online looking at filling our office with some beautiful iconography to rest our eyes and enlighten our souls as we work during the week. Today was not about work for us, but rest and celebration, a half-day if you will. During our search online we sought out icons of Moses and the burning bush. That chapter of the scriptures is particularly powerful as it is the heart of our branding and our logo. It represents for us the fire of evangelization that breathes forth life. We found online these beautiful icons of our Lady and the Burning Bush or the Theotokos. These icons are so deep, in them, we learn more about the burning bush and the concept of Mary as “Theotokos.” In them, are the flames of Notre Dame, but more on that later.
/THēˈôdəkəs/ noun: Theotokos
from ecclesiastical Greek, from theos ‘god’ + -tokos ‘bringing forth’.”
Theotokos merely means God’s instrument for bringing forth life or more clearly the Mother of God.
You see from the fires of the Holy Spirit; God brings forth life as he did for Moses by sparking the flame of faith in His heart through the miracle of the burning bush. As he did in Our Lady, bringing forth the fires of the Holy Spirit that led to the Immaculate Conception and the birth of our Lord. As he does today, Holy Saturday, when our Lord easily braves the fires of hell to bring forth life for the living and the dead.
You see in all of these cases above the fire did not burn them, but instead, it purifies, it renews, it brings forth life.
In many ways, we were trying to make sense of the flames that assailed Notre Dame. Why did God allow this? What was the point of letting Notre Dame burn? In Mary, The Theotokos, God answers us all. If we notice, Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Therefore, it is Our Lady of the Burning Bush who is in the heart of yet another fire but not to destroy but to renew. So many have lost their way and forgotten just how deeply God has shaped their lives, their culture, their hearts, and even all civilization from east to west in so many ways. God has crafted the air we breathe, our very persons, and the hands and feet we use every single day. So many in the secular world, believe science can replace God, but science is but the legitimate discovery of what God himself has crafted in all His wisdom. Science is a gift to man, and even it, would not exist without His craftsmanship. Notre Dame's deep history and constant presence is a reminder that God is the crux of humanity's development despite our proper use or misuse of His gifts.
God is using Notre Dame, to show us something new. He is teaching us to Trust. Just as Notre Dame withstood flames, God wishes to inflame His living Cathedrals; our very souls. Today, God wants us to understand something; he says “Behold, I make all things new.” He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to let go of the fear and terror that grips us due to the many spiritual and cultural battles that are happening around us. He wants us to embrace His love which makes all things new. Indeed, he wants us to release our grip on the old and instead grasp the eternal. Releasing the old sounds scary, it sounds like letting go of the sacred, but it is not and here is why.
The eternal is sacred, and no fire can burn it, no water overwhelm it (Isaiah 43:2). The entire deposit of faith and the moral law cannot be torched, no matter how hard men try, therefore do not be afraid. God is greater than man, so do not fear man as if the opposite were true. That said, the old however is not a reference to the eternal because the eternal never ages, never dies. That is the hope that we have in the Resurrection, that in Him, we too will have eternal life. In Him, we also are eternally His and evergreen no matter our current state or age. That which ages and dies is not by definition ever living or eternal. It is earthly, methods of living, of communicating, of relating to others must change. We must know that in every age, God reveals new aspects of himself to humanity. He is eternal, and we could never know Him in His fullness. Therefore, He reveals more of himself to us in every age out of love for us and out of a desire for us to know him deeply and relationally similar to how He already knows us. We see this in the lives of countless Saints. As humanity matures, the Church in her wisdom also matures even more so as she imparts faith and reason to all. Therefore, we must not confuse the old with the eternal. The Church leads the renaissance of humanity in hope, faith, and love not without God as secularism attempts to do to the detriment of society but in union with God and with His people. The deposit of faith that God has handed to us is divine and holy; it never ages, never dies and remains evergreen and ever new. It is fresh and life-giving, flowing like as living waters in every generation as it refreshes humanity's thirst for God.
You see God wills that we grow, that we not stagnate, that we not plant our feet and refuse to serve no matter our age. God does not need our defense. He is greater than us in all things. He opens hearts with His mercy as He wills and permits hearts to harden in chastisement as He wills. However, He desires that all be saved and for our own good that we remain evergreen and ever new. Sometimes to do so, He prunes us or burns away the old to allow new life to spring forth via the eternal.
The flames of Notre Dame and more importantly her evident endurance of the fire is a heavenly sign for our church today. Not of castigation, not of punishment, not of lamentation but hope. It is a sign of a new Catholic renaissance to come. God is about to do new and great things, but we must cease to fear discovery and renewal, we must let go of suspicions and mistrust that hold us back from virtue. We must part with self-importance and self-aggrandizement for it hinders our spiritual advancement. He seeks to purify it from us, for our good, not for our harm. We must get out of God’s way and cease to cling to human "traditions" (with a lower case "t") which we are confusing for the "Eternal Tradition" (capital "T") that He has already established through the magisterium and the deposit of faith. The world is not as it used to be, but in all honesty, in every age, it never remains as it used to be. He calls us to be lights in it so that its natural course, its continuous development be guided by the faith and reason the Church provides. If we fail to do so and instead cater to the sins of worldliness to fit in or if instead, we remain so stubborn and unyielding as to fail to participate in its development than like a plant we will watch in horror as humanity develops in misshapen and destructive ways. We are not called to live away from the world but instead to be a people Holy but engaged with the world. After all, He alone can “make all things new” and bring the world into a relationship of constant conversion. Notre Dame is our call to renewal, to encounter the flames of the Holy Spirit again and to not be afraid to draw near to God's light. It is our call to put aside the fears that cause us to pull back from the world rather than engage with it in dialogue and a firmness of faith that still respects the human dignity of others.
God is calling us all today to make our faith new right now, right away during this very Easter season. Seriously, this is not another call to honor the calendar. He is calling us to a real renewal, one which must cost us the effort that a relationship with God requires, it must cost us our daily crosses and difficulties. It must cost us our laziness and comforts; it must cost us our sufferings handed to him for healing and continuous care. He is calling us to a renewed encounter with Him that will burn from us cultural caricatures and epithets of Catholicism. These caricatures are remnants of a garbled faith that are jumbled remains of a more devoted time when we used to pray and used to learn His Word. He wants to replace these half-truths and ideologies with real truths and full love to reinvigorate us with a renewed faith powered by His love, His Holy Spirit. A love that burns away our cultural discomforts with relationships that cause us to run away from the rewards of service and fellowship. A love that urges us into a real friendship with God rather than a God as a distant idea within an ideology. A love that breathes life into our ministries and rediscovers evangelization as an exercise in prayer, relationship, and ingenuity. A love that costs us "the reinvention of the wheel" as they say, in ministerial and pastoral situations. A love that calls us to work hard at personal and human solutions, not templates that fail to serve the ever-changing landscape of parishes and communities. A love that calls us to use the gifts of human advancement and technology without getting lost in them by fortifying our temperance and self-control. A love that burns away the scales of mindless obligation from our eyes so that we can see our faith again, not in terms of fleshly monotony or cultural duty that we give out of begrudging obligation but as a regular and meaningful exercise of loving and constant relationship with God and His people. He invites us to re-engage our faith with our whole heart, our whole body, our whole mind, and our whole soul. He invites us into a relationship that calls us to cease comparing ourselves with others and instead urges us to seek a relationship of care with others so that they too can know the Gospel.
He asks us not to look down upon the renewal of any portion of the Church not emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or liturgical. All of it is part of His creation. None of it is to is less, all of it is to be handed over to Him for our Jesus is meek and humble of heart and cares for what we care about without fail, no matter how small. Although He is God, He does not consider himself above the cares of His beloved people. Through this care, He shows us that His Church belongs to Him and it is He that leads it, and it is He that decides its course for its good. If we trust Him, we trust His direction even if we do not understand it at the time. He calls us to re-engage with greater prayer, greater study of our faith, and greater service of love to our fellow man. Service, in particular, leads us into humility, not pride, and without it, we would be estranged from the orthopraxy of love and think ourselves haughty in knowledge alone which accumulates no virtue and gains nothing in the eyes of God. When we struggle with pride, he offers us a remedy, to serve someone in need. In helping others, the person served provides a higher service than the person serving. It is in giving that we receive. Therefore, He desires that we never fail to serve and that we never be too proud to accept service from another. Service in a spirit of love towards God and man is an excellent remedy to the temptations of pride that the devil places in our way. In that way, we show the world the face of Christ in times when they cannot see it in our theology or our words. In that way, we obtain significant gains for souls and for our spiritual advancement which leads us further into His caring arms. Let us renew ourselves in Him so that he can restore us with new hearts and a new faith filled with the vigor of hope, no matter our age or our circumstance or our country of origin.
This faith of ours is genuinely eternal; do not be afraid. Cease to fight God's renewal. Do not be frightened and do not think that God will allow the eternal faith of our holy Catholic Church to burn in flames. By nature, it cannot and it will not. He is the author of it, not us, and he guards it, not us. He will not allow us as a Church to sink into the pit just as He did not allow His Church to remain in gehenna this Holy Saturday. Today, God is calling us to a renewed encounter with His love. Such an encounter will bring forth not fear but faith, not hatred but love. A mature faith capable of discerning between extremes of right and left to find instead the true path of the Cross that lies before us all. That path leads us less into the worldly ideologies of the state and instead guides us into a service of love, which is the real heart of the commandments, and the mirror of Jesus’ Sacred Heart. After all, perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and His love for us is perfect indeed.
This Holy Saturday, let's take this as evidence enough that if we trust in Him, then He will not allow the fires of hell to overcome His Church nor us. I tell you, I stake my word on God, for God is trustworthy. Notre Dame will rise from the flames rebuilt and greater than ever before and so will God’s Church.
Just put your faith in our Lord and our Lady of the Burning Bush, and it will be done.