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“If our shared vocabulary excludes words such as ‘God’ and ‘belief’, we will have lost more than a building. We will have lost the lexicon of our souls”, writes the evangelical pastor in Rome.
Many around the world have lamented the great fire that destroyed large areas of Paris’ beautiful cathedral.
Notre Dame was defined as a symbol of Europe’s history, a tresaure of achitecture and a “part of our psyche”, as the President of France Emmanuel Macron expressed.
But the building is more than that, evangelical pastor in Rome René Breuel said in an article published in the Washington Post on April 16.
“The fact that Notre Dame was a church built primarily as a house of prayer seemed curiously in the background”, he wrote.
Of course the building of the 13th century has witnessed some of the great moments of France’s history. But “our collective mourning should not forget the fact that a church was on fire. More than a national icon or a touristic spot, cathedrals such as Notre Dame reveal their soul when they house singing and baptisms, confession and pardon, preaching and prayer”.
The church leader in Italy explains how he asked her wife’s hand in marriage “on a boat that cruised on the Seine”, and “years later, our kids played at the park behind the cathedral on a hot summer morning”.
“But if our shared vocabulary excludes words such as ‘God’ and ‘belief’, we will have lost more than a building. We will have lost the lexicon of our souls”.
In the Washington Post article, Breuel also refers to the Old Testament texts of Haggai and Psalm 126 to show how rebuilding a temple makes sense if the glory of God is at the centre.
“I live in Rome, a city that gathers more cathedrals than any other. I love to watch children play soccer in front of basilicas or couples lick gelati sitting on the steps that lead to a sanctuary”, Breuel writes.
“But part of me misses the fact that not many of them enter such churches except to take pictures. It is inside such buildings that our hearts can soar”.
The author concludes the article with this idea: “It is appropriate for politicians to mourn the damage done to a world-famous icon. It is more appropriate still for people of faith to pray that churches may again be regarded as living sanctuaries more than as civic landmarks”.
René Breuel frquently writes for Evangelical Focus at his “Culture Making” column.