Which is in flames right now, one of the majestic spires having just collapsed. This is bad. My first thought was that it was renovations gone bad. I had seen in a news story a bit ago that the legendary cathedral was, like most Christianity in Europe, rotting and in disrepair. Renovations were being made on the structure to keep it from collapsing.
I don't know. Right now nobody knows, but that was my first guess. Just pray that the fire can be contained before more is lost. If fear if it burns, there will be no real desire to invest in what it would take to rebuild it. And the world losing one of its landmarks, no matter what you think of its faith origins, would be a darker world for the loss.
UPDATE: Right now (as of approx. 11 PM Paris time), they say that the overall cathedral has been saved. It's worth pointing out that not all that was lost was original to the cathedral, as it has been renovated over the years. The famous facade and two towers near the grand entrance have been saved. Much artwork (including the purported Crown of Thorns wore by our Lord) has been saved. It's still devastating, but if this is the final word, then praise God, and praise those brave firefighters and all who worked and prayed this through to its end.
UPDATE II: It does look like the cathedral's basic shell has been saved, as well as the iconic entryway and flanking towers. Many relics - including the Crown of Thorns - have been saved. Some of the justly celebrated stain glass windows, however, are a loss. And that breaks the heart.
Much will be written in the coming months about the symbolism of this. Last year was when I saw the news cast showing the sad state of affairs at the cathedral. It was already rotted and in ruin. The call to renovate was on an emergency level. They actually feared it could become unstable and dangerous.
Now we'll see people wanting to rebuild it for its artistic, or cultural, or national importance. We'll also see some questioning such a move. But to me, and no doubt to many, this is the Christian Faith in the modern world. A faith that is losing the war. A faith that has chosen retreat, compromise and surrender, when not outright altering its teachings and doctrines to conform to the latest whims and winds of change. And that's when we even care. In many ways, the cathedral was left to rot the same way Christianity has rotted in Europe. Look closely at the ruins. That's the Christian Faith - Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic - in our world today. A shell remains, but much of it has burned, even as it had already rotted.
I sometimes muse that when we abandoned saying The Year of our Lord (AD/BC), we lost the war. We said 'Jesus? Why who are we to say He's anyone's lord? If that offends, we'll put that bad boy under a bushel!' We wouldn't even say it in our own context, and I see even conservative Protestant and Catholic publications utilize the decidedly non-Christian BCE/CE label. Other things came fast on the heals of that, and in many ways the Faith has been following the World for generations, if not centuries. But to me, refusing to say Our Lord in public, and agreeing that we'd rather say nothing at all than offend people who have no problem cutting our Savoir down to size, was a symbolic loss that has to have had and impact on the zeal and faith of the Christian flock. A loss that we have watched rot and burn before our eyes in the shape of an iconic landmark. One, I feel, is no less true in the very heart and soul of our Faith.
UPDATE III. It looks like the legendary Rose Window survived! Praise God! There is hope, and hope for the dilapidated state of the Church. Always where God is concerned. Perhaps other wonders of the cathedral survived as well. At this point, we'll see. I updated from an early morning news report that said all of the stained glass had been lost. So I suppose now we wait. But it's a wonder to see, and gives hope. May Europe, the West, the World and especially the faithful bring hope and inspiration from this sight.