An Easter Message from James Woodward
On 15 April 2019, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire causing devastation. It is expected to be open and running again in December 2024.
‘Notre Dame will be rebuilt; restored.’ We were told. Despite, initially, so much rather timid and politically correct talk about its being a ‘national monument’, a symbol of French or European ‘culture’, or even an enormous ‘tourist attraction’, it soon had to be spoken of as an icon of Christian faith.
News reporters simply were not able to ignore those men and women kneeling in prayer in the streets around Notre Dame, and many people, perhaps surprising themselves, found that they were praying too for the cathedral’s survival. Maybe they sensed that, without such Christian faith as it celebrated, our humanity is profoundly impoverished.
Maybe the fire that has destroyed so much of Notre Dame, in years to come, will be seen to have re-kindled, brought to life again, re-awakened some deep-rooted intuition – an intuition that has been almost smothered in recent decades by our obsession with material well-being and nothing more.
All that Jesus Christ revealed of the primacy of love and of its divine origin can never be obliterated from the human story.
The conquering of love lies at the heart of the Easter message. Millions of Christians across the globe will gather to mark this event. The moment that changed the course of human history forever.
God’s raising Jesus from the dead is God’s declaration that that is so; a declaration that has been heard, and responded to, by countless people down through the ages, has called them to put their trust in the ultimate triumph of love, and has inspired them to work for a world shaped by love.
So what of us here in Salisbury and across the County ?
Working to rebuild Notre Dame cannot be divorced from our working to build a better world. While we are here on earth, believing in the God of love, and assured in Jesus Christ of love’s victory, we cannot help but labour to bring the world into conformity with heaven.
I hope that you, your families and neighbours have a happy Easter. As we mark and celebrate love’s victory what might we do to rebuild our lives for the common good? One small act of kindness. An hour to help a friend in need? A resolution to volunteer for a local charity? New life and a rebuilding of our life for love starts with us – brick by brick in faith and hope and love.
The Revd Canon Professor James Woodward is Principal of Sarum College.
This piece has been adapted from his Footnotes column in Salisbury Journal (6 April 2023).