After the fire -a reflection on Notre Dame Cathedral You seemed to grow from the marrow of Earth, bones of limestone rising in gothic glory to pierce the sky, built of rock, but lifted by faith that could wield logic and harness reason in an age when ecstasy was still possible. You withstood the assaults of time and nature and humankind for eight centuries, only to be ignited by a present-day spark. Now your charred walls gaze on a wilderness of rubble; your ethereal stained-glass light is boarded-off and common sunshine floods your nave through a broken vault; the cool, rational logic of your architecture is threatened by a claw of mangled scaffolding. Today it is cranes that pierce the sky, skinny arms hovering over a patient on life support, state-of-the-art machinery nursing what modern technology injured. Those cutting-edge tools will clear the rubble and clean the walls, repair the roof and reinstall the stained glass, but they can’t revive the soaring joy that lifted stones into leaping arches and imagined that light could be holy. The radiant faith that could create your hallowed space is near to collapse, weakened by rampant reason, scorched by blazing skepticism, swaying beneath a claw of doubt.
Karen Ulm Rettig has a Fine Arts degree and began writing poetry when in her 30s. She is a member of Cincinnati Writers’ Project and has published one book, titled Finding God: Our Quest for a Deity and the Dragons We Meet On the Way. Find her online at karenulmrettig.com.