Notre Dame is like the world’s glaciers, forests, and species: The cathedral took centuries to create, its beauty connects us to God, and it feels like it will last forever. But as reporter Dave Roberts has noted, like the world’s glaciers, forests, and species, even Gothic cathedrals can sustain massive damage in the blink of an eye, far worse than we ever imagined.
Blessedly, the interior of Notre Dame was largely spared. The rose windows, the relics, the organ, and most of the masonry were preserved, even as the roof, spire, and other windows disappeared. Grief and salvation are held in tension, and out that tension, the cathedral will move into the next phase of its long life, as it has done many times before.
So it is with climate change. Some damage and loss are now inevitable — many species are already gone, and many glaciers will join them — but that is no reason not to rejoice over what of God’s creation can still be saved. Temperatures and sea levels will rise, but that rise can still be limited. Some places and lives will be lost to bigger storms and droughts, but many more can still be preserved as long as we don’t give up now. As Christians, we know that Good Friday may come first, but there is always hope in the resurrection.
Just as we weep for Notre Dame while also rejoicing at what was saved, we weep for God’s earth but channel our grief into action. Much like the courageous Parisian firefighters, we will work to save what we still can, rejoice at what we find inside, and then with God, begin the process of living into a new day.