Devastating flames engulfed the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris today, Monday of Holy Week.
Its vault has held; precious relics, the organ, and the pulpit have apparently survived the inferno.
We offer this selection of the Conferences preached high above the nave of Notre Dame de Paris by Rev. Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, O.P., in Lent 1835, as requiem to this Marian temple, and in honor of the Word that has resounded–the Truth that has lived within its noble walls through eight centuries of its existence.
It shall rise in splendor–again.
There is a Man…
GOD AND MAN.
CONFERENCES DELIVERED AT NOTRE DAME IN PARIS, LENT 1835
BY THE REV. HENRI-DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE
OF THE ORDER OF FRIAR-PREACHERS.
Translated from the French, with the Author’s permission, by a Tertiary of the same Order.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE REIGN OF JESUS CHRIST
But it is nevertheless true that, although pursuing love all our lives, we never obtain it save in an imperfect manner, and which wounds our hearts. And even had we obtained it during life, what would remain of it to us after death? I know that fond prayers may follow us beyond this world, that our names may still be pronounced in pious remembrance; but soon heaven and earth will have advanced another step; then comes oblivion, silence dwells upon us, the ethereal breeze of love passes over our tomb no more. It is gone, it is gone for ever; and such is the history of man in regard to love.
I am wrong, …; there is a Man whose tomb is guarded by love, there is a Man whose sepulchre is not only glorious, as a prophet declared, but whose sepulchre is loved.
There is a Man whose ashes, after eighteen centuries, have not grown cold; who daily lives again in the thoughts of an innumerable multitude of men; who is visited in His cradle by shepherds and by kings, who vie with each other in bringing to Him gold and frankincense and myrrh.
There is a Man whose steps are unweariedly retrodden by a large portion of mankind, and who, although no longer present, is followed by that throng in all the scenes of His bygone pilgrimage, upon the knees of His mother, by the borders of the lakes, to the tops of the mountains, in the byways of the valleys, under the shade of the olive-trees, in the still solitude of the deserts.
There is a Man, dead and buried, whose sleep and whose awaking have ever eager watchers, whose every word still vibrates and produces more than love, produces virtues fructifying in love.
There is a Man, who eighteen centuries ago was nailed to a gibbet, and whom millions of adorers daily detach from this throne of His suffering, and, kneeling before Him, prostrating themselves as low as they can without shame, there, upon the earth, they kiss His bleeding feet with unspeakable ardour.
There is a Man, who was scourged, killed, crucified, whom an ineffable passion raises from death and infamy, and exalts to the glory of love unfailing which finds in Him peace, honour, joy, and even ecstasy.
There is a Man, pursued in His sufferings and in His tomb by undying hatred, and who, demanding apostles and martyrs from all posterity, finds apostles and martyrs in all generations.
There is a Man, in fine, and one only, who has founded His love upon earth, and that Man is thyself, O Jesus ! who hast been pleased to baptize me, to anoint me, to consecrate me in Thy love, and whose name alone now opens my very heart, and draws from it those accents which overpower me and raise me above myself.
But among great men who are loved? Among warriors? Is it Alexander? Caesar? Charlemagne? Among sages? Aristotle? Plato? Who is loved among great men ? Who ? Name me even one; name me a single man who has died and left love upon his tomb….
One Man alone has gathered from all ages a love which never fails; Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of hearts as He is of minds, and by a grace confirmatory of that which belongs only to Him, He has given to His saints also the privilege of producing in men a pious and faithful remembrance.
Yet even this is not all; the kingdom of souls is not yet established. Jesus Christ, being God, should not be satisfied with steadfast faith and immortal love; He must exact adoration. Adoration is the annihilation of one’s self before a superior being ; and this sentiment, …, is not a stranger to us. It lies, like all the others, in the very depth of our nature, and plays a more important part there than you are perhaps aware of.
Let us not disguise this truth from ourselves; all of us, more or less, desire to be adored. It is this innate thirst for adoration which has produced every tyranny. You sometimes wonder that a prince should weave together numberless intrigues in order to emancipate himself from human and divine laws; that he should add violence to cunning, shed streams of blood and march onward to the execration of man kind; you ask yourselves why he does this. Ah! …, for the very natural object of being adored, of seeing every thought subject to his own, every will in conformity to his will, every right, every duty emanating from him, and even the bodies of men bent like slaves before his mortal body.
Such is the depth of our heart, as was Satan’s. But by a counter poise due to that frightful malady of pride, we can only desire adoration for ourselves by abhorring the adoration of others. Thence springs the execration that follows despotism. Mankind, abased by a power despising all law, concentrates its secret indignation within itself, awaits the inevitable day of the despot’s weakness, and, when that day comes, it turns upon and tramples under foot the vile creature who had disdained it even to demanding incense from it.
In spite of history, however, Jesus Christ is adored. A man, mortal and dead, He has obtained adoration which still endures, and of which the world offers no other example. What emperor has held His temples and His statues ? What has become of all that population of gods created by adulation? Their dust even no longer exists, and the surviving remembrance of them serves but to excite our wonder at the extravagance of men and the justice of God.
Jesus Christ alone remains standing upon His altars, not in a corner of the world, but over the whole earth, and among nations celebrated by the cultivation of the mind. The greatest monuments of art shelter His sacred images; the most magnificent ceremonies assemble the people under the influence of His name; poetry, music, painting, sculpture, exhaust their resources to proclaim His glory and to offer Him incense worthy of the adoration which ages have consecrated to Him.
And yet, upon what throne do they adore Him? Upon a cross! Upon a cross? They adore Him under the mean appearances of bread and wine!
Here, thought becomes altogether confounded. It would seem that this man has taken delight in abusing His strange power, and in insulting mankind by prostrating them in wonder before the most vain shadows. Having by His crucifixion descended lower than death He made even of ignominy the throne of His divinity; and, not satisfied with this triumph, He willed that we should acknowledge His supreme essence and His eternal life by an adoration which is a startling contradiction to our senses!
Can such success in such daring be in any way understood?
It is true many have endeavored to overthrow His altars; but their powerlessness has but served to confirm His glory. At each outrage He has seemed to grow greater; genius has protected Him against genius, science against science, empire against empire; whatever arms have been uplifted against Him He has made His own; and when apparently vanquished, the world has still beheld Him calm, serene, Master, adored!
Maria Grizzetti lives New York, and is a consecrated member of the Lay Fraternities of the Dominican Order. You may reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Francois Roux Photography
Text: Google Books