‘Another summer day
Has come and gone away
In Paris and Rome
But I want to go home…’
I’ve never been to Paris or Rome but if I did, I’m sure I’d agree with Michael Bublé that I’d want to go home. At least after spending a few days catching the sights. And it’s easy to hum along.
So, it looks like no more hunchbacks in Notre-Dame. At least for a while.
While the loss to fire of artefacts and history is incalculable, it occurred to me and I imagine many, many others that Notre-Dame is just a building.
To my recollection, I’ve only ever been in one cathedral, the Westminster Cathedral in central London. Cathedrals are mostly really old buildings that pre-date anything that resembles a fire code. Any spark can set it off. But they are stunning on the inside.
I no longer remember any of the details of the inside of Westminster Cathedral – all I can remember is that I was impressed. You cannot mistake walking into a cathedral like wandering into a fast food restaurant, or ducking into an office space, or entering a kitsch shopping mall. There is only one reason for a cathedral, to worship.
In studying the epistle of Romans written by Paul, I came across an idea by Frederick Godet who remarked that Romans is the ‘cathedral of the Christian faith’.
Paul wrote a number of epistles to the early churches, addressing local issues and explaining spiritual principles, but none is so theological as his letter to the Romans. Romans was written on Paul’s third missionary journey, probably in the winter of AD 57 while in Corinth.
Paul normally wrote his epistles to the Believers at churches he had founded but he had not founded the church in Rome. In fact, in all likelihood, no one had founded the church at Rome. As the centre of the empire, Christians gravitated there and sought each other out. The Believers there had acquired something of a reputation of great faith, so much so that Paul and the rest of the world had heard of them.
It was an unlikely place for a Christian fellowship to thrive, in the midst of a pagan empire which zealously promoted the worship of its emperor. And yet they were known for their great faith. Paul was drawn to them and wanted to visit them to encourage them, but equally that they might impart encouragement to him.
In a historical irony, Paul never got to willingly go to Rome as he intended. After his arrest however, the Roman empire took him to the capital at government expense for a trial. He eventually made it there and there his journey stopped. Ultimately, Paul was martyred.
From reading about Paul, it seems he was always on the way somewhere to do something weighty or important. A driven man you might say.
On the way to Damascus to round up Christians for persecution, but meeting Christ on the way and becoming a Christian himself (Acts 9).
On the way to Jerusalem to take gifts to the poor Believers there.
Eagerly desiring to go to Rome, criss-crossing the Mediterranean basin on three missionary journeys. The guy couldn’t sit still, and where he was forced to because of winter or imprisonment, he wrote epistles.
It was while in Corinth on the way to Jerusalem that he wrote his epistle to the Roman Believers. He had recently been warned about the peril waiting for him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10 – 14) and just in case he didn’t make it, Romans was his theological opus.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of Romans, reading about the context and stuff in the first chapter but from my earlier visits to this cathedral I can tell that this is more precious than Notre-Dame, Westminster and St Peter’s combined.
Romans is where we can lead an unbeliever through the doorway, crossing the threshold and of the way of salvation, the why’s and how’s:
Romans is where I gaze at the foundation and walls that outline the thesis statement of what makes a Christian and how a Christian lives: by faith.
Romans has the most beautiful stained glass window that I can stare at in wonder but seldom perceive the depths of what it is saying in terms of living in faith and what awaits the Believer after a short time of hardship and pain: glory.
This will never burn down.