Like many people around the world, I was shocked by the news about the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, Our Lady of Paris, going up in flames. I quickly turned on the television.
Wolf Blitzer, a well-known Jewish broadcaster (whose parents were concentration camp survivors), was anchoring the breaking news and was questioning a CNN reporter on site in Paris.
The 40-something female reporter referred to Notre Dame as "a monument." We may think of something like the Washington Monument. Or we may think of an historical structure like the Coliseum in Rome.
Notre Dame is not a monument, it is a place of worship. The on-site reporter was trying to draw an equivalency between a church such as Notre Dame de Paris, where the life of Christ is made real, and a memorial tomb.
Looking back on Easter, the reporter was like the women who went to the tomb looking for the dead body of Jesus. But the tomb had become a place for the living just as Notre Dame is a place for worship of the living God. The women who were first on the scene after Jesus rose from the dead were given an amazing report from heavenly beings. The angels said, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."
As the reporter on the scene droned on about the history of this "Monument," the more intuitive, seasoned and perhaps more spiritual Wolf Blitzer noticed the sounds of the crowd singing in the background. He brought the reporter's attention to the singing, but she ignored him and went back to reciting historical facts.
Blitzer again said how interesting he found the spontaneous singing. Still the reporter persisted in referencing the crowning of Napoleon and how "this monument" had survived WWI and WWII.
At that point Blitzer took over the direction of the "shoot" in Paris. He insisted that the cameraman turn away from the on-site reporter and focus on the people who were singing. He even said that with Notre Dame partially destroyed, the real story was the people and their singing.
Shortly thereafter CNN cut to another reporter standing on the banks of the Seine. She had a tenderness about her as she filled the visual gap between the Basilica, still ablaze, in the background, and the impromptu chorus of Parisians in the foreground.
Several times she stood quietly so that the singing of "Ave Maria" and the praying of the "Hail, Mary" could be heard in French.
Like Peter, who ran to the tomb because he heard something special in the voices of the women who reported that the tomb was empty, Wolf Blitzer heard a special message in the voices of the singing assembly. He heard the life of the Spirit.
Christ's tomb was not a monument to a dead person, but a place where the Holy Spirit brought new life. The same was true of the cathedral, even in its devastated state.
The people were singing to witness that they, as the body of Christ, were still full of hope, both for themselves as the living church and for the cathedral as a sacred place that would find new life in its restoration.
Their singing gave witness also that the revelation of Christ as Redeemer resonated in their hearts. In short, they were believers.
John Yeager is pastor of Eleanor Presbyterian Church in Putnam County and a Cabell County resident.