The Riddle of Notre Dame

“Hold high the cross, so I may see it through the flames.”

– St. Joan Arc, before being burned at the stake.

A holocaust of love

Burning boldly through the dusk

Cruciform, a candle gleams

In a city’s heart consumed

Crown of thorns enclose that heart

Bleeding fresh in Paris streets

A crimson tide run through the years

To the roll of tumbrel wheels

Here the Savior’s Body hangs

Slain anew each waking hour

Through the altar’s sacrament

Or the sting of sin and death

Christ is all in all undone

Heart melting in His chest

Like the Paschal candle’s wax

Or the glass of Notre Dame

Molten dripping, like the tears

Hot with loss, Our Lady sheds

A spire singes sky

Like a dying robber’s cry,

“Save yourself and us…

If You be of God!”

And the spire, anguished, cracks

And the world, unknowing, plummets

A pillar of cloud, a pillar of flame

Guiding, but we know not where

For how could God be smitten

In His holiest of homes?

God is dead, they shake their heads

Dead as the Man upon the tree

Lungs consumed by suffocation

Like a cathedral’s blackened shell

Could not this place of sanctuary

Claim sanctuary for herself?

Could not He who roused the slumbering

Free His pinioned arms and fly?

Mysterium Fidei, chant the saints

Who gazed among the gargoyle heads

This is the Mystery of the Faith

The bells their riddles weave:

“And what is truly monstrous

And what truly sublime?”

Is the glow that kisses night

More of Heaven than of Hell?

Is there light through the rose window

As fiery as the Son?

Is there light through the rose window

As grace-filled as the moon?

The cross of gold still standing,

Where the flames claim maiden’s flesh,

And the arms of Him expanding,

In the center of our souls?

We are people of the night

We are people of the morning

We are people of the riddle

And the hymn of Notre Dame

We will form a human chain

Like a string of rosary beads

That stretch across the ages

Salvation within reach

We will sing our last Aves

Like the nuns upon the scaffold

To share a Mother’s sorrow

Going forth to the Third Day.

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