We went to Palm Sunday mass at Notre Dame of Paris.
As you might imagine, the place was packed. Churchgoers crowded into the seats in the middle… while an unusual crush of tourists worked their way around the periphery, taking photos, gawking… but maintaining a respectful silence.
The tourists made up a homogenous mass – all clad alike in jeans, sneakers, and sports jackets. “Where did they get the idea for such get ups?” we wondered. They reminded us of Edward’s theatrical boom-boom on Saturday night. Same outfits. Same dull expressions. Same ratty styles, inspired by U.S. music videos. What do they think about? What gods do they worship? After three thousand years of Judeo-Christian culture…what does modern man have to show for it? Star Academy… piercings… and leveraged mortgage debt?
Above us… around us… in our eyes… in our ears… maybe even in us… were some of the most remarkable sounds and scenes ever to have reached our senses. Statues… stained glass… soaring buttresses, perfectly sculpted and laid up before the invention of the internal combustion engine, chiseled out of hard stone by soft flesh, and pulled up by ropes and pulleys by tough human arms, elegantly curved, reaching up above the galleries with their stone columns and arches, up to their nooks and crannies, where a Quasimodo might have sulked…
…and the magnificent organ… with its polished wood, its gleaming towers of copper and brass… swelling, echoing, rolling and pitching with the musical genius of Mozart and Thomas Byrd…
…and the Palm Sunday mass itself… carefully worked and reworked… considered and reconsidered… practiced and rehearsed over 2000 years… exquisitely performed.
Three times came the knocking on the great doors at the west end of the Cathedral. And then, the ports were opened – slowly, grandly. And we, sitting near the front of the church, saw the blaze of light just as we were meant to see it; and the Bishop of Paris entered with his curved staff of gold, and palm frond in his hand, and his entourage of priests… and the whole lot of them made their way down the aisle, reenacting Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. What a show!
But what did the gawking tourists think of all this, we wondered? Did they envy the faithful… or despise them?
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