The Victory of the Cross at Notre-Dame

“We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered.” (Cf. Gal :14)

The glory and victory of the cross is the theme of the Entrance Antiphon of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. In the wake of the events of the fire of the Notre-Dame de Paris, I cannot help but reflect on this antiphon in light of these events.

Notre Dame fire

Interior of Notre-Dame de Paris after the Fire (Credit: Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

One of the most circulated images after the fire was that of the darkened interior of the Cathedral with the gold cross shining, untouched. For Catholics, this is a striking image – even in the midst of destruction, the cross of Jesus is victorious. It was through the passion on the cross that the resurrection comes and it was through the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Catholic Church has not ceased to exist from generation to generation, even in the midst of persecution, scandals, destruction and ultimately evil and sin.

Nothing can defeat God – that is what the Lectionary readings of the Paschal Triduum makes clear over the next three days.

On Holy Thursday, as Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, showing us that only love will win in the end. No matter how sinful of a life we have had, God would still come down to our level and wash our feet. Love wins because, “God is love” (1Jn 4:8). Jesus shows us through the act of washing the feet of his disciples that it is only when we serve, as servants serving his master are we able to be loving people.

Jesus makes the ultimate act of service through his passion on the cross which we commemorate at the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. As depicted in the first reading of the Celebration, Jesus is the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 52. He took upon the sins of man and paid for it through his death so that we do not have to die. Reading the Passion according to John, even in the sinfulness of man, Jesus freely stretches his arms and feet for the salvation of all.

The narrative of the cross is not complete with that of Good Friday – it is only completed through the resurrection of Jesus because without the resurrection, there would be no such things as Christianity, as Catholicism. At the Easter Vigil, as we sit in the church listening to the history of our salvation, we must understand that it takes suffering to reach victory. While suffering may last a while, the joys of victory is a hundredfold.

Something that fascinates me is that the cross that was once a means of execution, a means of humiliation, a means of death that people feared, after the death and resurrection became a sign of victory, a sign of the resurrection, a universal sign of Christianity. Yet, like St. Paul mentioned, do we take glory in the cross? Do we see it as a sign of victory, a sign of our faith? Or do we see it as a sign of shame?

In a world where some say that Catholicism is slowly being erased from the face of the earth, the events of Notre-Dame showed us that the cross of Jesus will forever stand firm and that evil will never be able to take it down.

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About Vincent Pham

Known as The Catholic Man by many of his friends, Vincent is a student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Christianity and Culture. Vincent is an alumni of Chaminade College School in Toronto (Class of 2019). He has a great love for all things Catholic, especially Catholic liturgy.
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