While in France, we visited several historic cathedrals. Most were built over decades, progressively expanded as finances and resources permitted. As a result, some of these cathedrals look a bit mismatched.
For example, this image shows the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Paray-le-Monial. The right tower was built long before the left; even the stonework is different!
The history behind this Basilique is especially important in Catholic tradition. In 1673, Marguerite-Marie Alacoque, a Roman-Catholic nun, had a revelation about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She believed it represented his love for all humanity. Since then, Jesus’ heart has become an object of special devotion.
“A true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence… His glory is defiled, His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in visible form.” John Calvin
I read Calvin’s quote yesterday. Our human hearts are hungry to worship something or someone. We were made to worship God. But even if our trajectory is accurate, we easily worship a mere shadow of the real thing. For example, meditating on the “sacred heart” of Jesus rather than the King Himself. Or focusing on making our lives so easy, we worship comfort rather than the Comforter.
After a vivid description of the Lord, scripture asks, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” (Isaiah 40:18) The question is unanswerable. “It’s purpose is to remind us that it is as absurd as it is impious to think that an image modeled, as images must be, upon some creature could be an acceptable likeness of the Creator (Packer, 46).
Just another reason I’m glad to have visited France: A bigger perspective on God and how I should worship Him.
To learn more: Knowing God by J.I. Packer; The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Read part one first!
My team’s entire time in Paris was riddled with moments of awe. It’s one thing to see the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre in a book; it’s an entirely different experience to stand inches from them and look up. History becomes tangible in aged cities like Paris. Every cobblestone, cafe and curving alleyway tells a story.
When I stood beneath the Eiffel Tower on that warm Wednesday afternoon, I was overwhelmed by its stark beauty. Mr. Eiffel managed to capture the stately beauty of Paris in a single, upright, towering piece of metal. No wonder it was the crown jewel of the World’s Fair; no wonder Chicago felt the need to build the world’s first Ferris wheel. (For all you history lovers, read this to learn more!)
I immediately started snapping pictures. Just a few images in, a young man approached me with a cautious, “Bonjour!” I was taken aback; in France, it’s uncommon to be approached by a stranger. But I smiled and nodded like a polite American. He rattled off a string of French words, miming taking a photograph with his phone. I understood: He wanted me to take a picture of him in front of the tower.
When I returned the phone, I tried to explain that the tower was too big, I couldn’t get the whole thing in the frame. He nodded vaguely, grasping only part of what I was saying. Then, clearly on sudden inspiration, he rattled off another string of words. I understood only one: selfie. After an embarrassed pause, I agreed.
So, on some Frenchman’s phone, there is a picture of me with the Eiffel Tower looming in the background. As if being at one of the most well-known structures in the world wasn’t enough, I also got to have a sweet interaction with the country it symbolizes.
That wasn’t end of the adventure, though. Check the blog for more stories this week!
We left the metro in a rush of cold air, greeted immediately by the noisy chaos of a typical Parisian intersection. Taxi drivers leaning on their horns; cyclists weaving through traffic; well-dressed pedestrians marching quickly toward their destinations; scents of street food, rotting trash and the river, enhanced by springtime showers. And all of this hemmed in by stately buildings with shuttered windows and established trees.
Sensory overload; but what writer ever complained of too much to observe?
As we rounded a street corner, I caught my first glimpse of the historical monument. It peeked from between the branches of a few trees, climbing vertically, glinting dully in the post-rainstorm sunlight. The engineering marvel, first erected in 1889 for the World’s Fair, is the touchstone of the Paris skyline. And there I was, standing beneath it: the Eiffel Tower.
Visit the blog tomorrow for part two!