The world watched in horror as fire engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15. The blaze was so intense that the cathedral's spire and roof collapsed. Thankfully, firefighters were able to rescue several historic pieces of religious art, but many people across France are still grieving the loss of such an importance piece of their history.
This fire will likely appear in history books in years to come. But what is the spiritual significance of this event? I interviewed my friend Rabbi David Schneier on my "Strang Report" podcast to answer that question. Click here or scroll down to listen to the interview.
Schneier says his wife, Leslye, received a word from the Lord several years ago while they were walking around Notre Dame. A storm quickly stirred and rain came down in torrents. Then, just as quickly as the downpour started, it stopped, and a cloud formed over the Notre Dame cathedral.
"[The cloud] looked like the map of France," Schneier says. "In front of Notre Dame is a round circle called point zero, a point from which all distance was measured in France. ... My wife felt the Lord was saying that there's a storm coming in France over anti-Semitism and the church, and the freedom of God's Spirit to move from point zero to any place in France will be measured by a correct understand of God's eternal covenant with His people, the Jews. ... There's a reckoning coming."
Schneier—a Messianic Jew of French and American descent—has a close connection with Notre Dame, since he and Leslye lived only a five-minute walk away from the church for six years. During that time, he worked with the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and its congregational wing, the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IMCS). He oversaw all the IMCS congregations in Europe, and continues to do so now from his home in Birmingham.
Schneier says that, in a historic sense, France losing the Notre-Dame cathedral is similar to if the U.S. lost the Statue of Liberty or if England lost Westminster Abbey. But many don't understand how important this cathedral was to France's sense of spiritual identity, especially in regard to the Jews.
"The archbishop of Paris, who also became a cardinal, Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger—he was a Jew saved by a Catholic family in World War II, and he became archbishop of Paris," he says. "And above the altar, there was a plaque—I hope it survived—and it said that his name was Aaron, and he was named after his paternal Jewish grandfather, that he became a Christian by faith and by baptism, and that he remained a Jew, as did the apostles. That's quite a statement."
But Schneier points out that France has not always supported the Jews, and another piece of artwork in Notre Dame spoke to that.
"Over the main center door of the cathedral were two statues," he says. "One was the Church Triumphant and one was a statue of a Jewish person whose crown was on the ground, the staff broken and a circle around her eyes and her head. So it's sort of a mixed feeling. It brought up a lot of what happened in France—deportation of almost 80,000 Jews to their death. And one of those persons was a relative of mine who left Ukraine and came to France for freedom only to be deported by the government."
But Schneier saw improvements in relationships between Jews and Christians in France during his six years there. He says many of the pastors he and Leslye dealt with began to appreciate the relationship between the church and the Jewish people. But God's people must continue to pray, especially after the Notre Dame tragedy.
"One pastor said ... seeing [Notre Dame] engulfed by flames created a national sorrow of unprecedented proportions," Schneier says. "Where is the hand of God? That's why the rector of Notre Dame is asking God, 'Why did You let this happen?' ... So they need answers and they need the right spiritual advice."
I hope you'll spend some time in prayer this week for France, that God would use this situation to cause many to seek him. As Schneier told me during our interview, an entire country grieving so much over a faith-related issue is certainly unique. And it may just be what Jesus uses to stir up a hunger for Him.
If you enjoyed today's article, I encourage you to share it on your social media. And be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Schneier below to hear more of his insights into the fire at Notre Dame.
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