The sun was shining brightly this morning as we headed out around 9:30 for the Easter Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We left the bulk of our luggage at the hotel and trekked out with day packs prepped for two nights’ stay in Normandy. At Notre Dame, we were met by our guide for the day, Kermit Horne, a US missionary to Paris since the 80′s. Of course there was a line to get into the church, but our patience paid off, and soon we were pressed and squeezed into the beautiful medieval cathedral.
The service was lovely and very moving, complete with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, a pipe organ, a choir, holy water, incense, and communion. It is not hard to see how many people can get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of religion and miss the entire point that Christianity is essentially about relationship, with life flowing out of that relationship. Religion is man’s (futile) efforts to reach God. True Christianity is God’s reaching out to mankind, beckoning him to come to the water and drink! Despite multiple warnings that no photos are allowed, I think many of us managed to snap off a few!
By the time the service was over, lunch was in order, so we headed to a nearby Greek section of Paris and scattered for lunch. Most cafes are not able to comfortably accommodate 29 hungry tourists at one time, so scattering is for practical reasons, plus, the kids seem to enjoy discovering things on their own.
A view of the Pantheon in Paris
After lunch, we had the talking walk of the old university district of Paris where many of the philosophers, scientists and theologians have debated the merits of faith versus “reason” for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Kermit gave us an excellent perspective on the positions of men like Blaise Pascal, Descartes, Calvin, Russo, and others, showing us how human reason apart from faith leads to apostasy. It’s incredible to learn about how much Christian history has been made on these very streets where we are walking now.
We said our goodbyes to Kermit, and were back on the subway headed for the station for our train to Normandy. Everyone was pretty much walked out, so there was always a free moment to stop for a nice Nutella crepe or a hot chocolate! The train to Normandy was a brisk (topping 125 mph, according to Mr. L’s GPS!) 2 hour run west toward the coast, arriving around 9:15 pm. Fortunately, Ilona had arranged for a bus to pick us up at the station to take us to the hotel, a very pleasant end to a great Easter Sunday.