The famous motto of the RAF, Per Ardua ad Astra (‘through adversity to the stars’), may have some resonance for us at this difficult time in our National and International lives.
Nothing can assuage historians’ and art lovers’, and Christians’ grief at the tragic fire at Notre Dame. It is a tragedy by any standards. Just imagine how we would feel if Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s had burned down. Yet we rejoice that the main structures and the towers seem to have been saved, and at the immediate determination to rebuild and restore this magnificent icon of France, of Europe, and of Christianity.
It’s been a pretty awful week in other ways too. As well as the obvious Brexit turmoil, the rise of Nigel Farage’s new Party (and his recruitment of Nancy Mogg) and the need for a change at the top of the Conservative party (22 runners and riders so far – see below), there are troubles afoot more or less wherever you look. My Constituent, Professor Sir Roger Scruton should not have been sacked for what were, at the worst possible interpretation, no more than misconstruable words (although he must have been nuts to say them to the New Statesman of all leftie publications); Julian Assange must be tried for the Swedish rape allegations, but I have real doubts about his extradition to America. What about freedom of speech, equally denied to Scruton? And what possible reason is there to give Miss Begum, who is alleged to have used her spare time sewing people into suicide vests, legal aid to argue against her loss of British citizenship? She went off to fight for, or at least to marry, Daesh. That should be enough. She is not welcome back on these shores.
The story of Holy Week traces Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Cleansing on Monday (throwing the money changers out of the Temple at Jerusalem), the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, Crucifixion, of course, on Good Friday, and the Resurrection on Easter Day. My minister Father rather disapproved of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Rock Musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, because it ends with the Crucifixion, and misses out the most important day of all - the Resurrection on Easter Day.
So one message of Notre Dame and of Easter is that no matter how awful the circumstances, rebuilding, rebirth, freshness, resurrection, is just around the corner, (and the awfulness may even be a necessary prerequisite for the rebirth.) Here in Wiltshire we rejoice at the lambs gambolling, the ducklings waddling behind their mothers, the arrival of the swallows, the green shoots springing up everywhere presaging new life, rebuilding, the Summer which is to come. So let us not be downhearted – by Notre Dame nor the other troubles which have been besieging us for months now. Let us look forward to the newness, the freshness, the restoration of our souls and our National life which comes with Spring, and with Easter. After all, things can only get better. Per Ardua ad Astra.
With all best wishes to you and yours for a very Happy Easter.
PS: Runners and Riders so far (in no particular order): Johnson, Raab, Rees-Mogg, Rudd, Harper, Ellwood, Cleverley, Malthouse, Tughendat, Morgan, Javid, Gove, Hancock, Hunt, Leadsom, Mordaunt, Davis, Stewart (Rory), McVey, Truss, Sir Graham Brady, Mercer.