I hardly miss a chance to visit Paris, even if for a day in passing. To be sure, there are a million things to do and see, all worth your while. There is, however, one thing no matter how short the trip, I always make a point to do.
If you walk across the Seine to the Ile de la Cite and follow the cobblestone streets to the east side you will inevitably run into a giant cathedral. You may have heard of it; Notre Dame. Constructed between 1163 and 1345, this building is a testament to the beautiful things men can design and create. If you walk across the square in front of it, originally designed to be the space between the secular world and the religious world, now teaming with tourists in an overwhelming buzz of languages and excitement, you will come to the gigantic wooden front doors. Of course there is a smaller entrance for everyday use, and as you slip inside from the hot, sun-drenched plaza into the dark, cool interior, you will first notice… the quiet. It’s as if everyone can sense the reverence for which this cathedral was built and acts accordingly. As your eyes adjust to the dim light and you begin to see the magnitude and scale of the interior, your gaze drifts up. Up to the vaulted ceiling and the stained-glass windows and down to the front of the alter. Everything intricate and beautiful basked in a dim omniscient light. But that’s not what I came here to see.
If you keep walking down the aisle in between the chairs and pews you will come to a cross section. And if you go to the middle, stop, turn around and look up; that is what I have come to see. That is the rose window at the back of Notre Dame cathedral. It is Gothic in design, circular, decidedly red and blue, and absolutely stunning. It takes my breath away each time I see it. I can’t look at it without smiling. I can’t do it justice by describing it. A picture, in this case doesn’t either. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I stand there, for an unmeasured amount of time, in reverence and awe. Sooner or later, my gaze will come down, I’ll tour the rest of the church and walk back to the secular world. But for those few moments, I have been transported to a place more wonderful and beautiful, and the world is just a little bit brighter.
May we all find moments unmeasured, where we can stop, stand in awe and be moved.