What’s up there? I wondered as I gazed toward the roof of Notre Dame cathedral. What are those distorted statues and waterspouts… why such odd sculptures on top of a beautiful building?
Later, as I read about these medieval rain spouts and statues (also known as gargoyles and grotesques), I discovered their purpose.
During the 12th century, when Notre Dame was built, literacy wasn’t an option for most people. Consequently, images became important. Some historians believe these half-beast, half-human caricatures symbolized the vices and weaknesses of man. They not only stood on cathedral rooftops to serve as decorative rain spouts, but to warn the onlooker of the evil around them. The more dreadful these figures appeared outside, the more serene and secure the observer would find the haven inside.
Today’s reminders of man’s wickedness are in a different form. The stony icons from medieval times have been replaced by a daily bombardment of media messages. Newspaper headlines, Amber Alerts and talk-show topics echo humanity’s corrupted values. Airwaves broadcasting news of murders, terrorism, fraud, violence and child abuse propel me to take a news break – a respite from the negative headlines. I thirst for a haven, a hiding place. Not a man-made sanctuary, but a place where I can find a few moments of solitude’a tabernacle of His presence.
There, in seclusion, I feel His feathers of comfort and rest under His wings (Psalm 91:4). Inside my quiet refuge I sense His spirit and hear His voice. He protects me from trouble and surrounds me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). He changes me in the oasis of His presence. He renews my mind, refills my spirit, restores my soul and refreshes my strength. I step out empowered once again to do His will – to be salt and light.
Mary E. McCloud is a truth lover, Christ follower and registered nurse. She attends The Living Word Church in Greenville, Tx., Scott McManus pastor.