Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13, 2012

Temple Protestant de L’Oratoire du Louvre: His Kingdom is Forever

In Paris there is a monument to faith, courage, and steadfastness. It skirts the Rue Saint-Honoré and the Rue de Rivoli, and to the unpracticed eye it might appear to be just another church, turreted and domed with a typical French slate-gray roof. Yet this church symbolizes the Huguenot community in French, the community that has been described as a “martyr church,” the group persecuted for over three centuries almost without pause. But despite burnings, hangings, sieges, massacres, and atrocities of all sorts, this fierce and prayerful community always rose from the ashes. To this day there is a Reformed Church in France, with a headquarters in Paris. It is called L’Église de Réformée de France

At the Temple Protestant de l’Oratoire du Louvre, a church that was gifted to French Protestants in 1811 by Napoleon, it might seem that the stones cry out. After all, Paris was one of the major sites of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. Though few if any of the landmarks from that time have remained, doubtless the stench of guilt still hangs heavy just a few feet under the modern city. Yet the Oratoire du Louvre represents the spirit of regeneration and the refusal to fold under pressure. French Protestants waited centuries to have their churches restored. Most of their beautiful houses of worship had been obliterated by King Louis XIV in 1685 after the Edict of Fontainebleau (who, at least in regards to his Protestant subjects, was a far more volatile sort than the stories of “Sun King” splendor might have one believe).

In the past, the idea of a Protestant church in Paris, let alone one where the Huguenot dead could be remembered and duly mourned, might have seemed strange to the majority of the population. The statue of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, placed in the 1880s, in a way includes all the French Protestants who lost their lives. Though he is the one featured, his death in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre almost seems to indicate that the memories of those who shared his fate are represented here as well. The sheer horror and injustice of the St. Bartholomew’s is like an open wound that can never be truly healed. At first here, in the quiet courtyard of the Oratoire du Louvre, those who gave their lives can be duly remembered.

So what does the Oratoire du Louvre represent? Failure to lie down and die. Refusal to give up. The necessity of remembering the dead. This church stands as a focal point to remember and honor those French Protestants who went before, who suffered and died for a truth they could never deny. Even greater than the Oratoire du Louvre, the Reformed Church of France represents the spirit of faith and freedom, the spirit that can never die. Their motto is Flagrore Non Consumor. “Burning but not consumed.”

I cannot think of a better motto.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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