David French of National Review Online reflects on the impact of the fire that gutted Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.

On March 9, 1996, I walked into the great cathedral on the morning of my wedding day. The gravity of the moment was starting to sink in, and I wanted a place to pray. We Protestants are accustomed to thinking of the great cathedrals of Europe mainly as tourist attractions — as beautiful historical buildings and not as actual, living churches. That morning changed my heart.

It was too early for most tourists to arrive, so I walked past other worshipers, men and women on their knees before the Lord. I knelt also. I asked God’s blessing on my wedding, on my marriage, and on the children we hoped to have. In that moment, I felt the presence of God, but I also felt something else — for a moment I was staggered at the thought of the sheer number of people who’d knelt in this same spot and asked God for these same good things. I felt more connected to the larger body of Christ than I’d ever felt before.

The Notre Dame I visited wasn’t just a beautiful building. It wasn’t just a marvel of medieval architecture. And it wasn’t just the center of the French nation — the place where kings and emperors were crowned. It was a symbol of an enduring church and God’s enduring presence. France will feel its loss more than it now understands. We all will.