This is a picture of one of the great cathedrals of Europe, ST. Paulus-Dom in Munster, Germany. During WWII, the building was severely damaged by bombing raids. Sadly, the artwork done by Hermann tom Ring, a German renaissance painter in the middle of the 16th century, was mostly destroyed. Thankfully, however, the altar remained.
This photograph sums up the Christian life quite well this side of glory. There is a war going on that ravages the outside world. Fear, distress, heartache, panic… that’s real life, entirely bereft of peace. That war also damages the life of the Church. She is not immune. The Church suffers from it, endures the threats and afflictions, the illnesses and injuries, and the marks of it all cannot be so easily concealed. She is battered and bruised by life itself.
But she is still the Church! Regardless of whatever war will be found outside her walls, even with the smell of gunpowder in the air, she still participates in that one thing that makes her the Church: gathering together around God’s Word and Sacrament. And that is exactly how she fights in times of unrest! This is a picture of the Church Militant at its best.
When life is especially laborious and heavily laden with trauma, fear, danger, etc. that does not stop our Lord from calling, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). That call to come is not for times when there is no trouble to be had in the world. And the Church doesn’t let a small thing like war keep her from receiving the gifts of God – forgiveness, life, salvation – in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Everywhere we go in life there is a longing for true and lasting peace, and yet here it is. Let us attend to it and not neglect to great a treasure! Nicolai Grundtvig said it well:
Built on the Rock the Church doth stand, even when steeples are falling.TLH 467:1
Crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest, but above all the soul distressed
Longing for rest everlasting.