It's Easter. Sighs of relief are heard as many are taking their first substantial break since Christmas. I was raised with Easter being a highlight on the religious calendar. A time of pensiveness, not gallivanting. Call me conservative, but I am still taken aback when finding that going to church is not among my fellow Christians' priorities this weekend.
Growing up Dutch Reformed, churches were places mostly shut and admired from afar. I revered these buildings as beacons of hope looming over the small towns of my youth. It was, however, unthinkable to enter them unless on a Sunday.
Visiting Mossel Bay during my childhood, the St Peter's Anglican Church fascinated me. Driving past it on Marsh Street, with the rest of the family irritatingly eager to get to the hustle and bustle at the Point, offering views of surfers, sunbathers and the promise of a soft serve ice cream, I yearned to enter that church - a desire I couldn't explain.
The first time I was considered streetwise enough to go about on my own in holiday-crazy Mossel Bay, I made my way to St Peter's. Only the wooden doors separated me from the madness outside, but they were sufficient. The silence was more soothing than the most comforting words. The only sound I recall, was the creaking of the wooden pew as I sat down marvelling at the fullness present in the empty church.
Visiting that church became my holiday pilgrimage. After relocating to Mossel Bay, the ritual continued. Sadly, after vagabonds removed items from the church, the doors like the churches from my youth, were shut.
Out of habit, driving down Marsh Street, my eyes would turn to St Peter's longingly in the hope that the open sign would again grace those doors. Lo and behold, on an arbitrary day, there it was.
I slip into St Peter's as regularly as I can. Especially in search of solitude. Like that first visit, the harsh contrast of stepping from the soulful silence into the madness of Marsh Street, is like a slap in the face.
This week, not only on the streets of Paris but all over the world, people watched transfixed as the Notre Dame Cathedral was devastated by fire. Many accounts have been given of the emotion experienced. Millions of Euros were pledged in less than 24 hours to rebuild Notre Dame.
Looking at a world with humanity in crisis, it might not make sense that these funds should be applied to fix a mere monument. But Notre Dame seems to be far more than that.
As many Christians observe Lent in preparation for Easter, a friend shared a powerful piece written on fasting this week – fasting from words in all of their often harmful forms. In reaction to the fire at Notre Dame, another friend commented: "In 2017 we got to experience this great 'holding' space during a time of deep grieving in our lives. Here we learned to move forward, rediscovering prayer in silence and in fellowship, and Grace for the fragile."
One comes to understand during times like these why millions can be raised to restore Notre Dame. Maybe it is what mankind is willing to pay for the priceless luxury of true silence in a more than mad world.