Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Center of a Town, and of a Country

Today was our first full day in Paris, and we started off with a wonderful whirlwind tour of the Louvre with our new friend Christi Bart, who runs Norman Conquests, a fascinating custom tour company. Turns out, Christi is a former actress (General Hospital!), who decided to chuck it all, and move to Paris 20 or so years ago. She has never looked back!

After visiting the amazing underground level of the Louvre, and (of course....yawn) seeing the Mona Lisa, we headed off to the Left Bank, and walked some of the very first streets of Paris, trod more than 200 years ago by the likes (really) of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. These men came to France to learn of the French Revolution, and apply some of its principals to a new document they were preparing for the colonies. We walked past a restaurant (please do not quiz me with the name) that Franklin frequented for dinner!

After this we strode across the Seine again and on to the grounds of the imposing cathedral of Notre Dame. Fascinatingly, we learned that the geographic center point of all of France, not just Paris alone, is a spot in front of Notre Dame. Directly in front of the cathedral, mounted in the pavement and pictured at left, is a small disk that marks “point zéro,” the reference point from which all distances in France are measured.

Imagine that, the center point is a church. As we entered, the noon Mass was under way, and I had the chance to take the photo at left, not perfectly composed, but quite meaningful to me.

I kept thinking about that idea the rest of the day. I still am musing upon the words
“point zéro”. The center point, the place of starting. The Beginning. And then thinking of the words of institution in the Mass, "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." And then.... "The Body of Christ", and "The Blood of Christ".

I will remember where the center of France is for a long time. Although many may argue about where France is today, perhaps for me it is better to think more about where my "center" is.
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