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  • Writer's picturePaul Cho

Divine Epiphany at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris: An Invitation to Enter and Live the Story

Updated: Mar 28

Recently, I've developed a fascination with the study of the universe. Concepts like spacetime and the expanding universe, both explained by Einstein's general relativity, fill me with wonder. Just the other day, I found myself discussing these ideas with Esther before bed. I shared my new insights, saying, "Esther, did you know that the stars we see are billions of light years away? That spacetime is curved and light follows these curves? That the universe is always expanding?" Then, I posed a question that often occupies my mind: "Esther, how can we grasp this infinite and seemingly eternal universe? Where does it begin and where does it end? What's the meaning of it all?" We fell asleep with that thought lingering in our minds.

During our trip to Paris last year, I will never forget the moment I first saw and entered the Sainte-Chapelle. Starting from the left and moving eastward, the windows depicted stories from Genesis and Exodus, continuing through the Old Testament and the Passion, and culminating in the story of Revelation. Essentially, the entire room narrated the biblical sequence of creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation. The room as a whole conveyed the story of the Gospel, the narrative of the beginning and the end!

Standing in the center of the room, I felt as though I was stepping into a Biblical Gospel story. The light streaming in through the windows, often interpreted as a symbol of divine light in medieval paintings, reminded us that these stories are more than mere tales; they are narratives that give life and provide coherence to all questions of metaphysical realities.

Upon leaving the Chapel, I realized that things could not remain the same. I had been immersed in the Biblical narrative, God's redemptive tale that spans from the beginning to the end of time. This narrative tells of God's love and the redemption of all creation in the upcoming kingdom. After experiencing this story, I knew that the implications of what I saw could not just stay within the building. The redemptive narrative should not be contained and confined to the walls of the church, but it should be lived and enacted in all areas of creation. As I exited the Chapel, I saw the Palais de Justice de Paris before me. There it was. The redemptive story should be practiced and enacted in the judicial system, bringing justice and making the world right the way it ought to be.

Continuing our journey, we encountered the city's beautiful gardens, bustling with people savoring life. These gardens inspired me to envision the heavenly garden-city that God will bring forth at the end of time. Then, we saw the beautiful light from the Eiffel Tower illuminating the city. Once again, this light was a subtle reminder of the presence of God's glory, illuminating all things in the kingdom to come.

In the midst of it all, I was reminded of God's words to the Prophet Jeremiah, "Seek the prosperity (Shalom) of the city." I was reminded that God is concerned with the city's beauty, flourishing, and shalom. He deeply cares about them. That's how God created the world to be at the beginning of all things. After the act of creation, looking at everything he had made, God said again and again in Genesis, "It is very good." Not just good, but very good.

Despite the beauty of Sainte Chapelle and the City of Paris, there were also signs of deep brokenness, including riots, street protests, homelessness, and refugees in need. As I observed both the beauty, which pointed to the new world, the kingdom, that is coming, and the brokenness of the city, I found myself questioning: How does God want us to live the Biblical story of redemption in the midst of this tension between beauty and brokenness? I felt as though God was sending a message, in the revised words of Jeremiah, to seek righteousness and renewal for the city by embodying and enacting the story of redemption in all things we do and in all spheres of the temple-cosmos, until God brings the narrative to an end on the day of redemption for all creation in the kingdom yet to come.

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