My wife and I travelled to France last week, visiting the beautiful region of Normandy and the bustling metropolis of Paris. While in Paris, we took a tour of the Catacombs of Paris, known by the official name as l’Ossuaire Municipal. Parisians often refer to the entire underground tunnel network below Paris as “the Catacombs”. The underground ossuary holds the remains of about six million people.
During Roman times, the people of Paris buried their dead on the outskirts of the city, but with the rise of Christianity most church members buried their relatives around the churches. As the city grew and the gravesites became overcrowded, there eventually became no more place to bury the dead. Also, mass grave sites, especially during the time of the plague created a problem from decaying organic matter entering directly into the earth resulting in an unacceptable situation for a city whose prime source of water was wells. In 1777, it was decided to use the underground abandoned stone quarry tunnels that were once used to get stone for buildings such as the great cathedral, Notre Dame. For the next several years, six million skeletons and remains were transferred to the tunnels. Skulls and femurs were arranged in tight order to become the configuration seen today. Opened to the public in the late 18th century, “the Catacombs” became a tourist attraction in the late 19th century.
Walking among the dead is gruesome to say the least. As we made our way through the tunnels with skulls and bones on both sides, I couldn’t help but think of the six million lives that once walked in this world. Men, women and children who were once filled with life and breath only to be stacked up for centuries in “the Catacombs.”
Sadly, many people in this world are walking dead people, living in the catacombs. They are alive in the flesh, but spiritually dead. Listen again to God’s Word:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. (by grace we have been saved). Ephesians 2:1-5
The Apostle Paul, speaking to Christians, says that we were all once “dead” in our sin. But God, who is rich in love, mercy and grace, made us – we didn’t make ourselves – God made us “alive” in Jesus Christ. For those who believe in Christ, we are born again and made alive in Christ. For those who don’t believe in Christ, remain dead in their sin, and remain “living in the catacombs of this world.” It is sad and gruesome to think about, but it is true.
May God bless you with His grace, love and truth!