Remarks at the September 11th Memorial and Lighting
Dear Families of those lost on 9/11,
Beloved Co-workers of the Friends of St. Nicholas,
Dear brothers and concelebrants in Christ,
Beloved Trustees and Parishioners of Saint Nicholas,
Esteemed Members of the Port Authority and Government,
Honored Architects and Builders,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We have gathered tonight, on this eve of September Eleventh, to pay our deepest respects and condolences to the families and friends of those who perished on that fateful day, twenty years ago. Children have grown up without parents, siblings are yet bereaved, and parents have passed on to life eternal, still gripped by the loss of sons and daughters.
Our prayers for all of these souls is the meaning of this memorial, which – in a perfect world – should have never been necessary. But here we stand, all these years later, before our monument of faith, hope and love that will never forget their names nor the meaning of their lives – the resurrected Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.
As we pray and open our hearts to embrace those who mourn, who are blessed to receive comfort from God Himself, we also remember those whose lives were forever changed on 9/11. So many of the first responders and construction crews, who gave so much in those early weeks and months after the tragedy, were themselves lost in later years to the disease and hardships, which were the pernicious long-term effects of the terrorist attack. May they rest in peace as well.
To come to this day, when we light the Shrine for the first time, is truly a moment of great emotion. I hope and pray that this milestone in the rebirth of Saint Nicholas makes this anniversary a little easier to bear. I want to especially thank our construction teams, who have worked – literally around the clock – in order to make this evening possible. Their dedication and intense labors are a part of the expansive efforts of fundraising, international logistics, planning, negotiation, communication, and above all – prayer, that have brought us – finally, and so very swiftly, to this day. And in the midst of a pandemic that we still must contend with.
I would be remiss as well, if I did not express our deep gratitude to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and especially to our friend, World Trade Center Construction Director Steve Plate, who is with us today. He never lost faith in us. Truly, I cannot say enough for the good people of the Port Authority, who lost so many of their brothers and sisters on 9/11. They have been our dearest friends on this amazing journey.
The rebirth of this Church, as a Shrine for the Nation, is nothing less than a miracle of God. Through the mighty prayers of Saint Nicholas, we have arrived at this evening of prayer and remembrance, to send out a message of hope into the world.
For, my friends, the day of 9/11 was nothing less than the Passion and Crucifixion of our Nation. And the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas is our Resurrection. Like the dawn that glimmers, after the dark night of the soul.
This Church – this Shrine – stands before you today to tell the world that light will always shine on through the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it! Faith will always triumph over doubt! Hope will always vanquish despair. And love will always conquer hate.
As we say in the somber days of Lent:
Φῶς Χριστοῦ φαίνει πᾶσι! The Light of Christ illumines all!
It shines on all, brightens all, and purifies all. Because our Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of world! Tonight, even as we pray for the departed, we affirm our faith in the Resurrection. We honor those who gave the last full measure. For they realized the words of our Savior:
Μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ.
Greater love has no one than this, to sacrifice your life for your friends.
We light this Temple in their memory and in their honor. We illumine this Church because we are also called to be light for the world. And we let this Shrine glow with the glory of the Resurrection, because we are called to be the city set on the hill. And here we are, in Liberty Park, our little acropolis, preparing to kindle the unwaning light of the Risen Christ in our American Parthenon.
So now, I ask you to join me, to light a candle now, and let us dispel every shadow of the evil that was inflicted here in this place, and took so many of our loved ones.
Now lift your light with me to the immortal words of Pericles:
κοινῇ γὰρ τὰ σώματα διδόντες ἰδίᾳ τὸν ἀγήρων ἔπαινον
ἐλάμβανον καὶ τὸν τάφον ἐπισημότατον, οὐκ ἐν ᾧ κεῖνται μᾶλλον,
ἀλλ' ἐν ᾧ ἡ δόξα αὐτῶν παρὰ τῷ ἐντυχόντι αἰεὶ.
“For they gave their lives for the common weal,
and in so doing won for themselves the praise which grows not old, and the most distinguished of all sepulchers –
not that in which they lie buried,
but that in which their glory survives in everlasting remembrance.”
MAY THEIR MEMORY BE ETERNAL!
ΑΙΩΝΙΑ Η ΜΝΗΜΗ ΑΥΤΩΝ!
May the Light of Christ always shine in this place, and from this Shrine dedicated to our beloved Saint Nicholas, illumine the whole world.
Through his holy prayers, let us go forth in peace. Amen.