The St. Nicholas National Shrine
Glory for Ashes
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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
From the first days after the horrific attacks on 9/11, there was mournful dread about the ashes that littered downtown New York, as if all joy in the world had been reduced to rubble with the destruction of the Twin Towers. The loss of life was so horrendous, as it says in the Book of Lamentations, that the entire Nation and the world sat in silence, dust and ashes covered our heads; we were girt with the sackcloth of grief, and our heads were bowed to the ground (Lamentations 2:10).
The suffering for so many has not dulled with the passage of time. The wounds are deep and the scars are painful. Even the rebuilt World Trade Center acknowledges this undying ache, for standing at the Memorial Pools, it is impossible to see where the water finally empties, as if the very memorial recognizes the unending sorrow of those who mourn.
This is why, my beloved friends, the Saint Nicholas National Shrine is such an important element of Ground Zero. For in the resurrected Church, the ashes of 9/11 are going to be exchanged for the spiritual comfort that we read of in the Book of Isaiah, which are the same verses with which our Lord Jesus Christ commenced his public ministry:
The Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort all that mourn; to give unto them glory for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord…. (Isaiah 61:1-3, ἐκλογή)
Our Saint Nicholas National Shrine has a mission of healing that comes from its very structure. The gleam of the Pentelic Marble in the daylight, and the glow of its dome and walls at night. The holy icons from the hand of Father Loukas, whose installation is now being completed, reflect the glory and beauty of Heaven itself. Saint Nicholas stands as a testament of healing and comfort for all those whose hearts were broken, who mourn and whose souls are burdened down with grief, who still taste the bitter ashes of that terrible day. And this, because of the mere fact of the rebuilt Church. But this is only the first step in our journey of faithful ministry and mission, whose apostolate will extend for generations to come. We will fill the Shrine with worship, with prayer, with music, with ministry.
My beloved friends and supporters of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine:
Each of you can continue to be part of this story, and participate in the mission of Saint Nicholas. By your prayers, and sharing the “good tidings” of the Shrine. And by your support of its ministry. Help us to give to all, who see this shining city on the hill, δόξαν ἀντὶ σποδοῦ, glory for ashes, and your souls will be glorious too.
With Paternal Love and Blessings,
Archbishop of America