It will be two weeks this Tuesday since the attack on our Nation took place. It was an attack that even today, 12 days later, hasn’t revealed the loss of life because of the extent of the devastation. The emotions that we all shared have been overwhelming. The anger, a sense of vengeance perhaps to inflict similar pain on those responsible if not more has over taken many of us. Fear reached deep inside of us making it difficult to breathe. We were plastered in front of the TV’s as we watched the catastrophe unfold. When we weren’t in front of the TV we were on the phone sharing, crying and reaching out to our loved ones for support or making sure someone we knew that worked there was okay, or not okay. When we weren’t on the phone we were hugging our husbands, wives, children and loved ones especially tight. Then when we were in the silence of our own rooms & beds during the night, we prayed, and struggled in prayer with how these horrible events could have happened.
During his press conference yesterday, Mayor Giuliani once again encouraged Americans to pray. A reporter quickly asked, “What is the value of that (prayer)”. And he answered him rather well stating that it brings about a closeness and togetherness between people. Prayer also my beloved opens the lines of communication without Lord and our hearts. It is to be used not as a means of getting what we want, but rather, that our Lord gives us the strength to overcome the challenges before us. It is to be used not as a tool to make things go away, but rather, to search our hearts in how we can make a difference. In securing an answer to our prayers, we must be sure to listen to our Lord. Often times we get confused with what prayer should be and ask of God for things that we ourselves can do. It is said that there was once a young boy who heard his father offer a prayer before dinner for the hungry and poor of the world. When the father finished, the boy asked to his father, “Wouldn't it be easier if we just shared some of our food and money with the hungry and the poor?” We know that it is easier, but find it easier at times to pray for the needs of others than to reach out to them ourselves.
These past 2 weeks we have been challenged greatly. Not only has our resolve as Americans been tested, but also our response as Americans. As a nation, we passed with flying colors with the outpouring of support we offered, whether it was with our time, our talents or our treasures to the victims of September 11th. We came together as a nation, we came together as Orthodox Christians. That togetherness, united in Christ, has the power to over come any force. A counselor expressed it to me this way last week: A tornado has the strength to rip a towering oak tree right out of the ground, roots and all. But notice how the fragile blades of grass remain unharmed as they gently sway back and forth through the storm. We my friends are those unharmed blades of grass when we are united in Christ.
In my monthly pastoral letter for October, I shared some thoughts on the recent tragedy that has stricken our nation. I shared how St. Constantine was confronted with a terrible enemy in the early 4th Century. It was an enemy that would have destroyed his army as well as his empire. Our Lord humbled him with a revelation that changed the course of history and the Church of Christ forever. Just before entering battle, Constantine beheld a vision in the skies of the Cross of Christ with the words “In this, you conquer-En Touto Nika” etched on it. Constantine added the Cross to his army’s banners and shields, entered the battle and became victorious.
Today a new battle rages my friends. We don’t need a vision of the sign of the Cross to arm ourselves, for we have already been armed with the Cross of Christ. On the day of our baptism we were washed anew through the sanctifying waters of the baptismal font, we were anointed with the Holy Chrism, and we were armed with the “breastplate of righteousness” to ward off evil. The battle that rages is from terrorists against America and all that she stands for. At least7000 Thousands of innocent lives have been sacrificed and perhaps more will also in defense of our freedoms. Let us pray ceaselessly that our leaders will seek wisdom, discernment and a righteous justice in the eyes of God, in defending our God given freedoms that no one should threaten.
Let us indeed remain prayerful: prayerful for the young men and women who are protecting us, prayerful for the victims and their families. Prayerful for our own strength that we may not let the evil that has touched our borders discourage us from our families, our work, our Church, our activities. Rather, let us find a joyful strength by recommitting ourselves to our Lord by rekindling the Light of Christ that shines within us, the Light that we received on our baptism. Then we will find strength and the spiritual joy needed to continue to “fight the good fight” that is called life.
Much has been asked of us and much more will be asked of us. Our Esteemed Parish Council was asked to support the victims of September 11th and in a bold response they made a courageous and wonderful decision to sacrifice thousands of dollars from the Greek Affair (festival) to send to the victims of September 11th.We also asked for you to join us in offering prayers that first week. Numerous prayer services have been offered here at St. Luke’s as we invited anyone who walked through our doors to join us. 100’s of people came out from all walks of life and prayed as we held vigils during those services.
We said earlier how the reporter asked Mayor Giuliani “What is the value of prayer?” We have begun to see that value. I have seen the blessings of our efforts together as I witness daily how God’s grace is shining upon us, giving us strength and peace through these difficult times. Not just to get through these difficult times, but to rise from the ashes, stronger, more resilient and passionate than ever. Passionate not just toward our patriotism, but to an even greater extent to our faith and our Lord who holds us in the palm of his hand, cradles us, loves us, comforts us and fills us with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
May our good and gracious Lord, who is the Prince of Peace, fill your hearts with spiritual joy from above. AMEN