Thursday, September 11, 2008
A Somber But Hopeful Commemoration
Dear Parish Faithful,
Today is the seventh anniversary of the deadly 9/11/01 terrorists' attack on our nation. As we commemorate that infamous event, we need to be thankful that another attack has not occured in the interval. At the same time, a complacent sense of impregnability for the future would only seem naive. Returning to the 9/11 of seven years ago, assuredly everyone can vividly recall just where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, and then the Pentagon. I was here in my office when Pat Pride called me up and told me what was happening and wondering if I was aware. I went into the church hall and turned on our barely-working television set that at least provided a dramatic narrative to support the barely-visible images. Realizing the magnitude of what had just occured and what was continuing to unfold with a nearly surreal quality, I in turn phoned presvytera Deborah to inform her, and then left for home. There then followed hours (which blurred into days) of watching the television with that horrific fascination that arises from viewing images of death and destruction. Countless images and stories of heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice offered some balance to the prevailing atmosphere of "gloom and doom."
On the evening of that unforgettable day, we held a Memorial Service here in the church that was somber, sober, and emotional. We prayed for the nearly 3,000 victims of that day and for their devastated families and friends. And on a daily basis, we have to pray for the victims of the wars that followed - combatants and civilians alike. On the one hand, tragedy and the ensuing loss of innocent human life leads us to questioning God's providence and presence. On the other hand, that same tragedy and loss lead us back to God for an underlying Reality that is able to absorb such loss and leave us with a sense of hope and meaning. A "closed universe" with no God is bleak and hopeless. What does the "future" even mean in such a universe? You may steel yourself to the blows of life, but endlessly gritting your teeth in the face of those inevitable blows is hardly a redemptive and healing process. With God, however, the universe is "open" to a future that is both redemptive and transformative. What God "allows" now in respect for human freedom and the vagaries of the human heart, though the consequences of that allowance may be an endless flow of tears, is promised to be "wiped away" in an eschatological resolution that we call the coming of the Kingdom of God. Christ is crucified with all the victims of human tragedy. His Cross is His solidarity with all human suffering. We may be reluctant to acknowledge it, but Christ died for our "enemies" also. His Resurrection is the pledge of an ultimate victory over death itself which Christians believe is the "sting of sin."
Heartfelt and respectful commemoration can also be hopeful anticipation of the gathered harvest of God's saving grace.