Beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We are fast approaching Great and Holy Week and the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our annual commemoration of this last week in His earthly life is filled with pain, with suffering, with remorse, and with unspeakable love and sacrifice. And when this Week of weeks is over, we pass over to the ineffable joy of Pascha.
But what is a week in the liturgical life of the Church has reached almost twenty years when it comes to the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. The aftermath of September Eleventh was filled with loss, pain, grief, and too many tears for the surviving families, for their friends and neighbors, for our Nation, and for the world. The Church of Saint Nicholas suffered for many years, as we struggled to find the way forward in order to rebuild. Just as Holy Week was no easy road for the Lord, the last twenty years have not been an easy road for Saint Nicholas. Yet now, after so much sacrifice, we are nearing the resurrection of Saint Nicholas, as a Church, as a Parish, and as our national Shrine.
For us, as Orthodox Christians, there is only answer one answer to suffering and death. And that answer is resurrection. Just as the only answer to hate is love. This is why we have given so much effort to the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas over these last two decades. We are not simply rebuilding the parish that was on Cedar Street, the wonderful little Church that stood its ground decade after decade. When so many pushed the Church to sell its tiny parcel of land and move – even Church authorities. But the faithful stood their ground, never imagining that the Twin Towers, in whose shadow they worshipped, could ever be brought low. Perhaps they knew something then, deep in their souls, about the future of Saint Nicholas. Perhaps they recognized that Saint Nicholas would one day play a much larger role – not only at the World Trade Center, but in our national consciousness.
Indeed, the resurrected Saint Nicholas National Shrine will be a worldwide ministry of our Holy Archdiocese – to all people. We will reach out with the Good News of Christ Jesus and His Glorious Resurrection from this glowing beacon of hope in Liberty Park. We will bring the message of our Orthodox Christian Faith to the Nation and the world in ways we could never have foreseen. But God, in His eternal Providence and good Will has seen fit to bless the Greek Orthodox People of America with this extraordinary opportunity to preach the Gospel.
My brothers and sisters: as you prepare to enter this Holy Week and encounter the Lord Risen from the dead, I ask you to pray with me for the completion of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine, and for the mission that this extraordinary Church will engage. When we behold Saint Nicholas risen form the ashes of 9/11, we will all rejoice in that day which the Lord has made!
With paternal Blessings in Christ and Καλή Άνάσταση,
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America