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Remembering September 11

Fr. James Kordaris

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This month we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross. Every September for the rest of our lives, we will remember the horrible events of September 11. And yet, as Orthodox Christians, we will also remember that three days later, the Church raises up before us the Cross of Christ.

How provident that the commemoration of this horrible tragedy will always be followed by the commemoration of the great victory of the Cross. We are reminded that what was once a symbol of horrible death has become, through the death and resurrection of Christ, a symbol of the love of God, hope that is greater than the darkest despair, and a symbol of power. As Orthodox Christians, we can't think of the Cross without thinking of the Resurrection. Evil and suffering appear to win at first, but then comes the Resurrection.

There have been and will be many memorial services and dedications as we mark the passing of the years. Several years ago, in a program held at ground zero, they spent over two hours reading the names of those who were lost. 2,801 names of real people --- with families and friends left behind. It brought home, in real terms, just how many lives have been changed forever by this tragedy. But there is a difference between commemorating with respect, and trivializing an event that destroyed so many lives and changed forever the way we see the world. It is important to remember how we felt in order to learn from it and to grow.

Yet in this day of hundreds of television channels filling the air for 24 hours, and every newspaper and magazine trying to find a new angle on the story, we commercialize and trivialize the tragedy. As an example, on the one-year anniversary, was it helpful to listen as Larry King interviewed Cher to get her personal views on September 11?

In the wake of the September 11 tragedy, and now the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, we have all found ourselves in the position of ministering to friends, relatives, co-workers and even strangers. Your ministry is where you are. You don't have to be a priest to have a ministry. God places you in situations in which He will use you. Just pray that His Holy Sprit will guide you. Don't worry about what you will say. Take the "YOU" out of it and let God work through you.

Often our ministry is simply a ministry of presence. We can just be present for those in need, as a silent symbol of God's presence and love.

The lessons of September 11 seemed at first to be about the mystery of evil, but it is really a lesson about our need for each other.

In the big picture, none of us will ever forget the images of courageous firefighters and police, all of whom lost friends and colleagues, or the hundreds of people attending to others or standing patiently in line to donate blood. The initial effect of this tragedy was to unite us. But after a while, much of the good will seemed to wear off.

In the memory of this horrible tragedy, we can still find the seeds of hope. If any good can come out of that terrible event, maybe it will be a lasting change in the way in which we live our lives.

The words of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address were read on the one-year anniversary of September 11, and the words seemed as though they could have been written for that day?

"?It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ? that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ? that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain?"

As we remember, we are reminded that life is short. We are called to recommit our lives to God as they were on the day of our baptism. We are called to be ministers in all that we do, and to treat one another with love and kindness ? not just for a day or two, but for the rest of our lives.

And if we do, as one woman who lost her husband that day wrote, "We will rise from the ashes stronger than anyone could ever imagine."

Rev. James Kordaris is Director of the Department of Outreach and Evangelism of the Greek Orthodox Church of America.

Read the entire article on the The Department of Outreach and Evangelism website (new window will open).

Posted: 10-Sep-05



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