To the Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we remember the day as a tragedy in the truest sense of the word. It is fitting to reflect on this catastrophe with great sorrow, sobriety, and prayer.
We remember the lives that were cut short in the collapse of the towers of the World Trade Center, the damage to the Pentagon, and the wreckage of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. There were almost three thousand people who never came home, taken from their family and friends who were left to grieve and try to make sense of their loss. Many more were injured and forever scarred, both physically and emotionally. Even those who were not present at the sites of the attacks have vivid imagery of that day come into their minds unbidden.
The repercussions of that terrible day have unfolded and consequences have been felt in all corners of the world. The pain of the terrorist attacks has led to the pain of the past two decades where we have seen “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6).
On this somber occasion I encourage you to consider with renewed faith the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soon we will celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
Look to the Life-giving Cross for healing, as God told the Hebrew people to look to the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Num. 21:4-9). Fixing our gaze on the Cross cures the serpent’s bite and reminds us that even great suffering cannot separate us from the love of God.
Recall that the Cross, an instrument of death, was revealed by God as the “invincible trophy” (Kontakion of the Cross) which puts evil to flight. By virtue of the Cross, the power of God is manifest and enables us to do difficult things — even forgiving those who carried out these appalling attacks.
Great tragedies in our world call us to repentance, and anniversaries like today remind us that we are sojourners and exiles here on earth (1 Pet. 2:11). We look with hope towards the Kingdom of God. Always do we, as St. Paul remarked, “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:16).
Let us continue to remember in prayer all those who lost their lives, the survivors who continue to live with disability, the first-responders who carry emotional burdens of that day, and the families and friends of the victims who have suffered their grief over these twenty years.
May the Lord bring His comfort to all.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada