New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
NEW YORK –Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America celebrated with faith and reverence the Feast day of Saint Nicholas, the Wonder-worker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, presided the evening before the feast day at the Archieratical Vespers at the Church of St. Nicholas in West Babylon and on the feast day at the Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing, NY, perhaps the largest parish of the Archdiocese, where many hundreds of faithful came to worship.
Protopresbyter Paul Palesty, the proistamenos of the parish, read the Archbishop’s Encyclical for the Feast of St. Nicholas, that included messages about the completion of St. Nicholas Shrine in Ground Zero.
“In connection with the National Shrine at the World Trade Center, however, the mention of Saint Nicholas has come to evoke the opposite feelings. A name that should be associated with holiness, peace, and prayer is instead linked with debt, corruption, and mismanagement. Angry voices have been raised against clergy and laity alike, without regard for involvement or responsibility. Some think that the priests and bishops are obliged to find money to complete the Shrine. The clergy, however, are not trained to be fundraisers or bankers. Their attention should be prayer and the ministry of God’s word (Acts 6:4).
The time has come to seek more actively the assistance of the Shrine’s holy patron. Perhaps what we have failed to do on earth, he can help to accomplish from heaven. Christ has given Saint Nicholas the power to right wrongs and provide for the needs, whether spiritual, medical, or financial. By his intercessions he raised a fallen sailor from the dead; surely through his prayers the work on our Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine can be resurrected once more and brought to completion.
I would ask, therefore, that in every parish of our Archdiocese, a Service of Paraklesis to Saint Nicholas be offered in connection with his feast. Let us seek the help of the Wonder-worker of Myra, asking for him to show us God’s power and provide that which we lack, until the church bearing his holy name stands once more at the World Trade Center.”
The Archbishop in his homily spoke about the blessed life of Saint Nicholas and his example for us in today’s circumstances. “… we call upon Saint Nicholas in a special way at his feast today. We ask that he would intercede; that he would show us the power of God; that he would prove to us, again and again, the truth of Christ’s words. Sharing his same spirit of faith, ‘we also believe and we speak.’ We proclaim our faith, that the Lord who glorified Saint Nicholas will raise up his fallen church to glory once more.”
IN GROUND ZERO
Later in the afternoon, Archbishop Elpidophoros visited the construction site of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center, and officiated at a blessing and sanctification of the water service (Agiasmos) in front of the church.
Immediately after, His Eminence followed by the faithful in attendance, entered the church for the blessing and sprinkled with the sanctified water the people and the construction. The Archbishop addressed everyone and reiterated his confidence in the completion of the church edifice: “I have complete and utter confidence that God is raising up His mighty hand to help us complete this divine work. We will move forward with all necessary openness and transparency and complete our mission here at the World Trade Center, to rebuild the Saint Nicholas Church and make of it a National Shrine.”
In his address, Elpidophoros said the construction effort to rebuild the church began full of hope and expectation, with the support of all the civil authorities. “Over forty million dollars had been raised. At last we were on our way. And then, two years ago to this very day – the day of the celebration of the life and legacy of the Wonderworker Saint Nicholas himself, construction abruptly stopped. Instead of completing the Church in 2018, as had been announced, we found our efforts stymied and frustrated.”
The Archbishop explained that he didn’t say these things to discourage people.
“Indeed, we should all take heart that by the intercessions of Saint we are still here, with the waters of sanctification today, to re-commit ourselves to this crucial and decisive project which is a holy and divine ministry and service to humanity. We remain firm and unmoved about our obligation to this hallowed ground – ground sanctified by the death of thousands of our fellow citizens of all races, creeds, and ethnicities. Let us never forget that the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas National Shrine is the single most important public affirmation of our Orthodox Faith in our American Nation, since the late and ever-memorable Archbishop Iakovos marched in Selma with Martin Luther King!”
He stressed that we will move forward with all necessary openness and transparency and to complete our mission here at the World Trade Center, to rebuild the Saint Nicholas Church and make of it a National Shrine.
“My friends, my brothers and sisters: we come here today to act with faith and with boldness to recommence the building of Saint Nicholas. We come here today to say in no uncertain terms that in 2021 – on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 – we will open this Church with prayer, thanksgiving, and with a welcome for all people!
2021 is also an anniversary of another event of immense importance for the Greek Orthodox people of the world – the two hundredth anniversary of the Greek Revolution. Much like the Heroes of 1821, we have had our setbacks. But against all odds and after four hundred years, the Hellenes rose up to claim their independence and their place among the emerging nations of Europe. The fight was long and arduous, with many and much sacrificed in the cause of freedom, but the victory was finally had. We too shall be victorious here at the World Trade Center, and Νικόλαος – “the Victory of the People” – shall stand as a testimony that Faith overcomes doubt, Hope overturns despair, and Love conquers.”