The City Set On A Hill Cannot Be Hidden

In a New York Times article (November 20, 2013), David Dunlap wrote about the elevated park above Liberty Street in the rebuilt World Trade Center site, "that will command a panoramic view of the National September 11 Memorial." This "Liberty Park" will create "…a landscaped forecourt for the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church; to provide a gathering space for as many as 750 people at a time; to allow visitors to contemplate the whole memorial in a single sweeping glance from treetop level…."

It should not be difficult for anyone to see that Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center, a National Shrine of our Archdiocese, will truly be, as the Lord preached in the Sermon on the Mount, "the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14).

The "city set on a hill" or the "high city" is in fact an "acropolis," a word that speaks volumes not only to Greek Orthodox Christians everywhere, but to most people in the Western World. But the Greek word, ΑΚΡΟΣ, actually means "highest," "topmost," "utmost," and even "consummate." So an "acropolis" is always the citadel set on the highest point of any city, and throughout the ancient world, numerous examples can be found, even if only in ruins.

Now the resurrected Saint Nicholas is not located on the earthly highest point of New York City. However, it is certainly set on the sublime spiritual summit that witnessed the horror and the heroism of that pivotal day we know as 9/11. The elevated physical position of the church structure has tremendous implications for the mission and relevancy of the Shrine to New York City and to the world. Literally millions of visitors to the Memorial and Museum will pass by Saint Nicholas Shrine year after year. The opportunities for witness to the transcendent human values of the Orthodox Christian Faith are as many as those millions of pilgrims who will come to the World Trade Center to remember and to pray.

The new Saint Nicholas, like the Parthenon that graces the Acropolis, has the potential to inspire these millions. Many will enter the Shrine and light a candle. Some will kneel to pray and venerate the icons. Some will make it a point to make it their house of worship. Others will sit quietly and meditate. Still others will go to the bereavement space on the second floor to find solace in their own tradition. This sacred Shrine will truly be a house of prayer for all people.

And this will be the result of the mere physical presence of Saint Nicholas at the World Trade Center. But there is also the question of its wider mission, its ΔΙΑΚΟΝΙΑ and its ΑΠΟΣΤΛΟΗ.  The message of God's forgiving, mercy-filled love for every human person can be enshrined in this Shrine, through its programs, outreach, and everyday witness. And every member of our Archdiocese can partake in this mission. There is the solidarity of prayer. There is the participation in the special events that will define its goals. There is the shared responsibility of regular support. All of these and more will be available to every member of the Church and beyond.

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center is truly our "city that is set on a hill," our American Parthenon. We cannot hide it. We will not hide it. We will let it shine.