Sunday, September 11, 2016- St. Mary Magdalene remembered those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. After Divine Liturgy, Fr. Gabriel lead the parish in the Litany for departed, praying for the souls of all of the Orthodox Christians who lost their lives that day. A memory eternal was then taken for all of the victims.
Later on in the afternoon, several faithful parishioners went to the Fenton Fire Department for the unveiling of the city's new 9/11 Memorial. Fr. Gabriel led those close by in prayer and blessed the new memorial with the hopes that those that visited the memorial would remember the sacrifice of all those first responders who selflessly gave their lives to save the victims of this horrific attack.
Earlier on in the Divine Liturgy, Fr. Gabriel reflected in the sermon about the importance of this day and the effect that it should have on each and every one of us:
Today, we commemorate the anniversary of perhaps the greatest attack on our nation. It was an attack that shook this country to the core, killing thousands of American Citizens…our Brothers and Sisters in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 which crash-landed in Pennsylvania.
We remember this attack because it was unique to us. Nothing like this had happened in most our life times. We had never known this type of violence and attack, and only heard about them from our parents and grandparents, who told us stories of Pearl Harbor and the World Wars.
It was traumatic for all of us that day, no matter where you were, or how old you were, because it all unfolded before our very eyes. We didn’t hear about it in a newspaper clipping after the fact. We saw it all televised live…and many of us have the images of those airplanes flying into the buildings. We can still see the images of men and women jumping out of buildings, many of them making the sign of the cross before departing this life.
We remember what happened to us in the days after the attacks: the sobriety that was struck into all of our hearts, and how faith in the Lord God in this nation was revived. We didn’t know what the following days would hold for us…how many more attacks would we have to endure….what more would happen to us…there was so much uncertainty…so many questions.
For the first time in decades, people began to speak openly about how they took refuge in prayer, and how they allowed the Church to act as a blanket to comfort them during this time of uncertainty.
We remember this day the souls of our departed Orthodox Brethren, and all those others who perished that day, asking mercy from the Lord our God for them and for their families.
We will see today on the televisions, many images and pictures from those frightful days. We will relive many of them in our minds when we go to the memorial service at the fire station later on this afternoon…standing next to the first responders day after day, lay down their lives for their fellow man.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, today, we should not remember the attack, but instead remember the courage and pride that we had for all of those who denied the animal instincts of self preservation and demonstrated for us what it meant to be a human being…someone who sacrificed themselves for a complete stranger.
We saw this in countless videos from that day thousands fleeing from the danger, while 100s were running TO the danger, selflessly giving their lives for their neighbors. As so many were running out of the burning buildings, they were rushing in, climbing the steps to try and clear the way for those on the upper floors to run to safety. They would climb 10 floors in all of their gear, rest for a minute to catch their breath, and continue their climb to the 70th floor. Their thoughts did not dwell on how tired they were or what they were getting themselves into. Those first responders only thoughts, were the life and well being of those trapped above the damage that the planes had caused. They continued to climb higher and higher, freeing and helping more and more people along the way, until the ground shook and gave way.
While the millions of pounds of concrete and steel crushed down to the earth, our Lord caught those men and women, and for their sacrifice, took them to a place where there is no sickness or sorrow or sighing…but life everlasting.
My beloved brethren in Christ, the wealth that these first responders had while rushing into the danger, is the same wealth that our Lord wants us to achieve…a wealth of humility. We gain this by tapping into the spiritual life, and through prayer, transforming the way that we see what is truly important. When we enter into this spiritual existence, the draw to wealth and power begins to fade, and the importance of community and love takes shape. This is the life we need to strive for…the life that our Lord spoke of throughout all of the Gospels.
We are refreshed this day by the humility of the first responders, and we ask God to give us the strength to echo their courage in our daily struggle, putting the needs of others above our own needs, and echoing the selfless love our Lord had for us, when he laid down his life for sake of the entire world.