Reflection on 9/11
(The following talk was given by Fr. Anthony Hughes at the Islamic Center just outside of Boston, in Wayland, Massachusetts on September 11, 2003. Fr. Anthony was one of many invited clergy speakers who offered thoughts on the horrific events of 9/11/01. He is the priest at St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Boston, Massachusetts. As they remind us of God's humility and boundless love, we present Fr. Anthony's words on this solemn day for our country.)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
Please allow me to reflect theologically for just a moment on the events of September 11, 2001 from the perspective of the Eastern Orthodox Faith.
We do not for a moment believe that the terrorists enacted the will of God on that terrible day. It was not God’s will these men performed, but their own. God’s will is not the same thing as His foreknowledge say the Orthodox fathers. Simply because God knows something is going to happen does not mean that He has willed it to happen! Then, as fundamentalists in every religion do, they attempted to put their own face on the face of God and we all know what the end result is: they make gods of themselves and idols in their own image.
Above all things God is limitless, incomprehensible, unconditional and inexhaustible love. As paradoxical as it may seem, God, the All-Powerful, the All-knowing has revealed Himself to be also the Humblest of All, the Most Merciful, the Most-Compassionate.
We speak lightly of justice in this world as the ultimate value. But this is not so. It is not justice that heals the world, but mercy. St. Isaac of Syria, the great ascetical spiritual father has written these words:
"Do not say that God is just…God’s own Son has revealed to us that he is before all things good and kind. He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Where is the hell that could afflict us or the damnation that could make us afraid to the extent of overwhelming the joy of God’s love? In the place of what sinners justly deserve, he gives them resurrection. In place of the bodies that have profaned his law, he clothes them anew in glory…See, Lord, I can no longer keep silent before the ocean of thy Grace!"
What remains for us then, as people of faith, is to live lives full of mercy, peace, light, and beauty in this world, lives resembling God. Living such a life is risky. It demands that we give our all to values many do not share. A wise rabbi once said, “The messiah will come when one person in the world says yes to God.” For Christians that person is the Virgin Mary who risked everything for the healing of the world by saying "yes" to God and giving birth to His Son. We too must say yes, my friends, so that light may shine more brightly in this present darkness.