The City Set On A Hill Cannot Be Hidden

In a recent 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 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.


Additional Stories

Memories of St. Nicholas: A Refuge
Series titled "Memories of St. Nicholas" We headed to social media to ask people to share their memories of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church before it was destroyed on September 11, 2001. This story is about a worker at City Hall who frequented St. Nicholas.
Memories of St. Nicholas: A Treasured Place
Series titled: Memories of St. Nicholas. The story from an individual who frequented St. Nicholas during their lunch hour, celebrated joys, and commemorated their grandmother's one year memorial at St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas Ground Zero: Out of the Ashes, A New Symbol of Faith
The Church of St. Nicholas that will be built at the heart of Ground Zero replacing the one destroyed on 9/11 will make the most stirring statement that any house of worship has made in the United States in a long time. It will tell America in brilliant visual images what we are, where we come from, and where we are going. A fusion of the past and the future is what characterizes the new St. Nicholas Church. Calatrava has taken his inspiration from some of the great churches in Constantinople in creating his design.
A National Shrine for Everyone
The new Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero will be much more than a rebuilt parish. It will be a National Shrine of our Holy Archdiocese and a place of pilgrimage for our Nation and the whole world. This recognition, this raising of the consciousness of every member of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to the value and significance of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine at Ground Zero is just the beginning. Saint Nicholas will be the only House of Worship in the entire sixteen-acre rebuilt World Trade Center site.
Our American Parthenon
In her remarkable new book, “The Parthenon Enigma,” classical archaeologist Joan Breton Connelly fortuitously highlights the similarity between the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in the wake of 9/11, and the construction of that most famous of human monuments, the Parthenon. In the Persian sack of Athens in 480 B.C., the Older Parthenon, roughly in the same spot and yet unfinished, was destroyed in the fires that swept over the Acropolis. She writes of the motivations of Periklean Athens, a generation later, to rebuild the Parthenon:
A Tale of Three Churches: Part 2
Nearly eighteen hundred years ago, a famous man sardonically asked: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” As Orthodox Christians, we know that there is an answer and that answer is “Very much!” In the same way, we have seen that New York City has much to do with Jerusalem – as the world’s two most famous cenotaphs are located in each. But we began last issue with three Churches in our tale, and it is time now to include that third House of the Lord, and to behold how all three are intertwined in the work of salvation and history.
A Tale of Three Churches: Part 1
On September 11, 2001, in an act of terror and hatred, our Nation was attacked and three thousand of our fellow human beings were mercilessly murdered. The horrific deaths of the innocent victims of that tragic day were brought about by a hatred fueled by perverse and perverted religious views. In the face of the horror of that day, we all witnessed the heroic love of the responders who gave their last measure to save others. This altruistic love is at the heart of the rebuilding of the Saint Nicholas Church at Ground Zero, a National Shrine of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The City Set On A Hill Cannot Be Hidden
It should not 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).
Rebuilding St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church cast a reverent and faithful shadow on the World Trade Center. Greeks purchased the row house in 1892 as a community home, and it became the Saint Nicholas Church in 1916. For many Greeks immigrants, it would have been their first stop after seeing the Statue of Liberty and disembarking from Ellis Island. The little church was a spiritual jewel, open to all. Generations of New Yorkers stopped in to light a candle, say a prayer, or just sit quietly.
St. Nicholas: On this rock I will rebuild my Church
On September 11, 2001 the barbaric attack not only destroyed the majestic Twin Towers but also the tiny yet historic St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, located south of the second tower of the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of its destruction, very little survived: two icons, one of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos and the other of the Zoodochos Pege, along with a few liturgical items, a book, and some candles.