Making the Bitter Waters Sweet
We can overcome evil with good by looking to the example of the Cross.
Delivered September 16, 2001
In the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar the week of September 14, including the two Sundays preceding and following this date, are devoted to the remembrance of the Cross, a paradoxical symbol of death and life, humiliation and exaltation, suffering and hope.
In honoring the Cross, Christians honor the death of Christ, on the one hand, a brutal and inhuman death visited upon the most loving and innocent person who ever lived, and on the other hand, a mystery of self-sacrifice by which God marked a decisive step in the ultimate victory over the evil forces of sin, Satan, and death itself.
During the same week, America experienced another cross of horrific proportions. On a beautiful morning, two magnificent towers stood tall and gleaming, with thousands of people within them beginning the day's work. Suddenly, a plane crashes straight into one tower and explodes through it with fire and black smoke forming the rough shape of a cross. Then, after a brief time, another plane plunges into the second tower with the same horrific results. Two crosses of destruction and death visited upon countless innocent people.
In the history of Greek Orthodox people we know a "black Tuesday"--when the great city of Constantinople, the queen of cities, the center of a brilliant Christian civilization, was conquered and laid waste by an invading enemy. We now have a "black Tuesday" in American history--Tuesday, September 11, 2001--a day of cowardly treachery, a day of great tragedy, a day of unspeakable evil.
Why do such things happen? Why does God allow them to happen? Where is God in all this? We do not have the luxury of knowing all the answers. But three words--freedom, evil, and choice--may help us to understand in part the tragedy we now face, a tragedy not only of America but of the human family as a whole.
Human beings have been endowed with freedom to do good or evil, to be honest or deceitful, to speak the truth or to lie, to love or to hate. Freedom is the basis of human dignity and moral value. Sadly, human beings can instead follow the way of evil and hatred, the way of cruelty and killing. By abusing the gift of freedom, they inflict terrible pain and suffering on others and thus erect crosses of frightening dimensions. And they do these evil deeds by choice. They think about them. They plan them precisely. They carry them out with determination, evil will, and unfathomable hatred.