2/15/2010 9:43:32 AM
On one side of the four-sided aluminum cap atop the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. are inscribed two words: Laus Deo. Like the permanent smile carved into the face of a stingray that spends its life on the ocean floor, no one but God ever sees them. Tens of thousands of visitors pose for pictures oblivious to the words that stand overhead. It makes you wonder just how much is going on “over our heads,” out of our range of perception, beyond the reality that we see? Laus Deo.
Perched invisibly to humanity atop the monument there they stand, 555 above the ground. These two words cast their declaration of faith over the 69 square miles that comprise the District of Columbia, capital of these United States. In bold relief silently declaring that whether we like it or not, we are in fact, a nation under God. Laus Deo!
Photo courtesy of www.senate.gov
Laus Deo! Why place these two words at the highest point over what is arguably the most powerful city in the world? Why place them so far out of sight that they would risk also being out of mind? What do they even mean? These two words, four syllables, seven letters? Laus Deo, “Praise be to God!”
Construction of the Washington monument began in 1848 when James Polk was President. When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4, 1848 deposited within it were many items, including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. The capstone was finally set in place on Dec. 7, 1884, the monument was dedicated on Feb. 21, 1885, and opened to the public on Oct. 9, 1888. Forty years. Laus Deo.
Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message. On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore; on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians; on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6. Laus Deo.
Once you get to the top you can take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments. From that vantage point, you can easily appreciate the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l’Enfant who envisioned the city in the shape of a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape. The White House stands to the north, the Jefferson Memorial to the south, the Capitol to the east, and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. Laus Deo.
On this President’s Day it seems reasonable to listen to the echo of one of the prayers for the nation by her first President, George Washington: “Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Tho you wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Laus Deo!
On this President’s Day, let us pray with the president for the nation and let us pray for our president that he be a man after God’s under heart, a man of God’s word, a man led by God’s Spirit, a man under God’s authority, a man within God’s will, a man who follows God as he leads this people into the future filled with hope God has planned. Laus Deo.