By Bill Derby
I found this historical bit of information I thought would be an interesting read before the Fourth of July. I was not aware of the inscription or have ever heard the words before. In our country today, these words have an even more important meaning. We need it!
In Washington, D.C. there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument. On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., are displayed two words: Laus Deo.
No one can see these words. In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn’t care less.
These words have been there for many years: they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of the United States of America, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia, capital of the U.S.A.
“Laus Deo” – two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.
Those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, mean, “Praise be to God!”
Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took 25 years to finally cap the memorial.
From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments. From that vantage point, one can also see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l’Enfant. A perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.
Why a cross? What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross – separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution.
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. Praise be to God!
When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848, deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of a unique democracy: “One Nation, Under God.”
Here is Washington’s prayer for America:
“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou 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.”
You may forget the width and height of “Laus Deo”, its location, or the architects – but no one who reads this will forget its meaning, or the words: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)