January 19, 2003
To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America:
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
During the past decade, I have been heartened to see a growing number of children in the parishes I have visited. What a joy it is to hear infants and toddlers who, even in moments of restlessness, cry out with a zeal for life! What a blessing it is to encounter older children and teenagers taking an active role in the life of the Church! And what an honor it is to see so many parents, pastors, and teachers who spare nothing to plant and nurture the seeds of a truly living faith in the hearts and minds of those destined to continue proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Living Word of God long after we, the "older generation," have received our eternal reward! Like the seasons of the year, the "cycle of life" continues, continually reminding us that, while our lives are precious indeed in the sight of the Lord, they must be no less precious in the sight of His People.
Sadly, there are many who have blinded themselves to this reality, who cannot -- or will not -- acknowledge how precious life is. In the years since abortion on demand was legalized by the United States Supreme Court, there have been many who have redefined life as anything but "precious," who brand the unborn as "potential human life" or, even less fitting, as the mere "product of conception." An entire generation has been raised to believe that, while life may indeed be precious in some cases, it can be "less precious," even downright worthless, in others. Despite amazing advances in scientific research and technology and information management, society's vision of life as something precious, much less sacred, seems to have regressed to a bygone era in which unwanted pregnancies were terminated by ingesting abortion-inducing potions and dissatisfied parents abandoned their unwanted newborns, leaving them as fodder for wolves and birds of prey.
Legalized abortion, however, is not the only challenge to the proclamation of all life as a sacred and precious gift from God Who is Life Itself. Under the guise of concern for "quality of life," one finds a growing interest in physician-assisted suicide, the "compassionate termination" of lives which have been deemed "unproductive" or "unfulfilled," and for providing a "dignified death" for those for whom life has become "unbearable" or "overly-burdensome." The mistaken premise that no one, not even God Himself, has the "right" to tell us what we can or cannot do with our lives or the lives of others has driven the disregard for human life well beyond the womb to the very edge of the tomb -- and beyond. And the growing fascination with cloning -- the creation of human life by humans themselves, with no involvement on God's part -- leaves one to wonder just how much more cynical our society can become. People of faith are hard pressed to imagine how a society which demands legalized abortion can, at the same time, demand the right to create human life in it's own image, quite apart from the Author of Life. We must not blind ourselves to the efforts to remove God from life's equation.
Today, we are once again being reminded of that dark moment in human history when abortion was legalized and given a "right" that its human victims were -- and continue to be -- denied. As Orthodox Christians, as the People of God, let us respond by renewing our commitment to declare, in every appropriate manner and venue, that all life, whether it be the life of an unborn child or that of an elderly hospice patient, is a precious and sacred gift from God.
I invite you to join me in proclaiming that the ever-growing array of "life issues," unleashed as by-products of legalized abortion, are simply variations on a theme that seeks to remove the One Who is Life Itself from those to whom He has given life. As we once again observe Sanctity of Life Sunday, let us share and appropriate into our own lives the zeal for life so readily shared by the many blessed children who surround us and who serve as a constant reminder of God's gift of life, not only in this world, but in the world to come.
Metropolitan Herman is the archbishop of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
Read this article on the Orthodox Church in America website (link closed).