January 18, 2004
To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America:
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
Every time we recite the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we affirm our belief in "the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life." We acknowledge that life is a precious gift from God, a participation in His very existence. Even as sin, and ultimately death, disfigured creation, God's love for those to whom He granted life remained steadfast, as He promised to send His only-begotten Son into the world to destroy death, to restore the living bond between Himself and His creation, and to proclaim that life, in this world and in the world to come, is sacred. Having completed His earthly ministry, Our Lord sent "the Lord, the Giver of Life," upon His People to sustain them and strengthen them in living in the image and likeness of their Creator.
All life finds its source in the One Who is Life Itself. Life did not simply "happen," either by design or by coincidence. The breath which enlivens and sustains every human being is that of the Holy Spirit, given by God as a sign of His immeasurable love for us. Rooted as we are in "the Giver of Life," it is our calling to witness to life as a participation in God's very being, as a gift to be valued beyond all others, and as a treasure entrusted to our loving care and stewardship.
We live in a time in which life is not always seen as a gift, divine or otherwise. For many, the Creator has been removed from life's equation, while that which is borne in the womb has been reduced to a "mass of tissue" with the "potential" for human life, and nothing more. The blessing of childbearing has been redefined in many circles as a "burden," an "inconvenience," a "setback" in attaining "fulfillment," personal goals, or professional pursuits. The "spirit" operating herein is a foreign one, hardly "the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life" in Whom we profess our faith. It is a spirit which fails-or refuses-to recognize human life as an extension of and participation in the life of the Triune God. And it is a spirit which has not only denied life to millions of unborn infants, but which also seeks to deny life to the chronically ill, the elderly, and others whose lives seem devoid of hope. The implications of this denial, to say the least, are frightening.
As Orthodox Christians, we profess the fullness of truth. As such, it is our calling to affirm the sanctity of life, not only with our words but also in our deeds. While we condemn abortion, euthanasia, and every other challenge to the sacred gift of life, we must not be remiss in proclaiming that life is something to be valued, something to be defended at all costs, something by which Creator and creature are intimately united now, and for all eternity. Pray that those who "hold life captive" might be touched to protect the lives of the unborn, the elderly, the infirm, and all who could find that the gift of life could be stripped away unwillingly. Engage in ministries which proclaim the sanctity of life to others who, without our efforts, may never hear the truth. Support those who have devoted themselves to wrestling with the spirit of our time which rejects the very "Lord, the Giver of Life." Comfort those who have fallen victim to abortion, offering a sign of divine hope and reconciliation. And strive, each and every day, to be an example of that joyful life so abundantly given to us as God's People, that those who have yet to experience God's countless gifts may "turn to Him and live." Working and praying together, may we open the eyes and hearts of those who have yet to embrace the Lord, the Giver of Life to see that life is indeed a sacred gift worth accepting and defending.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
From the OCA resources for Sanctity of Life Sunday. © 2004 Orthodox Church in America Office of Communication - firstname.lastname@example.org (link closed).