Sanctity of Life Sunday

Washington, D.C.

January 23, 2005

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America

For over three decades, hundreds of thousands of marchers have gathered annually in Washington, DC in mid-January to proclaim the sanctity of human life, to decry the tragedy of abortion, and to pray for its victims. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision made abortion on demand the law of the land, millions of innocent children have died, their lives snuffed out while still in their mothers’ wombs. There are those who have defended this practice on a variety of grounds, politicizing what is, in essence, a moral, ethical and spiritual issue. Endless debates as to whether the fetus is human life or merely “potential” human life, whether a woman has the “right” to determine what happens to “her body,” and whether abortion is a humanitarian act or simply murder have, over the last three decades, polarized the citizens of the United States and have affected everything from political campaigns to interfaith dialogues and relations.

Abortion, together with the other issues which challenge the fact that all creation is a sacred gift from God, cannot be separated from stewardship—the wise management of that which is freely given to us, yet which does not belong to us. We recognize this principle—or, more appropriately, this reality—at every Divine Liturgy, as we proclaim, “Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all.” Of course, for those who deny God or who reject Him as “Maker of all things, visible and invisible,” stewardship has no place in the ongoing debate. For those whose worldview eliminates the very need for a Creator or who see the universe’s origins as a matter of chance or process, there is no “gift,” for there is no “giver.” Hence, there is nothing to steward, nothing to manage wisely. All that exists is simply “inherited” for our personal use, employed according to our individual wills and whims, and enjoyed or rejected according to our personal assessment of what is “good” for us. Accountability to God does not exist in this worldview; as such, any responsibility for life, for the environment, or for our time, talents, and treasures rests solely with the creature, not with the Creator.

As Orthodox Christians, our concern for proclaiming and protecting human life cannot be separated from our call to stewardship of all creation. Human life, like the air we breathe and the water we drink and the natural resources we rely upon daily, is not only a gift from the Creator, but the very crown of His creation. The fact that we have been created “in the image and likeness of God” in order to become “partakers of His divine nature” reveals the sacred nature of life and demands our unswerving commitment to be stewards of this most precious gift. But as Orthodox Christians it is insufficient to simply protest the evils of abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and other denials of life’s sacred character. We must, above all, proclaim—and in many instances convince others of—the very presence of a loving Creator, without Whom life cannot be properly called a “sacred gift.” We must struggle to share a worldview which sees all creation, including human life from conception to the moment of natural death, as something worth saving and worthy of glorifying its Creator. And we must strive to become truly wise stewards of all that we have been given. In other words, while witnessing to the evils of abortion, we must never forget the more important and fundamental task of witnessing to “the Giver of Life.”

And so, brothers and sisters, abortion is indeed more than a political concern or a “contemporary social issue.” It challenges the very foundation of our faith and the very nature of creation and its divine Creator. If the world is to hear and learn the truth, it must hear it from us, as people of faith. And if the world is to understand that all life—that all creation, in fact—is a sacred gift, it will only do so if we, as wise and faithful stewards, share the Good News which has been entrusted to us.

While praying for those millions of innocent children who have lost their lives through abortion, let us pray also that those who have yet to see the sanctity of life will be open to the Spirit of Truth and acknowledge the call to stewardship of “God’s varied gifts,” that in all things He alone might be glorified.

With love in Christ,

+ HERMAN

Archbishop of Washington

Metropolitan of All America and Canada