Sanctity of Life Sunday

OCA Chancery
Syosset, New York

January 22, 2006

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

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

Over the past three decades, we have heard a great deal about stewardship. Time and time again we have been reminded that the many gifts we have received from God—our time, our talents, our treasures, creation itself—must be managed wisely. Everything that we have, ultimately, belongs to God, freely given to us so that, in all things, God might be glorified.

Perhaps the greatest gift God has given us is life. When He spoke to Moses in the burning bush, God revealed that He is the very Source of Life—Life and Existence Itself. All life is an extension of and a participation in His life. As such, life must be respected, honored, seen for what it is: a revelation of the One Who is Life Itself, a gift given to mankind that ultimately leads us to become “partakers of his divine nature,” as Saint Peter reminds us.

As Orthodox Christians, we are called to wisely steward the precious gift of life. This means, quite simply, that any diminishing of life’s importance must be shunned, any willful acts that prematurely or unnaturally bring human life to an end must be loudly rejected and condemned. One cannot be a wise steward of God’s gift of life while, at the same time, supporting agendas that minimize this gift or see life as something expendable, unimportant, or “cheap.”

An entire generation of Americans has experienced—and, sadly, has come to accept—the notion that life is something held in mankind’s hands, rather than God’s. Every day, the number of innocent children being aborted grows. The acceptance of euthanasia as a means of providing “death with dignity” for those who are beyond medical help or terminally ill is gaining momentum. The call to expand the use of capital punishment is growing louder by the year. In the meantime, appropriate care for the elderly, the poor, the institutionalized, and the disenfranchised is becoming harder to find and is seen as a secondary issue, one that hardly involves the need for wise stewardship.

There are those who, right or wrong, have perceived that our nation is engaged in a “war against Christianity.” While this can be—and is being—debated, it is clear, however, that we are engaged in a “war against life.” And it is in this war that there is only one “exit strategy”—the recognition that all life is indeed a sacred gift from God, that it must be preserved and protected, and that it must be a priority for those called to be stewards of God’s creation. Persons of faith have been challenged to speak out, not “against” abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, inadequate care for the elderly and needy, but “for” life as a gift from God and a very participation in His divine nature. Our society’s failure to recognize these truths stands at the root of its readiness to accept such travesties; it is our calling to proclaim the truth, to reveal God’s presence and image in “the least of the brethren,” and to do all we can to ensure that life is protected on every level, at all costs.

Let us recommit ourselves to the God Who is Life and Existence, Who “is” and who “always will be,” and Who so lovingly shares His life with us. At the same time, let us recommit ourselves to the fundamental task of being wise stewards of the sacred gift of life, joining with the millions of other Americans who demand that life be placed back in the hands of the God Who literally died that we might live, in this world and in the world to come.

With love in Christ,

+ HERMAN

Archbishop of Washington and New York

Metropolitan of All America and Canada


Sanctity of Life petitions and prayers