Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah
January 24, 2010
Sanctity of Life Sunday
To the Venerable Hierarchs, Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
As Orthodox Christians, we strongly affirm the value and sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception to the final breath one takes. This affirmation is theologically based, in that each person bears within him or her self the image of God, and has the potential to fulfill that image by likening him/herself to God. To artificially terminate life is to transgress on that which is holy; it is unthinkable, a grave sin.
Every one of our churches and our homes bear the image of the infant Christ cradled in the arms of His Mother, an image that is supremely human, and supremely divine. It is the image of divine Motherhood, that the Son of God was conceived, borne and nurtured by His Most Pure Mother. God is thus revealed in the Motherhood of the Virgin; bearing us in Her holy embrace of love. This image also reveals God’s love for us, that he became like us in every way—a fetus in His Mother’s womb, an infant in Her arms, a little child. God has sanctified every aspect of human life, becoming what we are that He might make us like Himself.
As Orthodox, every aspect of our lives is iconic. Every child is an image of the Christ Child, every person an image of God. Each bears infinite potential to attain to the Likeness, to sainthood, to holiness. Marriage also is an icon, as the union of man and woman in the flesh blessed by God, and bringing forth the fruit of children, is an image of our union with one another in Christ in the Kingdom.
Christian marriage and family are the sacred context not only for the rearing of children, but as the basic core of our identity and reference point of stability. The family is the place where we are nurtured and accepted, find solace and consolation, and thus the faithful family becomes the place where these very human emotions and feelings are filled with grace and sanctified. Whether we are very young or very old, the family is the context of our life, in which we work out our salvation. We experience God’s Fatherhood, and divine Motherhood; we experience the nurturing love which becomes a participation in divine communion. And as we breathe our last, should we not remember the image of the crucified Christ, carried in the arms of his mother, in her grief, the grief of every mother for her child?
We affirm the sanctity of life, made holy by the incarnation of the Christ. We affirm that every stage of our life has been sanctified. We affirm marriage of one man and one woman as the foundation of the family, the image of our union with God, and the means of sanctifying the lives of all members of that family by the grace of love and divine communion.
These are desperate times. Our society is in despair. It is a despair that manifests itself in the breakdown of essential relationships, of marriage and family. Continued unemployment leads to hopelessness, and the breakdown of trust that one is able to provide; this leads to the breakdown of marriages, and the bitterness that goes with it. Returning soldiers, with posttraumatic stress just below the surface, enter into relationships that often turn brutal and abusive. Marriage, and the very family itself are in question, with the issue of homosexual unions. The majority of marriages end in divorce, and the majority of children grow up without fathers or mothers; and how many pregnancies end in abortion? Despair is the primary context which could make it even possible for a mother to destroy her unborn child.
We offer, always, the way to healing and reconciliation for those who have fallen short and fallen into sin, in an embrace of love. We offer hope to those who have lost hope through the guilt of sin. We offer consolation to those in sorrow. We offer support and guidance to build families that work out their salvation together, and become the rock and foundation of our culture. Through these things, re-incarnating Christ’s love and redemption in hearts, in real faces, in institutions of concrete service and healing, we offer hope to our people, our culture, our society, and through that hope, joy as we see God reborn in our lives and in those of all around us.
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
SANCTITY OF LIFE PETITIONS AND PRAYERS
These petitions are to be inserted into the Litany of Fervent Supplication as part of the annual commemoration of Sanctity of Life Sunday.
—Again we pray that You will grant to the people of this nation the will to do good, to flee from evil, and to practice all righteousness, making us respectful of life and sharers of Your blessings, caring for one another in mercy and truth.
—Again we pray that You will banish all evil from our hearts and wickedness from our laws, enabling us to be servants of Your holy will and performers of Your love.
—Again we pray that You will kindle in our hearts the will to care for the needy, to show kindness to the poor, to aid the homeless and help the helpless.
The following prayer is to be read after the singing of “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” for the second time.
Let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, Who are in the bosom of the Father, True God, source of life and immortality, Light of Light, Who came into the world to enlighten it: You were pleased to be conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of our souls by the power of Your All-Holy Spirit. O Master, Who came that we might have life more abundantly, we ask You to enlighten the minds and hearts of those blinded to the truth that life begins at conception and that the unborn in the womb are already adorned with Your image and likeness; enable us to guard, cherish, and protect the lives of all those who are unable to care for themselves. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with divine and infinite love. Be merciful, O Lord, to those who, through ignorance or willfulness, affront Your divine goodness and providence through the evil act of abortion. May they, and all of us, come to the life of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
“Blessed be the Name of the Lord” is then sung for the third time, followed by the usual dismissal.
The text of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah’s 2010 Message for Sanctity of Life Sunday may also be found in downloadable PDF format.
Liturgical petitions and prayers for Sanctity of Life Sunday are also available in PDF format.
Information on the annual March for Life in the US capital on Friday, January 22, in which Metropolitan Jonah, students from Saint Vladimir’s and Saint Tikhon’s Seminaries, clergy, and hundreds of Orthodox Christian faithful will participate, is available in a December 30, 2009 press release.