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Motto: “I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil”
[I epistle of St. John 2:13]
By Rev. Fr. Basil (Vasile) Mihoc, professor of theology
My beloved, victory requires struggle. There is no victory without a battle. We live in a world where it is desired that people, and especially the youth, may be defeated in their struggle and “freed” to become enslaved.
If we observe the demonic work around us, we can see its deception for it wants to give us the impression that in fact, there is no need for a spiritual battle. Many passions are now proclaimed as the norm and it’s no longer desired to fight against them! The enemy hides itself but is at work: “I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil” says St John, the apostle of love. The enemy has become very cleaver and it gives us the impression – in various ways – that there’s no need to fight.
In our times, even some churches proclaim a Christ that is nice and sweet, a “new Christ” that accepts man’ sins as normal and unfortunately many so-called “churches” have fallen into this trap. In the West, there are church’ leaders that proclaim loud and clear that the sins against human nature [i.e. homosexuality] are normal. Why not accepting gay couples as normal or why not have priests possessed by such ugly passions? Why not a “Christ” that is a nice guy?… So they’re troubled when they encounter Orthodox Christianity and see icons that depict a Christ who is too serious!
Recently, I was asked by an Orthodox layman, why Christ doesn’t smile in our icons? … so He can look cute. Our Christ is too serious!
My beloved, Christ is serious for He sees the wickedness of the evil one and to what extent we are affected by it!
Life is a serious thing and it involves battle against evil. If you are not aware of this struggle you are the victim of the devil.
“I write unto you young men, because you have overcome the evil one.” – again, victory implies struggle. Any serious thing in this life is gained through hard work! Through a disciplined battle, an ascetical struggle as St. Paul puts it: “He who strives for an earthly crown practices self control…”
But the Apostle of love [St. John the Evangelist] continues:
“I wrote unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one”.
We can say that this second word of the apostle addressed to the youth comes with details on this victory. The victory doesn’t just happen by itself.
“I wrote unto you, young men, because ye are strong” – do we realize the youth that the Apostle John was referring to, when he wrote these words? A strong youth!
It seems that we do not know many strong young people today!
Today’s youth seems very fragile spiritually as they are systematically weakened, almost programmed, I may say. Today, we live in a world that weakens the spirit, the people and of course it exercises this the most on our children, in our youth. In order to be strong you need to be strengthened.
There are young people who dream to have strong muscles – so they exercise their body. Sure, this is not a bad thing if it’s done in moderation. But very few young people long for the spiritual strength, the saintly’ strength of an athlete in Christ!
Many long for adventure and dream of a life full of interesting things…
I’d like to tell you that the most exciting adventure is a life lived in Christ. If you desire a life full of wonderful surprises then begin a life in Christ, which is a narrow path in the beginning but it expands as you travel on. This path begins in your heart, the point where Christ meets you and as you advance on it, it widens to the infinite, reaching the Kingdom of God.
The path of sin is broad and it seems wide at first, but it continuously narrows until it reaches a dead-end, where there is no way out.
The narrow path however, requires discipline, struggle and seriousness but by advancing on it, it will reveal itself in its lovely infinity.
So, do you think you’re strong?
To become strong one has to be fortified by the means that we Christians been offered by the power of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. “You are strong and the word of God abideth in you”.
In fact, the explanation follows in Matthew 13 in the parable of the sower; in this parable, it is said that the seed is the word of the kingdom, so we call it God’s word, but in Matthew, it is especially called “the word of the kingdom”.
Does this word “Kingdom”[Βασιλεία του Θεού or vasileia tou theou] or the Kingdom of God interest you, does it find any meaning in your lives today?
Some have devalued its meaning as we see in some places, the houses of the kingdom or the Jehovah’s homes. So, for many the word “kingdom” [βασιλεία – or Vasilia] has lost its meaning.
My beloved, let it not be so! The saving word of Christ is the “word of the kingdom”. We must also consider its substrate [βασιλεία]which in Aramaic is “Malkuta” or the “word of the kingdom of God”! God is accepted as King, He reigns, but this implies that we are reining with Him! It’s an adventure to become king, isn’t? The Lord calls us to this adventure – to reign with Him in His Kingdom!
This word must remain in us… The parable in Mathew gives us a lesson, saying that the seed of the word is often stolen quickly once was sown on stony ground or among thorns. Only some of the seed falls on good ground and bear fruit, one 30, other 60, and another 100 fruits. When St. John the evangelist talks about the youth that is strong, he means that “the word of the kingdom” remains in this youth, and it is not easily stolen, or stifled. It is His word that is germinating, growing, blooming and bears fruit within us. When the word of God abideth within you, says the Apostle, you have overcome the evil one.
Every time we say the Our Father, we ask to be delivered from the evil one!
“You have overcome the evil one” – the devil is this evil one that lurks our lives, our eternal lives, but also this physical life. He wans us to become lost on the way.
My beloved youth, we are called to a victorious battle! We confess Christ as the One who overcomes evil. On the Holy Cross we read these inscripted words: Jesus Christ NI KA – Jesus Christ who overcomes [conquerors]. He calls us to be victorious in this fight with Him, in this adventurous wonderful battle for the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Elder Arsenie Papacioc of Romania, blessed memory, was part of the great generation of confessors for Christ that had suffered much while imprisoned for their faith under the atheist [communist] regime of the east. His words, not academic but rather simple, down to earth, have great authority as they are spoken from an experience of suffering and with a burning love for everyone.
On Charity/ Mercy
With God there is no past evil, where there is a good present.
When God forgave you, it means He forgave you for eternity.
God keeps us not that we are worthy, but because He is very merciful.
My brothers do not ignore a begging hand, or one that offers help.
Charity is not only to give something. It means to accept the man sitting next to you, without casts him out in your mind.
In having pity on others – it shows our likeness to Christ.
The beggar stretches out his hand not to ask, but to give you the kingdom of heaven, and you do not notice!
Lets remember my brothers: beggars are biblical characters!
Do you want to get rich? Give everything you have! And you’ll receive a hundredfold!
Man doesn’t account much when he receives, yet he remembers when he gives.
Learn to live not only in you, but to live in [for] all who are with you.
The mercy of God does not abolish hell [judgment].
We need to love much! For Christ is commanding us!
Lets be attentive, love is the criteria of [the last] judgment!
When Christ asked us to love, He also gave us the strength to do it.
We should love our pain [sorrow] and those that caused it.
You are free and have the possibility to climb [grow], if you do not hate.
Our hearts must always be free for Christ.
This world is not evil; we are at fault for we do not know to love.
The hate of your neighbor is the most devilish work.
If you would try to love people as you love Christ, then you’ll no longer see the wrongs of your neighbor.
Know that the love for the enemies is a commandment. We ought to boast them in our heart.
One question is justified, let us all ask ourselves: “Do I love or I do not…?” – for it’s a commandment, my brother! Do not think that our Savior spoke only to the people of His time or to His apostles. No… He spoke for all men and for eternity.
Instructions to the Priests
Fathers, the great battle is to heal their wounds, not to apply penances. We defile His sacrifice on Golgotha when we refuse to absolve those with grievous sins when they repent.
The Canons of the Church are a great guidance. But you are to use them with elasticity [iconomia].
It is said that the deer will not run well for two reasons: when she is too fat, or when she is too weak. Too much asceticism can weaken someone, but also indifference and non-engaging could “fatten” man.
Personally, I’m not for penances that require a lot of time and physical effort.
Penance means the possibility to repent, to commit that sin no more, to struggle not to fall again.
A good penance is to look at the penitent as at someone you love!
We need a … continuous state of love.
We must have “the need” to love. There is never someone near you by coincidence [in vain]. He is there, by God’s providence.
A spiritual father accounts for his child’ weakness.
God does more for our salvation than Satan for our destruction.
Outside the Church, there is no salvation! Hell exists only outside the Church.
He who can do good but does not do it, commits sin.
Only the devil cannot be saved.
Without God’s grace, it is impossible to be saved only by your actions, no matter how great of an ascetic you may be.
It is the Cross that saved mankind! Not God’s justice or His miracles, but His Cross! When Jesus was crucified, Satan was defeated.
I do not see how fasting alone can give us hope for salvation. Humility rooted deeply in our hearts and freedom from resentments, are hopes for our salvation.
What we’re being asked first is: the will to overcome temptations. And by praying to God, His grace will not abandon us.
Heaven is full of repentant sinners.
We ought to strive for the world to be saved, with everything we’ve got!
So every day we may gain eternity. That’s our ideal.
Our Saviour was not crucified only for a “category” of sins, but for everything that means sin on earth.
And He gave everyone the strength to avoid hell, yet He descended into hell.
And those from hell, He also loves. But they are whipped by His love, by His justice. And what Christ did not do to save us from hell?
Fear of death is not caused by death but by life. If you want not to fear death, live as a Christian!
Only those who don’t live in Christ, fear death!
Man, in his foolish pride and suffering, wants all heaven in a moment!
There is no sense or purpose, if there is no God.
We too can overcome the world, not by our power but by His.
Nothing is lost, as long as our faith is alive!
Life it is too precious to be spent in vanity.
On Marriage and Family
When we say during the Holy Sacrament of Marriage’ prayers, that the woman shall be subject to her husband, the husband must also take heed when he is told in the same prayer, that he must love her. If he does not love her, she will not obey him. Man, by not listening to this word, becomes responsible for the woman’s stubbornness. The woman must also not forget that this obedience is her way to salvation. And if the man is the head [of the family] then the woman is the heart, and this heart is made by God that He may find rest in it!
Nothing is better than a good [hearted] woman and nothing is worse than a fallen woman. So husbands, you must labor with all your power to transfigure her.
Love joins everything in the two. This is the symbol of the wedding ring.
A marriage done just for pleasure has no meaning. Marriage means reaching together into eternity.
It is the married woman that gives birth, raises and educates the child.
We cannot accept by any means that the woman will have an abortion… It’s a great matter for she will murder an unbaptized man. We must always ask ourselves: what Christ would’ve done in this case?
Family remains the best instructor.
On the Holy Eucharist
The Eucharist will perfect you; it won’t forgive your sins.
The man that prepares can commune often, but he must be given a time for repentance first. For indeed who is that prepared for such wonder?
Some neglect the mystery of confession and use it just as a pretext to commune.
On Christian Suffering
My dear, suffering is a gift from God!
The mission of Christ on earth was to save the world through suffering, so suffering brings much humility.
It is a mistake to run from your own suffering. You are truly free only when you are struggling, when you are present on the cross.
Suffering brings deep wisdom and make you reflect more seriously on your salvation.
A question arises: how is our heart responding to the suffering around us? The greatest thing we’ll be asked at the last judgment is: “Why have we not paid more attention to our neighbor?”
On the sin of homosexuality
God had punished it by fire! (Genesis 19: 24-25). It is the most grievous sin! It is said that this sin urges The End!
I mean those sins will bring judgment sooner over the world. Save yourself my brother, for many are falling… It’s the word of the Holy Fathers that this very serious sin, of sodomy (homosexuality) brings swiftly Judgment … We are now in an advanced stage, as the West already officiates sodomy (same sex marriages)! …
I’m not sad that I’m an old man! I do nothing for myself. Everything that I do, I do it for God and for His children.
I’m not all for a great asceticism. I lean more for a great vigilance! For it is not asceticism [in itself] what God wants from us but our broken and humble hearts, His continuous presence in our lives.
I’ve experienced many things in life and have seen God’s wonders; “I saw the invisible God, I experienced Him!” Our world today strives to see only His contour; she wants to touch Him in a carnal form.
The Mother of God represents the human race.
Lets get accustomed to the authority of the words of the Holy Scripture.
Peace is greater than justice.
There is no one thing from what Christ spoke that it cannot be fulfilled.
Our life is our witness! And we ought to confess the Truth, wherever we are.
No matter where [who] we are, we’re all are unprepared, and it’s only by God’s grace that we do the things that we do.
If you’re vengeful, you’ll be indebted to God. But if you ‘resist not evil’, then God “owns” you.
We must refute immediately all [evil] thoughts that come to mind, and they will come until our last breath.
God’s will not delay His help if we’ve purified our heart.
Often, you compare yourself with the man you call evil! Why don’t you see comparing yourself to St. Peter and Paul, or with Saint Siouan the Athonite [of Mt Athos]?
If you went to ask the advice of a bishop or of a man [abbot] of God, know that the answer will come from God not from that bishop or abbot. If you complained about it, know that is God that you slandered.
Elder Cleopas was great father! A great chancellor with much knowledge and also of detail! He created a spiritual era. He leaned more towards an ascetic work with strict fasting, prayers and tears of repentance; I’m more for watchfulness [awakening].
Believe in God, love the church and follow the [spiritual] fathers of the church. Walk your life on the road of humility. Acquire a good name near Christ. Insist more in prayer. You’ll be free only when you walk with love towards those who hate you! Stay still in Christ for eternity…
(Translations by EC)
Traditional Christian leaders have often shown the multiple wounds of Western societies, where the family was dethroned and humiliated by irresponsible legislation. Traditional family has been the foundation of healthy societies, without which the whole civilization will collapse. Despite this, family as the primary institution of human society is constantly under attack by governments and now “churches” that have anti-human ideology.
In the West, the traditional family is attacked by fornication – cohabitation outside marriages, divorce, hedonistic massive secularization and permissive legislation, while in the East, the family is attacked in her monogamous nature, equal dignity of the spouses, and promoting a family based on consumerism.
The homosexual “marriage” that threatens the social foundation of the United States and other Western countries is another scourge to the future of humanity.
Since 2005, eight governments have legalized same-sex partnerships, raising this sinful anomaly to the dignity of marriage. Changes in the law have made divorce a very convenient alternative but with disastrous consequences for children and parents alike. For Christian morality, divorce is a lost cause, most countries allowing it with the exception of Vatican and the Philippines.
Abortion, contraception, fornication, pornography industry and so on… constitute a true threat to the traditional Christian family.
The effect of this reality is frightening: in 20 years the sociologists estimate that natality will be reduced to zero, the immorality will cause a rapid aging of the population – especially children, while homosexual partners will be entitled to adoption.
Several Christian leaders have warned that society will face extinction sooner than expected due to the massive pandemic of “disrupted erotic behavior” coupled by a culture of death.
We remember Christ’s words referring to the End of the world “abomination and desolation will stand in the holy place”.
A well renowned Greek theologian several years ago said that “all these outline the transformation of our world in a huge city of Sodom /Gomorrah”. Does anyone anticipate its end?
Abortion: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the Sanctity of Human Life
Each human being is unique creation of God. Each one of us has never been before and will never be again – throughout all eternity each human being who is, has, and will be conceived is unique.
By Rev. Deacon John Protopapas, Executive Director,Orthodox Christians for Life
The Orthodox Church regards abortion as premeditated murder. As such, She strongly opposes it because God demands the protection of all innocent human life, including that of the unborn child. The humanity (personhood) of that child exists from conception, a scientific fact that has always been recognized and unquestioned in Orthodox theology from the very beginning. Indeed, conception and not birth is the moment of the union of soul and body.
The Early Church – of which the Orthodox Church is a living witness – expressed a disgust and horror of abortion at any stage of pregnancy; it always regarded it as abhorrent and an abomination before God because it is the killing of a human being.
The present-day Orthodox Church’s teaching on abortion can be directly traced to the earliest written Christian document, the Didache (late 1st Century), constantly reiterated through the centuries in Patristic writings and canon law, and finally compiled in the Photian Collection which was adopted as the official ecclesiastical law book of the Church in 883 A.D. and is still in effect today.
The canons of the Orthodox Church consider abortion as premeditated murder and all those who participate in the procedure – that is, those who perform, promote, prescribe, advocate, support and undergo abortion – as murderers. For the penitent, excommunication of periods up to ten years are still prescribed – the same as for any repentant murderer.
The Source of Christian Teaching
The teaching of the Orthodox Church on abortion is not arbitrary or the result of a monastic “anti-feminine attitude.” The preciousness of pre-natal human life can be traced throughout both the Old and New Testaments and Jewish Talmudic tradition. It is even expressed in our modern worship services on the feast days. The principle theme in the Church’s understanding of the sanctity of human life is the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God as illustrated in the Genesis account –
“. . . then the Lord formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (ruah), and became a living being. . .” [Gen 2:7].
The breath of life (ruah) is a special gift that God gave to Adam directly and is not given to the animals (Gen. 1:24-30). Very clearly, man is not just a superior animal, but a very special creation of God.
Throughout the Old Testament man is revealed not only as a special creature, but as coming into being for a purpose:
Jeremiah 1:5 the prophet was set aside: “Before I was formed in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you and appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”
The Messianic passage of Isaiah (49:1,5) which prefigures Christ: “The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named Me by name . . . and now the Lord says who formed Me from the womb to be His servant. . .”
In Psalm 139:13,16, the Psalmist details an intimate relationship between God and man:
“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mothers womb…Thy eyes behold my unformed substance; in thy book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. . .”
A similar theme can also be seen in Job 10:8, 9, and 11.
The basic ethical/moral principle on the sanctity of human life which forbids the taking of innocent human life appears in the commandment of Exodus 20:13 which is usually translated, “Thou shall not kill.” However, the Hebrew word for here is “ratasch” which means an intentional and unjustified killing of a human being; the words for accidental deaths and killing in self defense are “katal’ and “harag.”
Thus, the commandment should be more correctly translated as, “Thou shall not murder.”
Abortion was common in many cultures of antiquity but not with the Jews.
Though there is no specific condemnation of abortion in the Old Testament, biblical researchers have found no reference to non-theraputic abortion in any of the texts through 500 AD. In Jewish tradition, deliberate abortion – like the pagan practices of exposure and human sacrifice – was unthinkable. In fact, when the Jews did revert to these pagan practices – as in the time of Jeremiah – they were severely punished by an angry God.
The first direct reference to the death of an unborn child is in Exodus 21:22- “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as a woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.”
The two theological “schools” in ancient Judaism were the majority Alexandrian – which required punishment for damage to the fetus depending upon its state of development – and the Palestinian – which only required punishment for any harm to the mother. Both schools addressed the personhood of the unborn from a legal rather than a moral aspect and their discussions centered on either accidental or therapeutic (necessary) abortions. No moral implications can be drawn from these legal debates, but it is important to note that both condemned deliberate abortion as disrespect for life and the shedding of innocent blood. The real distinction between the two concerned the severity of the penalty for an accidental or therapeutic abortion.
The fact that human life is a precious in the sight of God is illustrated in Genesis9:5-6: “For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own image.”
Even if an animal killed a man, it was put to death. However, this is a profoundly interesting passage for another reason: the second sentence is rendered by many Orthodox Jewish rabbis as: Whoever sheds the blood of man within man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” The phrase “man within man” is understood to refer to the unborn child. Consider this passage in context with the rest of the verse: Whoever sheds the blood of “man within man” (man by man) shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”
Taken in its totality, it is easy to discern why modern Orthodox Jews prohibit abortion with very few exceptions. The Jewish abhorrence of the shedding of innocent blood and their respect for human life – including that of the unborn – was the foundation for the Christian doctrine on abortion.
Another dimension of the reverence for human life can be seen as St. Paul declares that the body is the dwelling place of God, likening it to a temple: “Do you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” [1 Cor 3:16-17]; “. . .for we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them, and move among them, and I will be their God. . .” [2 Cor. 6:16]
“Do you not know that your bodyis a temple of the Holy Spirit within you which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [1 Cor. 6:19-20]
Within Man’s being is a place of residence for God’s Spirit, something again unique in Creation. Thus Man exists at the intersection of the spiritual and physical worlds – between heaven and earth – and, as a creation of God, is worthy (axios) to worship, adore, and be in communion with Him. Man is much, much more than merely a rational animal. He a worshipping creature – “Homo Adorans,” as Fr. Alexander Schmemann has described him in “For the Life of the World.” Man, then, is a unity of the material and the spiritual. Scripturally, the whole man prays to, adores, and worships God and, so, Man is a creature uniquely created to love, worship and be in communion with God as is no other part of Creation.
If we turn to the Festal cycle, the consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is strikingly manifest especially in three important Feasts: The first is the Feast of the Conception of John the Baptist (September 23) in which we sing: “Rejoice, O barren one, who had not given birth; for behold you have clearly conceived the one who was about to illuminate the whole universe, blighted by blindness. Shout in joy, O Zacharias, crying in favor; truly the one to be born is a prophet of the High!” John the Baptist existed as a human being and a part of God’s plan of salvation from the moment of his conception.
The second is the Conception of the Theotokos (December 9). Here the vesperal hymn proclaims: “Behold the promises of the Prophets are realized for the Holy Mountain is planted in the womb, the Divine Ladder is set up, the great Throne of the King is ready, the place for the passage of the Lord is prepared . . .” It is notable that both Elizabeth and Anna were advanced in years and barren. Thus they were considered “cursed” in the Jewish tradition where children were a sign of God’s blessing. (Consider that mind-set with our own of today and how God’s Plan is being affected by the hundreds of millions who will never participate in it.)
The quintessential Feast illustrating the Church’s belief of the importance of human beings from the moment of conception is the Annunciation (March 25) which is so important that a Divine Liturgy must be served even when it falls on Great and Holy Friday! The Annunciation Troparion makes a most profound statement:
“Today is the beginning of our salvation, the revelation of the eternal mystery! The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin as Gabriel announces the coming of grace…”
This is a far cry from the “pro-choice” rhetoric of “Who knows when life begins?” or the degradation of the unborn by calling him a “blob of tissue” and a “product of conception.”
Can any Christian seriously propose that Jesus Christ was ever a “blob” or an appendage of the Theotokos’s body?
At the Great Compline the hymnography makes this astonishing claim: “…O marvel! God has come among men; He who cannot be contained in a womb; the timeless One enters time…For God empties Himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception…” This is not sung at the feast of our Lord’s Nativity but at His conception!!! Such concepts as “viability” and “quickening” are utterly without meaning and irrelevant.
Scripture and the Unborn
In the New Testament, consciousness of the personhood of the unborn is clearly manifested. The same word – brephos - is used for the child in the womb as out of the womb unlike modern medical and scientific distinctions of “zygote,” “embryo,” “fetus“ etc. used to differentiate among the stages of pre-natal life. The Latin word “fetus” simply means “little one” and was never intended as a means of denying humanity to the child dwelling in his mother’s womb. A similar pattern of language occurs in the Old Testament as in the book of Job 3:16 in which he refers to: “Infants [gohlal] which never saw the light.” In Luke 1:41 we find another astonishing image of the scriptural consciousness of the personhood of the unborn: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb” Here, the unborn John the Baptist recognizes and rejoices at the unborn Messiah – a “fetus” greeting a “fetus.” This is not just a “literary device” as some would insist.
It illustrates the narrator’s consciousness of the already existing personality – and Divine calling – of an unborn human being. We do celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the Theotokos, and the Lord Jesus Himself, but we also celebrate their conception – their entry into time and the physical world – the “fulness of time” as it is called by St. Paul.
A more profound point to this all is that these feasts, especially the Annunciation, point to the Incarnation. By Jesus Christ taking on our humanity from the moment of conception, existing in the pre-natal condition in the womb of the Theotokos, experiencing birth, living through infancy to adulthood, and finally physical death, God sanctified every moment of human existence – from conception to death. There is more to this – God also completely identifies with us in our fallen suffering nature, and by dying for us on the cross, He expresses His solidarity with us: whether we are a zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, adult, or elderly: human existence is a continuum from conception, and – yes – beyond death to life eternal in the Lord!
The Orthodox Church has had a long history of outspoken condemnation of abortion which dates from Apostolic times. Although the aforementioned feasts did not exist in Apostolic times, they illustrate the living Tradition from which Church teaching on the uniqueness and sanctity of human life, born and unborn sprang from – it was no vacuum!!!
What The Early Church Said:
The Didache – First Century
“Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
The Epistle of Barnabas – First Century:
“You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay the child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has been generated.
Apologia of Athenagoras of Athens- 177 AD.:
“What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard a fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore, an object of God’s care, and at the same time slay it, once it had come to life.”
Tertulian (WesternChurch) – Third Century:
“Abortion is a precipitation of murder, nor does it matter whether or not one takes a life when formed, or drives it away when forming, for he is also a man who is about to be one.”
Clement of Alexandria – Third century:
“Universal life would proceed according to nature if we would practice continence from the beginning instead of destroying, through immoral and pernicious acts, human beings who are given birth by Divine Providence.”
The Regional Council Of Elvira, Spain – 303A.D.:
Prescribes life-long excommunication for penitent persons involved in abortion. Eucharist denied even on the death bed.
The Council of Ancyra, Canon 21-314/315A.D
“Regarding women who become prostitutes and kill their babies, and who make it their business to concoct abortives, the former rule barred them for life from communion, and they are left without recourse. But, having found a more philanthropic alternative, we have fixed the penalty at ten years, in accordance with the fixed degrees.”
St. Basil The Great (330-379 A. D.):
“A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder.”
“Those who give potions for the destruction of the child conceived in the womb are murderers, as are those who take potions which kill the child.”
“. . . we do not have a precise distinction between a fetus which has been formed and one which has not yet been formed.”
“. . . any hairsplitting distinction as to its being formed or unformed is inadmissible with us.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394):
“There is no question about that which is bred in the uterus, both growing, and moving from place to place. It remains, therefore that we must think that the point of commencement of existence is one and the same for body and soul.”
St. John Chrysostom (345-407):
Speaking about those who force a woman to have an abortion to hide immorality: “You do not let a harlot remain a harlot, but make her a murderer as well.”
Regarding the abortionist, St. John considered him/her: “. . . worse than a murderer.”
Quinsext Ecumenical Council, Canon 91-691 A. D.
Decreed that people “. . . who furnish drugs for the purpose of procuring abortion, and those who take fetus-killing poisons, they are made subject to the penalty prescribed for murderers.”
All these various writings and canons were codified by St. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the Ninth Century, into the “Photian Collection” and are still in effect today. In fact these teachings were universal in the whole Christian Church, East and West. Even the Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin were outspoken in their opposition to abortion.
What the Modern Church Says:
Archpriest John Meyendorff, Theologian – 1972:
“The fact that this interruption (abortion) takes place at an initial stage in the human life process makes, of course, a psychological difference, but does not change the nature of the act of abortion being killing, and as such a very grave sin, because killing is evil…The hundreds of thousands of legal abortions performed in New York hospitals are a case of mass killing.”
Metropolitan IRENEY, Orthodox Church in America – 1973
“The very moral foundations of society are being subjected to doubt, and there is no open objection . . . the whole meaning and context of life is being reduced to the seeking of material goals, external success, and the gratification of the senses . . . As a horrible symbol of this moral decay, I cite the legalization of abortion, the frightening transgression of the most sacred of all Divine Commandments.”
(In a telegraph to President Nixon in 1973) “Together we, the Bishops of the
Orthodox Church in America, wish to convey to you, Mr. President, our feelings of shock and indignation at the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the issue of abortion. We urge you to initiate all constitutional procedures necessary to reverse this tragic decision.”
“An abortion for convenience at any stage of gestation, is a violent termination of life. “
V. Rev. Vladimir Boreschevsky, Theologian – 1973:
“. . . human life begins at the moment of conception and all who hold life sacred and worthy of preservation whenever possible are obliged at all costs to defend the lives of the unborn children regardless of the stage of their embryonic development.”
23rd Clergy-Laity Congress – Greek Orthodox Archdiocese – 1976:
“The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or chemical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder; that is, as a premeditated termination of the life of a human being…The only time the Orthodox Church will reluctantly acquiesce to abortion is when the preponderance of medical opinion determines that unless the embryo or fetus is aborted, the mother will die. Decisions of the Supreme Court and State legislatures by which abortion, with our without restrictions, is allowed should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life.”
Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Orthodox Church in America – 1980:
“. . . the willful abortion of children is an act of murder and the sinful character of that act always remains, even when conception has taken place in the most tragic circumstances.”
Theologian FR. STANLEY HARAKAS – 1982:
“Human life is not an unconditional gift from God, but carries with it certain responsibilities. That God considers the taking of an innocent life to be a particularly heinous crime is evident, not only from the Sixth Commandment, but also from the story of Cain and Abel, recounted in Genesis 4:1-6. Further, the Incarnation of the Logos has, for all eternity, sanctified all human life, in both its physical and spiritual aspects.”
“. . . since God is perfect beyond our human comprehension, the process of growing more like God, of “developing our personhood” is a never ending one for every human being. It begins at conception and continues to the very moment of our physical death. Thus, no human being is a “person” or entirely “human” in the fullest sense, since none of us are exactly like God. Yet, all human beings share the same potential developing into “persons” whether they be in the womb, at the prime of life, or on their deathbed. The potential for “personhood” of the human fetus is evident not only from the Orthodox concept of psychosomatic unity, but from Scripture.”
“In opposition (to the idea that the unborn child is not a person), we profess that no human being is ever fully a “person” but that all persons have the potential to become “fully human”, to achieve union with God. Therefore, we cannot declare on the basis of “personhood”, that the fetus in the womb has no value in the eyes of both God and man than a person born.”
Regarding a woman’s “right” to her own body: “Orthodoxy rejects such notions due to the great value attached to life by God, and the fact that life is a gift which no person has the right to take. If we do not have the right to take our own lives, how much more so must it be that we have no right to take the innocent life of the embryo or fetus in the womb? . . . That the developing person inside the mother’s womb has a life separate from its mother is evident from the fact that its chromosomal makeup is different from the mother’s since it is a combination drawn from both mother and father. Further, it is genetically unique; its particular combination of traits and characteristics shall never be repeated.”
General Assembly of the Antiochian Archdiocese – 1989:
WHEREAS a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States of America has modified the 1973 decision of Roe vs. Wade relating to the abortion issue; and
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down as unconstitutional all laws protecting the unborn, and therefore no legislation currently exists regulating abortion in Canada; and WHEREAS all prolife organizations, especially Orthodox Christians for
Life, need our support, moral and financial, in defense of the thousands of “innocents” who are deprived of the possibility of life; and WHEREAS the Orthodox Church, from its inception on the day of Pentecost, has condemned abortion as a grievous sin:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, meeting in General Assembly in Anaheim, California on 28 July 1989, reiterates its previous resolutions against abortion and asks Orthodox Christians throughout the United States and Canada to support those organizations which strive to protect the rights of the unborn.
All American Council, Orthodox Church in America – 1989:
WHEREAS the Orthodox Church in America has consistently spoken out in defense of the sanctity of life, and has done so in connection with contemporary threats to the life of the unborn, the handicapped, the infirm, and the elderly; and
WHEREAS abortion in all cases has been condemned by the Orthodox Church in America unequivocally on the basis of Orthodox theology, which faithfully reflects for today nearly two thousand years of Christian doctrine and ethical teaching; and WHEREAS, before the end of this century, “do-it-yourself” abortion will more than likely be commonplace (the RU 486 pill), and legislation will have little effect on whether or not a woman brings her child to term; BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America strongly reaffirms the Orthodox Church’s opposition to abortion in all cases, and that it does so on theological and moral grounds; commends the efforts of Orthodox bishops, clergy, and laity to bear witness to the sanctity of life in the public arena, especially noting in this connection the work and witness of Orthodox Christians for Life; and commits the Orthodox Church in America to continued witness on behalf of the God-given sanctity of life;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Orthodox Church in America recognizes that opposition to and condemnation of abortion in all cases, except to save the life of the mother, is not enough, and that the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians have a moral obligation to work for the creation and maintenance of Orthodox adoption agencies and for the facilitation of adoption procedures for families to consider adopting a homeless or unwanted or disabled infant, regardless of the child’s racial or ethnic background in the realization that the Church as a whole and the parish community in particular is called to give active material and spiritual support to those who accept the responsibility of adoption;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT this Council affirms and supports the work of the Orthodox Christian Adoption Referral Service and encourages parishes and members of the Orthodox Church in America to give their material and moral support to this organization;
FINALLY, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT this Council recognizes and affirms spiritual, pastoral and educational efforts towards moral persuasion, directed to the father as much as to the mother, to help stem the present hemorrhaging of unborn and unwanted human persons and lives.
Resolution on Sanctity of Life Sunday:
WHEREAS the Orthodox Church in America has always respected the right to life of all men and women from conception to the time of natural death, and
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of the United States of America has allowed legalized abortion since January 22, 1973, leading to the deaths of 1,500,000 unborn children each year, WE HEREBY PROCLAIM the Sunday in January falling on or before
January 22 each year to be called Sanctity of Life Sunday in all churches of the Orthodox Church in America, and that on this Sunday a letter from our primate be read in all churches, and special petitions be taken at Liturgy, proclaiming our respect as a Church, for all human life.
There is little more that can be said – the deliberate destruction and/or desecration of a human being is unthinkable for a true-believing Orthodox Christian. God created Man in his own likeness and image, man is a living icon of flesh and blood, in which God gave the breath of life (ruah). Killing an innocent human being can be seen is an act of blasphemy against God – it is the ultimate act of iconoclasm.
Abortion is not a political issue, but a moral issue that has become politicized!
On “Fetal Farms” with Rev. Fr. John Breck
Fr. John Breck is professor of Biblical Interpretation and Ethics at St. Sergius Theological Institute in Paris. With his wife, Lyn, he directs the St. Silouan Retreat near Charleston, South Carolina. (the following article was written by Fr. Breck in 2004 when much of the “mysteries” were not yet revealed)
If they do, they will first of all have to convince us that the continuum that seems to exist from fertilization through implantation and on to birth is an illusion, that any such continuum only begins after the first week or so of biological existence. However that may be, the ultimate line that must be drawn in any such speculation exists at implantation.
This means that we need to cut through the obfuscation that proponents of embryonic stem cell research, cloning and “fetal farming” have created around the question of the meaning and value of life in the womb. Until scientists prove unequivocally otherwise, Orthodox anthropology should continue to locate the beginning of individual, even “personal,” human existence at fertilization. If some day it is shown conclusively that pre-implantation embryonic life is merely the precondition, the “substratum,” of an individual human being, then perhaps we will find ourselves obliged to lift our opposition to experimentation using the pre-implantation embryo and even to the creation of cloned embryos for strictly therapeutic purposes. (Since clones would be created a-sexually from differentiated somatic cells, rather than sexually by the union of gametes, there is question as to whether they are indeed “human embryos” at all; yet the question might be rendered moot by the fact that such embryos can still be implanted in a womb and brought to term.)
Even if someday we must conclude that an individual human life does not begin at fertilization (fortunately such conclusion – based on the recent discoveries – holds no truth-our note), there can be no doubt – theological or scientific – that it exists from implantation. Once an embryo is implanted, it is indisputably a living, growing human being. As such, it deserves nothing less than the same respect and legal protection that we accord to any child or adult. To deny the child that respect and protection is to offend in the most fundamental sense that child’s civil rights, not to mention his or her moral and spiritual integrity.
This reasoning obliges us to pay careful attention to a recent development that illustrates as clearly as any other the slipperiness of the moral slope we now find ourselves on.
In a world that has tossed away its moral compass, there’s a simple and sure way to get what you want. When your initial demand is rejected, increase the demand tenfold, and they’ll give you at least what you originally asked for, and maybe a good deal more.
The abortion and pharmaceutical industries, together with other vested interests, initially demanded that “extra embryos” from IVF procedures be used as a source for stem cells. This provoked moral outrage in some quarters, so they shrewdly upped the ante. Accumulated pressure from these and related sources have just led the New Jersey legislature to pass Assembly Bill 2840, a measure likely to have more far-reaching consequences than Roe v. Wade. The bill not only legalizes the cloning of human embryos. It allows those embryos to be implanted into a woman’s uterus, grown nearly to term, and then destroyed before birth, in order that their various body tissues and organs might be used for “therapeutic” ends.
Opposition to the request for legalizing use of embryonic stem cells, in other words, moved those who would most profit from such use to make a still more outrageous demand: that babies be created, carried in the womb until the ninth month of gestation, then – by legal edict – killed. If this egregious violation of everything from human dignity to human rights is accepted in New Jersey, it will not be long before it is accepted throughout the country. “Fetal farms” will spring up, where not-quite-born-yet children will be destroyed for purposes of experimentation and organ harvesting. And yesterday’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research will “melt like wax before the fire.”
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On the 14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. “
Christ is Born, Glorify Him!
In the festive atmosphere that embraced heaven and earth, just few days from the Nativity feast of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Church coats herself in much sorrow for the innocent babies slain by king Herod’s cruelty. Back than Jesus was saved from the wrath of Herod. Still today, He suffers the torment of death with each of the babies slain by modern tools of medicine, by the will of a society that had lost its balance and sense of life and raised to the rank of the law, the grivial sin of murdering babies.
Truly the commandment of the Gospel “Thy shall not kill!” no longer holds true in a world that calls the good evil and the evil good.
Life starts at conception
Most people do not know what happens during an abortion. Perhaps many women who committed abortion did not know that actually they killed a child. Why? Because they are told that by the third month in the womb they bear only “a ball of cells” and not a true man.
British Professor Stuart Campbell, a researcher at “Create Health Clinic” in London, managed to obtain, through a new type of ultrasound scan, three-dimensional images that allow viewing of fetal movements in real time. The study demonstrates for the first time that life begins with fertilization and not at birth. At the moment of conception, 46 chromosomes with 30,000 genes combine and determine all our physical characteristics: gender, facial and bodily features, eye color, hair and skin. Then, in just a few weeks, from one cell a tiny man is formed, having all the organs already present and able to work.
What happens following the 3 months – in which some argue that the fetus is merely “a ball of cells”?
The heart starts beating 18 days post conception, fetal blood passes through the umbilical cord, the placenta where the metabolic exchanges take place between the mother and the child: the child passes to the mother the remnants of carbon dioxide and the mother provides oxygen and nutrients. In about 3 weeks the hands start to form and at 8 weeks, the fingers. The fetus can move the fingers and open his/her mouth.
At 40 days, the brain function is measured by EEG waves. This wonderful control center – the brain – sends messages to both mother and child.
At 2 months, the baby fingerprints are already imprinted in the skin.
At about 7 weeks, the first spontaneous movements are noticed, although the mother usually doesn’t feel the baby moving until about 16 weeks.
At 18 weeks, the fetus is active and energetic and makes numerous muscle flexes and can give sufficiently strong punches and kicks :)
At 26 weeks, the fetus can do a wide range of child specific gestures – to scratch, to smile, to hiccup and suck his/her fingers …
“Let children come to me …”
(the choice is made by God not by the pregnant women)
by Fr. Alexander Stanciu
Before enjoying the light of this life, God had ordained that the child will dwell and develop for 9 months in the safest shelter of the world: his mother’s womb. Today, however, man has transformed this possible safest shelter in the most dangerous place for that, although the child can do nothing to defend himself, his life can be taken even by the dearest person, his MOTHER .
The conceived fetus becomes a human being at the time of fecundation, when God created immortal soul of man. The sin of abortion is a form of murdering baby Christ, Who in a certain way, is born with every baby. From the moment of conception, the child bears the image of God, and through Baptism will carry the image of Christ within. If this image is destroyed, in the women womb Christ is been crucified once more. Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain goes so far as saying that a mother who commits abortion, does not kill one human being, but in so much she is killing as many survivors as would have resulted if her child had lived.
Can abortion ever be recommended?
Lets follow these three examples:
1. The father is an alcoholic, the mother has tuberculosis. They have four children. The first one is blind. The second one died. The third child is deaf, and the fourth has tuberculosis. She becomes pregnant again. Given this extreme situation, would you take into account the recommendation of abortion?
2. A little black girl, aged 13, was raped by a white man, the little girl became pregnant. If you were her parents, would you recommend abortion?
If you said “yes” to the 1st question: You have killed Beethoven.
If you said “yes” to the 2nd question: You have killed a great black singer of religious music, Ethel Wathers.
If you said “yes” to the 3rd question: You just decided to kill Jesus Christ.
The Silent Scream of a Fetus – Child faced with Extinction
(The following educational material is not recommended for children!)