January 19, 2020
To the honorable Clergy, venerable Monastics, and pious Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
From ancient times, all who have believed in the One God have believed that He takes special care in the formation of each human being. As God Himself expressed to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
In the moment of conception in the mother’s womb, a human being comes into existence. Yet even before being conceived and formed, this human being is known by God. God exists outside of time, and already knows and loves each one of us personally, knowing what we will do and who we will become both in this life and in eternity. As Solomon proclaims, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they might exist” (Wisdom of Solomon 1.13-14). God wants us to be alive, and certainly, this is why we must speak against abortion and its legalization in our country: it is in opposition to God’s loving plan to bring a human being into the world to live.
For just as He consecrated Jeremiah a prophet so that he might speak God’s word, God brings each human being into the world with a unique purpose of speaking a unique word to the world, to reveal something to the world that will bring it closer to Him. Our lives are intended to be a period of sanctification, each one of us helping in the salvation and sanctification of our neighbor, and in this way being sanctified ourselves. Whatever occupations we have, together with the universal human callings to be loving children, siblings, parents or friends, can thus be holy and life-giving. For the purpose of all of our lives’ activities is ultimately to become sanctified images of God by imitating God in caring for others. Because of this, we must give every human being the opportunity to live their life and work toward sanctification, just as we have been given that opportunity.
And what does this work of sanctification look like? Keeping in mind that David instructs us to “turn away from evil, and do good” (Psalm 33:15), we must begin to sanctify ourselves and the world by preaching the truth about evil, just as Jeremiah did. Above all, we reject Cain’s first sin of murder, in all of its loathsome forms: murder against the unborn, murder through violence, murder by starvation or deprivation, and murder of the ill and elderly. We also reject greed, lust, and selfishness, and we reject harming others, being dismissive of others, and hating others. We then “do good” by being imitators of God in caring for one another, by speaking the truth in love, and by emptying ourselves for the sake of others. Remembering that “this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6:40), we couple our efforts of care for humanity with a call to the world to believe in the Son of God, Jesus the Savior of the human race, who was “given as a ransom for all,” because His Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:6, 4).
Yet we know that despite our efforts to do good, each of us falls at times and does evil. But with incredible compassion, our God who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb still loves and respects us. He still loves each and every human being, despite our faults and mistakes, even those who have made terrible mistakes and have worked evil.
Thus, if we recognize that our purpose in this life is to become images of God, we must also forgive, help, pray for, and love all those who have committed wrong. In imitation of our loving God, whose mercy is immeasurable, we too must love those who have been involved in the evil of abortion, showing mercy and compassion to the poor, desperate, and confused parents who have committed abortions, and praying fervently for the repentance of abortion doctors and advocates everywhere. We must love them and forgive them their sins, knowing that God loves all of humanity and is willing to forgive all sins.
At the same time, we cannot allow any excuse for abortion. We firmly believe that a new person comes into being in the moment of conception, and because of this, we must ever strive to prevent abortions from happening, making sure our local communities know of the many Christian-supported pregnancy crisis services available to unprepared and confused young parents. In turn, our churches must ever be willing to love and help such parents and their unborn children.
Thus, this year, as we mark the sorrowful 47th anniversary of the legalization of abortion, we remember to hate the sin of abortion, and to make ever effort we can to stop it from happening, while loving the misguided and confused ones who have been involved in abortions, knowing that God is willing to forgive all transgressions. In this way, we fulfill the purpose that God has given us in this life to become His images and presence in the world, while helping others – unborn and born alike – to have that same opportunity to come to “the knowledge of the truth” and fulfill their own lives’ God-intended purposes. For this “truth,” as we all should be reminded of again and again, is that:
God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” – John 3:16-17
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada