What does it mean to believe in the Sanctity of Life?

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Last Sunday — January 13, 2019 — I, together with other local Orthodox clergy and lay people, participated in the annual March for Life in Chicago, at which I offered the opening prayer. On January 18, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, and other members of the Holy Synod led Orthodox Christian marchers in the National March for Life in Washington DC, in remembrance of the 56 million victims of abortion since its legalization in 1973. Then, along with other local clergy and lay people, I celebrated a Molieben for the Sanctity of Life on Sunday evening January 20. The service was sponsored by Chicago’s Orthodox Christian Clergy Association and held at Saints Peter and Saint Paul Orthodox Church in Burr Ridge, IL. In my remarks on Sunday evening I reflected on the following words from Saint Paul:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). 

There is a depth to these words from Saint Paul that leads me to see that the Sanctity of Life is much more than what one believes regarding Roe vs. Wade. At Saints Peter and Saint Paul Church on Sunday night, in addition to prayers related to abortion, we prayed for those on death row, the elderly in institutional care, victims of gun violence in schools and neighborhoods, those overcome by various addictions, refugees seeking a home, victims of war, and those contemplating suicide.

It is important that we embrace a sanctity of life ethic that covers the entire span of life — from conception to death. Even in cases in which those in the military and law enforcement take the life of another while dutifully protecting citizens from danger, I would expect that any Orthodox Christian who serves in that capacity, who has taken a life, would go to Confession before going to Communion. We don’t justify the taking of a life, but we understand that, given the fallen nature of this world, the act of taking a life to protect another may be necessary. But this is not what we were made for. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

So, if we want to bring about an end to abortion, we must consider how we would respond to a mother who needs support because she chooses not to abort. This is a far more challenging question to address than merely stating that one is “against abortion.”

I wrote about this last year. My point here is to encourage parents, in discussions with their children, to take a deeper look at the fact that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. When we act to do harm to that temple, we must consider how this is related to a sanctity of life ethic? Upon which other areas of our lives does this make an impact, besides the abortion issue?

The blessing of the Lord be upon you,

The unworthy +Paul

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