Friday, January 22, 2010

The Annual March For Life: 'Today I Commit Myself'


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Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

The March for Life in Washington D.C. will take place later today in the afternoon. As always, there will be a large and very visible Orthodox presence at the March, distinguished by many banners and icons being held aloft. Todd Franta just emailed me and informed me that there will be twenty-five seminarians from St. Tikhon's at the March, together with another forty-seven seminarians from St. Vladimir's. If you would like to read the "Sanctity of Life" encyclical from His Beautitude, Metropolitan Jonah, it can be found at www.oca.org. Following a hierarchical Liturgy at the St. Nicholas Cathedral, Metropolitan Jonah will also be one of the pre-March speakers that will address the gathered supporters for the sanctity of life. You can read of this also at oca.org.

Last night, I dropped Presvytera Deborah off at Xavier University where she boarded a charter bus together with about fifty XU students who will participate in the March today. The group would travel through the night, and in fact I just spoke with presvytera as they were approaching the city. She was the only non-student of the group!. Although that sounds mildly horrific, I must say that I was impressed by this body of students who were committed to a "pro-life" position and willing to spend their weekend in Washington D.C. for the sake of that principled position. These are, of course, primarily Roman Catholic students, and the Roman Catholic Church maintains a very strong and well-articulated pro-life stance to this day. I came prepared to the drop-off. Wearing my cassock and carrying my holy water sprinkler and the Cross, we asked the team leader if I would be able to bless the bus. She graciously assented, and gathered the student travellers together after they had prayed in Xavier's chapel. So, following the Orthodox Prayer for Traveling "by land," I blessed the bus for the upcoming journey. What the students may have thought when I brought out my Byzantine-style holy water sprinkler and began blessing the bus in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, while holding a Cross in my other hand, is hard to determine - but they seemed respectful.

Every March participant was given a sheet with various types of prayers that turned to God in response to legalized abortion in our country. I found one particular prayer impressive for its directness, its exhortation for engagement, and for how it brings abortion into the greater context of Faith in Christ. I would like to share that prayer here with you:

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than
abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death
by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Today I commit myself
Never to be silent,
Never to be passive,
Never to be forgetful of the unborn.
I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
Until all my brothers and sister are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!


On Sunday, during the Divine Liturgy, we will incorporate specific petitions and a closing prayer that also turns us to God for the grace and perseverance to remain firm Christian supports of the "sanctity of life" in the face of the oppressive "fact" of legalized abortion on demand as upheld by the Supreme Court. The "Pro-Life" movement holds the high moral ground in this debate. How can it be otherwise when such a position defends the sanctity of life from conception to the grave - and beyond? What moral ground can pro-abortion advocacy possibly claim? However, I am more fully convinced than ever that harsh judgement toward pro-abortion factions and a shrill condemnation of the other side is not effective. We cannot expect to transform the minds and hearts of others if we shout "murder!" at every opportunity. Our merciful and philanthropic God forgives all sin - including the sin of abortion. Such a Prayer for Forgiveness following an abortion exists in the Church. (Consenting fathers also need to be forgiven). Yet sin must be repented of. And persuasiveness supported by firmness of intention and a deep respect and love for the gift of life will be infinitely more effective than angry condemnation. That is obviously very slow and frustrating work, but we turn to God for the strength, humility, patience and perseverance to continue on that path.

We hope to hear from presvytera this Sunday in the post-Liturgy discussion, but that may depend on what time they actually arrive back in Cincinnati and how she may be feeling.

Fr. Steven

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