St. Basil writes, “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.” (Letters, CLXXXVIII, Canon 8)
On Friday, January 21st, a group of 30 Orthodox faithful departed from the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Valley Forge and headed to our nation’s capital to attend the 49th annual March for Life. The bus ride to the march was peppered with light conversation, prayers, hymns, and quiet contemplation. For many of us, this was our first time. Myself included.
As a first-time marcher and organizer of the trip, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. We had several March “veterans,” including our own Father Peter Thornberg, who provided much-needed direction once we got to his hometown of DC. Parishioners also joined us from Saint Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Saint Philip’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Souderton, and Holy Ghost Orthodox Church in Phoenixville. There was great comfort traveling with three priests and fellow Orthodox Christians who focused on faith above all else. Beyond politics, beyond social issues, we were all focused on praying for the sanctity of the womb, the lives of the unborn, and the souls of the babies whose lives were terminated.
When our bus dropped us off at the National Mall, we were welcomed by several energetic and cheerful college students handing out signs and offering directions. The theme for this year was “Equality Begins in the womb.” Even though the wind chill was in the single digits, these kids didn’t seem to mind one bit. It was almost as if something extraordinary kept them warm—more on that in a minute.
Contrary to typical Greek behavior, we arrived early! About 1000 people came and assumed attendance was light due to the cold, but the group grew to several hundred thousand within an hour. There were moving speeches and live music, but one of the highlights for me was the opening prayer offered by our very own Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
We met with the group Orthodox Christians for Life (www.oclife.org) and prayed. Bishops and priests from the Antiochian, Russian, and Greek Orthodox churches united in praying for the lives of the unborn souls of babies killed in the womb.
Back to the weather – yes, it was cold. Yes, it was overcast. But the weather didn’t seem to bother most of us. I am sure it was because we all felt God’s presence among us. We learned in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them .”
As I noted, this was my first march, but certainly not my last. And I would encourage everyone to join me in the 2023 March for Life. While some like to make this a hotly contested political issue, the Orthodox Church (as well as most religions) is evident in its position regarding abortion. It is wrong.
The Fathers of the Orthodox Church always viewed abortion as a grave sin and equated it with murder. Since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, killing an innocent human being is a crime against that person and the Holy Spirit, against God Himself. Thus, one cannot be a faithful Orthodox Christian and be “pro-choice” regarding abortion. The same holds with the death penalty. ALL life is sacred.
One cannot profess belief in the One True God and the Divine sanctity of human life He established while at the same time condoning a woman’s “right to choose” whether she will kill her unborn child. Nor can an Orthodox Christian support the death penalty. We (the Greek Community) must do more to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. Several pregnancy crisis centers in the Delaware Valley need our help. If we genuinely live Orthodoxy, then we need to go all in. The voice of Orthodoxy has been a whisper with this critical issue.
Therefore, I would challenge everyone in the Greek community to do three straightforward things:
- Pray for the unborn and their parents. Pray that the parent makes the right choice and allow the innocent baby to have a chance at life, either with them or with a loving and welcoming adoptive family.
- Support women facing unplanned pregnancies; they are our sisters, our daughters. And most are like some of our mothers. Please support them by supporting pregnancy crisis centers. Have a diaper drive. Organize virtual baby showers. And be there to help these women.
- We had a 55 passenger deluxe motor coach paid for by an anonymous donor. Every seat should be filled. And God willing, we’ll need more than one bus. Join me in next year’s march.
Let us show the love of Christ through prayer. The Lord hears our prayers to protect His innocent ones and help their mothers. We offer this love by building a community that provides women and their babies with love, care, and support (whether financial or otherwise) after the child’s birth. It is wrong (and hypocritical) for us to condemn abortion without trying to protect motherhood, create conditions favorable for adoption, and help those for whom bearing a child will involve very real burdens. We can and should do better.