"Since the Ancient Time, the Church as viewed abortion as a grave sin"

St. Pelagia

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Thou who did pray for them that crucified Thee, O Lord, the Lover of mankind, and who did command Thy servants to pray for their enemies, forgive those who hate and maltreat us, and turn our lives from all harm and evil to brotherly love and good works. For this we humbly bring our prayer, that with one accord and one heart we may glorify Thee Who alone loves mankind. Amen.


On October 8th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Taisia of Egypt; Saint of Pelagia of Antioch; Saint Tryphon of Vyatka; Saint Dositheos, Abbot of Verkneostrov; Saint Anthony, Bishop of Novgorod; New holy Martyr Ignatios of Mt. Athos.

OUR HOLY MOTHER PELAGIA. A repentant sinner, she was born again in Antioch and endowed by God with great physical beauty, but she used this beauty to destroy her own soul and those of others, acquiring great wealth from her prostitution. One day, walking past the church of the holy martyr Julian, where bishop Nonnus was preaching, she turned into the church and listened to the sermon, which was about the Dreadful Judgment and the punishment of sinners. These words so shook her, and wrought so great a change in her, that she was of a sudden filled with self-loathing and fear of God, and, repenting of all her filthy sins, fell down before Saint Nonnus, begging to baptize her: "Holy Father, be merciful to me, a sinner; baptize me and teach me repentance. I am a sea of iniquity, an abyss of destruction, a net and weapon of the devil." Thus this penitent implored Christ's hierarch with tears. And he baptized her. Blessed Romana, a deaconess of that church, stood sponsor to her at her baptism and, after that, as her spiritual mother, grounded her well in the Christian faith. But Saint Pelagia was not content just to be baptized. Feeling the weight of her many sins and the pricking of her conscience, she decided on a great ascesis. She gave away to the poor the enormous wealth she has amassed by her immorality and went secretly to Jerusalem, where, under a man's name as the monk Pelegius, she shut herself in a cell on the Mount of Olives and there began strict ascesis of fasting, prayer and vigils. Three years later, Saint Nonnus's deacon, James, visited her and found her still alive, but when he went to her again a few days later, he found her dead body and gave it burial. Saint Pelagia entered into rest in about 461 AD. Thus that sometimes great sinner, by repentance and striving, received the mercy of God, the forgiveness of her sins and sanctification, and her purified and sanctified soul was made worthy of the Kingdom of God.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Ascetics, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 1:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 7:36-50


"Every person who insults us, wrongs us, slanders us, who wrongs us in any way, is a brother who fell into the hands of the worker of evil, the devil. When we challenge this brother we must feel great sorrow for him, sympathize with him, and beseech God fervently and quietly to strengthen us during the difficult hour of our trial and to have mercy on our brother who became a victim of the devil. God will help us as well as him" [Geronda [Elder] Porphyrios the Kapsokalivite]

by the Russian Orthodox Church

"The holy Canons equate abortion with murder. This assessment is based on the conviction that the conception of a human being is a gift from God. Therefore, from the moment of conception any encroachment on the life of a future human being is criminal.

The Psalmist describes the development of the foetus in a mother's womb as God's creative action: "thou has possessed by reins: thou has covered me in my mother's womb... My substance was not hid from thee, them I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest part of the earth. Thine eye did see my substance" (Psalm 139:13, 15-16). Job testifies to the same in the words addressed to God: "Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about...Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? Thou has clothed me with skin and flesh, and has fenced me with bones and sinews. Thou has granted me life and favour, and thy visitation has preserved by spirit...Thou brought me forth out of the womb" (Job 10:8-12, 18). "I formed thee in the belly...and before thou comest out of the womb I sanctified thee", says the Lord to the Prophet Jeremiah "Thou shall not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide"--this order is placed among the most important commandments of God in the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, one of the oldest Christian manuscripts.

The Church sees the widely spread and justified abortion in contemporary society as a threat to the future of humanity and a clear sign of its moral degradation. It is incompatible to be faithful to the Biblical and Patristic teaching that human life is sacred and precious from its origin and to recognize women's "free choice' in disposing of the fate of the foetus. In addition, abortion presents a serious threat to the physical and spiritual health of the mother. The Church has always considered it her duty to protect the most vulnerable and dependent human beings, namely unborn children. Under no circumstances can the Orthodox Church bless abortion. Without rejecting the women who had an abortion, the Church calls upon them to repent and to overcome the destruction consequences of the sin through prayer and penance followed by participation in the salvific sacraments In case of a direct threat to the life of a mother if her pregnancy continues, especially if she has other children, it is recommended to be lenient in the pastoral practice. The woman who interrupted pregnancy in this situation shall not be excluded from the Eucharistic communion with the Church provided that she has fulfilled the canon of Penance assigned by the priest who takes her confession. The struggle with abortion, to which women sometimes have to resort because of abject poverty and helplessness, demands that the Church and society work out effective measures to protect motherhood and to create conditions for the adoption of the children whose mothers cannot raise them on their own for some reason.

Responsibility for the sin of abortion of the unborn child should be borne, along with the mother, by the father if he gave his consent to the abortion. If a wife had an abortion without the consent of her husband, it may be grounds for divorce. Sin also lies with the doctor who performed the abortion.

In his book "The Orthodox church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine and Spiritual Culture" Father John Anthony McGuckin writes the following on abortion: "Abortion has, in some countries of recent times, been used almost as a contraceptive method of choice. This is a failing of great proportions for our human generation, and witnesses (if one takes a distant perspective) a strange loathing of the self and the race that underlies such an extensive rejection by a species of its own progeny. Some Protestant Christian groups have argued recently that abortion is a morally acceptable thing, necessary for the cause of the advancement of the rights of womankind. Orthodoxy regards this as specious reasoning. The right of the unborn to life is one of the main areas in which the Church is called upon to defend the rights of the poor and the defenseless against the predations of the powerful. In doing so in the case of abortion, however, the Church has to recognize that in many cases (certainly not all) the motive to seek abortion comes from the poor themselves in the face of a feeling of being overwhelmed in their poverty.

The Orthodox defense of the rights of the unborn, therefore, has to advance hand in hand with the advocacy of liberational, educational, and support programms for those whose lives are a constant struggle. Today many abortions take place outside the context of marriage or a loving home. To ground its ethics and compassion in the soil of reality, the Orthodox Church increasingly has to take the initiative to institute systems of support (moral as well as financial and physical) for those who are pressed towards an option of abortion after they have made personal and relational mistakes."

The child, in Orthodox Theology, is not the property of the parents. It is given to the parents by God so that they can 'learn to be as a god' for it in its time of need, and so fulfill their destined mimesis of the love of the Father over the cosmos (world). The rejection of the child, deliberately, from the womb is dereliction of that invitation from God, and a great sacrilege committed against the sacredness of a new life sent this world. Orthodoxy utterly rejects whose who claim, in the name of Christianity, that there is divided opinion on the 'real humanity' of the foetus within Christian Tradition. From antiquity the voice of the Church has been expressed unanimously in its Saints and Fathers that abortion is great sacrilege. Yet, because it is an area that few human consciences, approach easily, or without deep (and often heart-wrenching) regret afterwards, the Orthodox Church also does not stand in condemnation over individual women who have sought out abortions. Orthodoxy condemns the philosophy and practice root and branch. It condemns those who advocate and broker abortion as a business or as a 'positive social value,' holding them (if they are Orthodox Christians) as excommunicate…For individual believers who have undergone terminations, however, the Orthodox Church does not have words of condemnation on a personal level, but tries to offer consolation and reconciliation. It calls them back compassionately to Communion after repentance (since abortion excludes any Orthodox believer from admission to the Mystery [Sacrament] of the Holy Eucharist).

Several Orthodox Churches have special services of prayer for the reconciliation and comforting of believers who have been led astray and had abortions in circumstances that overwhelmed them; for God's mercy heals and restores in every circumstance, and human fallibility can never dim the radiance of God's 'remaking of all things new.' The Mystery (Sacrament) of Metanoia (Repentance) has been the path towards healing of many mothers who have themselves been deeply wounded by the event, the mistake, of abortion.

Please note: Father John Anthony McGuckin is a Stavrofor Priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church. He is the Nielsen Professor of Early Christian and Byzantine Church History at Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Byzantine Christianity at New York's Columbia University. Professor McGuckin has published more than twenty books on religious and historical themes and is considered one of the most articulate spokespersons of the early Christian and Eastern Orthodox Tradition writing in English today.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George