My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
14,000 Infants (Holy Innocents) Slain by Herod in Bethlehem (December 29th)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
Be Thou entreated for the sake of the sufferings of Thy Saints which they endured for Thee, O Lord, and do Thou heal all our pains, we pray, O Friend of man.
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi, arrived from the East with gifts guided by a Star on high, but Herod was troubled and mowed down the children like wheat; for he lamented that his power would soon be destroyed.
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men." (St. Matthew 2:16)
The infant-slaying Herod mentioned here is the same one that ruled at the time of Christ's Nativity. In those days, certain Magi, who were wise and noble men, perhaps even kings, set forth from the East, and came to Jerusalem, seeking the King of the Jews, Who had been born; and they said that in the East, where their homeland was, an unusual and strange Star had appeared two years before, which, according to an ancient oracle (Num. 24:17), was to signify the birth of some great king of the Jews. "For we have seen His Star in the east," they said, "and have come to worship Him" (St. Matthew 2:2). Hearing these things, Herod was troubled, and the whole city together with him. Then, having inquired and been informed by the high priests and scribes of the people that, according to the prophecies, Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, he sent the Magi ahead and ordered them that, when they would find the Child, to inform him, so that he also-as he affirmed-might go and worship Him.
"Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way" (St. Matthew 2:12).
But the Magi, after they had worshipped, departed by another way to their own country by a Divine command. Then Herod was angry and sent men to slay all the infants of Bethlehem and the parts round about, from two years old and under, thinking that with them he would also certainly slay the King Who has been born. But this vain and demented man who fought against God was mocked, since Jesus the Child, with Mary His Mother, under the protection of Joseph the Betrothed, fled into Egypt at the command of an Angel. As for those innocent infants, they became the first Martyrs slain in behalf of Christ. But their blood-thirsty executioner, the persecutor of Christ, came down with dropsy after a short time, with his members rotting and being eaten by worms, and he ended his life in a most wretched manner. Before his death, the impious king murdered his brother, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam, and three of his sons, and seventy men of wisdom who were members of the Sanhedrin. He initiated this bloodbath so that the day of his death would not be one of rejoicing, but one of mourning. (Source: Mystagogy)
CHRIST IS BORN, GLORIFY HIM!
In the festive atmosphere that embraced heaven and earth, just few days from the Holy Nativity feast of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Church coats herself in much sorrow for the innocent babies slain by King Herod's cruelty. We are all horrified and appalled by the evil actions of this monster of a man and the death of 14,000 innocent children but are we forgetting that same cruelty and slaughter is still taking place today throughout the world through abortion? Is that not infanticide?
The Orthodox Christian Church regards abortion as premeditated murder. As such, she strongly opposes it because God demands the protection of all innocent human life, including that of the unborn child. The humanity (personhood) of that child exists from conception, a scientific fact that has always been recognized and unquestioned in Orthodox Theology from the very beginning. Indeed, conception and not birth is the moment of the union of soul and body.
The Early Church-of which the Orthodox Church is a living witness-expressed a disgust and horror of abortion at any stage of pregnancy; it always regarded it as abhorrent and an abomination before God because it is the killing of a human being.
The present-day Orthodox Church's teaching on abortion can be directly traced to the earliest written Christian document, the Didache (late 1st Century), constantly reiterated through the centuries in Patristic writings and Canon Law, and finally compiled in the Photian Collection which was adopted as the official ecclesiastical law book of the Church in 883 A.D. and is still in effect today.
The Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church consider abortion as premeditated murder, and all those who participate in the procedure-that is, those who perform, promote, prescribe, advocate, support and undergo abortion-as murderers. For the penitent, excommunication of periods up to ten years are still prescribed-the same as for any repentant murderer.
The teaching of the Orthodox Church on abortion is not arbitrary or the result of a monastic "anti-feminine attitude." The preciousness of pre-natal human life can be traced throughout both the Old and New Testaments and Jewish Talmudic tradition. It is even expressed in our modern worship services on the feast days. The principle theme in the Church's understanding of the sanctity of human life is the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God as illustrated in the Genesis account:
"...then the Lord formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (ruah), and became a living being.." (Genesis 2:7).
The "breath of life (ruah)" is a special gift that God gave to Adam directly and is not given to the animals (Genesis 1:24-30). Very clearly, man is not just a superior animal, but a very special creation of God.
Throughout the Old Testament man is revealed not only as a special creature, but as coming into being for a purpose:
Jeremiah 1:5 the Prophet was set aside: "Before I was formed in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you and appointed you to be a prophet to the nations."
The Messianic passage of Isaiah (49:1,5) which prefigures Christ: "The Lord called Me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named Me by name...and now the Lord says who formed Me from the womb to be His servant..."
In Psalm 139: 13,16; the Psalmist details an intimate relationship between God and Man:
"For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb...Thy eyes behold my unformed substance; in thy book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them..."
A similar theme can also be seen in Job 10:8, 9, and 11.
The basic ethical/moral principle on the sanctity of human life which forbids the taking of innocent human life appears in the commandment of Exodus 20:13 which is usually translated, "Thou shall not kill." However, the Hebrew word for here is "ratasch" which means an intentional and unjustified killing of a human being; the words for accidental deaths and killing in self defense are "katal" and "harag."
Thus, the commandment should be more correctly translated as, "Thou shall not murder."
Abortion was common in many cultures of antiquity but not the Jews. Though there is no specific condemnation of abortion in the Old Testament, biblical researchers have found no reference to non-therapeutic abortion in any of the texts through 500 AD. In Jewish tradition, deliberate abortion-like the pagan practices of exposure and human sacrifice-was unthinkable. In fact, when the Jews did revert to these pagan practices-as in the time of Jeremiah-they were severely punished by an angry God.
Another dimension of the reverence for human life can be seen as Saint Paul declares that the body is the dwelling place of God, likening it to a temple: "Do you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." (1 Cor. 3:16-17); "...for we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will live in them, and move among them, and I will be their God..." (2 Cor. 6:16).
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Within Man's being is a place of residence for God's Spirit, something again unique in Creation. Thus Man exists at the intersection of the spiritual and physical worlds-between heaven and earth-and, as a creation of God, is worthy (axios) to worship, adore, and be in communion with Him. Man is much, much more than merely a rational animal. He a worshipping creature-"Homo Adorans," as Father Alexander Schmemann has described him in "For the Life of the World." Man, then, is a unity of the material and the spiritual. Scripturally, the whole man prays to, adores, and worships God and, so, Man is a creature uniquely created to love, worship, and be in communion with God as is no other part of creation.
In the Orthodox Tradition not only do we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the Theotokos, and the Lord Jesus Himself, but we also celebrate their conception-their entry into time and the physical world, the "fullness of time" as it is called by Saint Paul.
The Orthodox Church has had a long history of outspoken condemnation of abortion which dates from Apostolic times. Although the aforementioned feasts did not exist in Apostolic times, they illustrate the living Tradition from which Church teaching on the uniqueness and sanctity of human life, born and unborn sprang from-it was no vacuum!!!
ALL AMERICAN COUNCIL, ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA - 1989
"Whereas the Orthodox Church in America has consistently spoken out in defense of the sanctity of life, and has done so in connection with contemporary threats to the life of the unborn, the handicapped, the infirm, and the elderly; and
Whereas abortion in all cases has been condemned by the Orthodox Church in America unequivocally on the basis of Orthodox theology, which faithfully reflects for today nearly two thousand years of Christian doctrine and ethical teaching...
Be it further resolved that the Orthodox Church in America recognizes that opposition to and condemnation of abortion in all cases, except to save the life of the mother… (Source: Orthodox Word)
With sincere agape in the Divine Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God