“Save the Babies and the Whales” or being Pro Pan-Life

This is not meant to be a seasonal posting.  It has nothing to do with the “Happy Holidays”  But, this posting is written in the last half of December, 2015.  The Advent, or Nativity Fast, is in its final days.  During Advent, Christians of liturgical and sacramental traditions are preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  The Nicene Creed informs us:  “…who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and made man…”  The Creator of life was made manifest in the form of a baby.  Christ came to give us life — new, redeemed life.  He is the Giver of light and life and in this coming season I pray we extend our Lord’s light and life to all and all things.  I pray we become advocates of life.

I am unashamedly and unapologetically Pro-life.  Thus, I understand abortion to be murder.  Albeit, I will concede two or three exceptions.  Yet, even with these exceptions, human life is destroyed.  I stand united with the Church’s teaching that abortion is murder.  I stand with the truth that human life begins at conception.  The fusion of the pro-nuclei of sperm and ovum begins human life.  Given this, even in the earliest form of human life, the fully human embryo bears the image of God.

Hence, human life, and its sanctity must be seen in a continuum — from single cell, to birth, to adulthood, to advanced age, to death, and even beyond the cessation of this known and experienced existence.  If any Christian of Orthodox/Catholic tradition expresses a contrary opinion, I say that Christian stands opposed to the Faith, and stands in fellowship with the opinion of the toxic culture of death and consumption which infests and infects so-called contemporary western “culture.”  I urge such Christians to abandon the sensibilities of the world system, and think and act within the teaching and communion of the Church.

Note well, though, that a pro-life position demands more than being opposed to abortion.  Being pro-life means standing for the integrity of all human life, and the life found in the entirety of creation — however great or small.  This means we are to save babies and whales.

Being (yes, this is an awkward phrase) Pro Pan-life is truly the Christian standard.  Here it means that we uphold the dignity of all human life.  The Christian must stand against all that degrades human existence.  The Christian must stand for all that that is redeeming, and all that upholds justice.  Solidarity is our goal.  St. Paul speaks of such solidarity in the first epistle, or letter, he wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil, but pursue the good both for one another, and for all” (1Thes 5: 15).  There are those who do us wrong.  There are enemies, but when given the opportunity, we are to pursue good even for the enemy before us.  As our Lord teaches us, we are to pray for, and bless our enemies.

Such solidarity goes beyond upholding the integrity and dignity of only humanity.  It is to extend to the entirety of creation.  Not only is redeemed humanity in a relational union with Christ, the entirety of creation is in Christ (en Christo).  All, everything, has been gathered together in relational union in Christ.  Also written by St. Paul, Ephesians 1: 7 – 10 reads,

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.  With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The phrase that holds out for us this Gospel message is highlighted above:  to gather up all things in him.  The key word is the Greek word anakephalaiosasthai, “to bring everything together in terms of some unifying principle or person.”  As all was lost, scattered, and alienated by Adam; all was reclaimed by Jesus Christ.

By means of the Incarnation this was possible and made reality.  The Nicene Creed expresses it, “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.  By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.”  She, Mary, who was a creature, who was made up of representative elements of the universe gathered and assembled together as she grew from a single cell to young womanhood, stood as Representative for all creation.  Jesus Christ, God the Son, Mary’s Creator, by the Father’s will and the power of the Holy Spirit, joined himself to those elements of the universe offered by her to him.  He was fully a creature, a man, formed and nurtured from the elements himself.  He is the Container of all creation within himself.  He holds those material elements given from her body and creation now as his own.  All is restored and gathered together in his headship.

Regarding this union of humanity and creation in Christ, St. Paul instructs us in his epistle to the Colossians:

He is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because by him all things were created — those things in heaven and on earth…all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things and all things stand in their proper orders in him…Because in him all the fullness [to pleroma] was pleased to dwell.  (Col 1:  15,16, 17, 19)

To pleroma can refer to the fullness of God, and the fullness of creation, and in he who is God in the flesh — both are true.  In Christ Jesus both the Creator and creation dwell in an indivisible and unconfused union.

All is in Christ.  Nothing of creation is, in a sense, outside of Christ.  Hence, all things exist in some mysterious way, as is appropriate for their species, in this same relationship in Christ as does humanity.  Therefore, creation’s dignity and integrity are to be upheld for all things.  This is made clear by these words found in this translation of the Septuagint text of Genesis:  “And the Lord God took the man whom he formed, and placed him in the garden [paradeiso] to cultivate [ergazesthai] it and to keep watch [phylassein] over it (Gen 2: 15).”  This charge is not to exploit and devastate creation for greed and power.  The cultivation and protecting watch is a liturgy of caring, respectful, devoted service.

Hence, humanity was created to be vice-regents and priests in service to God’s creation.  Creation experiences the love and care of God by the loving, cultivating, and priestly actions of humans acting in behalf of God for creation.  The dog, the cat, the cattle, the tree, the stream, and the soil of the earth, when so cared for by humanity, receives the touch of God.  For all creatures the most direct interaction with God is with humanity as we properly image God before all things.

Thus, to be truly pro-life, the Christian is to be for all of life found in creation — creation that also exists redeemed in Christ — redeemed as is appropriate for the species.  The Christian is to be Pro Pan-life.

We all stand in these day with information that tells us creation is in peril.  Species vanish due to greed and superstition.  Air, soil, and water are polluted due to greed and disregard.  Waste and cruelty to animals is our common sin due to the desire for convenience and consumption.  Whether the climate and environmental difficulties facing us are of human origin, or simply a cycle of nature (or a combination of the two), humanity is to awaken and become the guardians and advocates of creation God intends us to be — for the sake of both creation and humanity.

I have no use for motivation that is driven by fear or guilt.  Furthermore, we are only responsible for our own “sphere of influence” — our home, family, friends, property, neighborhood, and all we encounter in our daily lives.  It is in these mundane settings that we are to be Pro Pan-life.  We are to think globally, but generally all we can do is act locally.  We grow, blossom, and serve “where we’re planted.”

However, our repentance is required.  In closing, I present to you excerpts from The Order of a Service of Prayer for the Preservation of God’s Creation:

Again we pray Thee, O Lord, let not Thy creation suffer for the sake of our intemperance and lawlessness, but let it be preserved unharmed from all adverse insidiousness, we entreat Thee, harken and have mercy…

…Turn not away Thy face even now, O Lord who lovest mankind, seeing Thy world spoiled by our transgressions and passions.  Look down from Heaven, O God, and see that the earth is grieving.  Trees and plants are vanishing, wild animals; cattle and birds of the air are perishing because of the desecration of those living here.  For this cause we fall down in repentance and cry out to Thee, that Thou permit not Thy world to be destroyed and us with our transgressions, but grant conversion to the foolish sons of men and salvation for them and for creation subject to them…

…We entreat Thee, O all-merciful God, have mercy on us, fill our hearts with the light of Thy wisdom and accept our repentance, that we may cultivate Thy world in restoring the integrity of creation to the benefit of our souls and bodies and to the glory of Thy most holy Name, for unto Thee is due all glory, honor, and worship to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

This service was commanded by bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to be served in October, 2015.  May we live by them in a solidarity of life-giving service to  both humanity, and the entirety of creation.

Please read other all-life posts:  Richard Adams and Animal WelfareThe Sparrow and the Swallow in the Temple“Big Leaf” Gets a Blessing

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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