“To obey is better than sacrifice…” “Let this cup pass, but nevertheless, Thy will be done…not mine…”
Again, and again, what I take away from the holy writings of the Church and the Bishops who lead Her is this: be faithful – even though you’ll be unpopular. Culture rejected and killed Christ for His teaching, and perhaps us as well, “for if they hated Me, they will also hate you because of Me…” Certainly the goal of the Church is not to intentionally or purposefully alienate, or condemn, or despise anyone – for we are all sinful, needy, and desperately in need of daily confession and grace and the balm of forgiveness given freely in the Sacraments of the Church. We must all repent daily (even hourly) believe, receive grace and return like the Prodigal son to his loving Father. Likewise we confess that every person is a person of extreme value and worth since each of us is created in the very image of God – and this image and dignity is to be defended from conception to natural death. But what inspires me in the Churches directive as noted below by Bishop Jonah is this: clear biblical teaching, with no apologies, with the ultimate goal of giving each person who reads and submits to it – the gift of all gifts: life, health, peace, and salvation… in short freedom from the bondage from sin, death and the devil – through repentance “a changed mind and changed direction.” New life. Peace and contentment for those who take up the cross and follow.
When, in obedience, we humble ourselves and conform our lives to the teachings of Christ, as He gave them to His apostles and Church – who in turn, gave them to Bishops, their successors, we see the beautiful unity and continuity of the Church. We witness the oneness of catholicity in the Church, in that ‘catholic’ means “according to the whole” i.e. “fullness” “lacking nothing” – the teaching embraced universally around the world.
May God grant us the strength and the faith to uphold and to live out the ideals contained in these beautiful teaching of marriage, family, sanctity of life and sexuality… all good gifts from our good God. Gifts that we will be accountable for one day as we stand before Him in the judgment.
The continuation of a letter from Metropolitan +Jonah Archbishop of Washington Metropolitan of All America and Canada.
Our life in Christ is constituted by repentance. If we are to be faithful Christians, we must be constantly turning toward God, away from our sins and passions, realizing the seriousness of our sin in a spirit of repentance, and striving to change our lives. We cannot approach the Holy Mysteries without living a life of repentance, and examining our consciences and confessing our sins. When we have fallen, we repent, and try to stop our sinful behavior. Otherwise, we risk communing unto judgment and condemnation. This discipline of the Christian life leads to salvation, enlightenment and the healing of our souls. We must be faithful to that discipline of life, if we are to call ourselves Orthodox Christians.
In light of the above, what Orthodox Christian in good conscience would dare to approach the chalice containing the lifegiving Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, while refusing to acknowledge, confess, and eradicate from his or her life sins against authentic Christian marriage, including fornication, homosexual activity, or adultery? Which sexually active couples co-habiting without the Orthodox sacrament of marriage can expect the Church to bless their unholy union and welcome them to the life- giving Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, unless they find separate accommodations and cease their fornication and get married in the Church?
We are all called as Christians to live a life of chastity, pleasing to the Lord, married or single. If we are Christians we are all called, whatever our attractions or past habits, to the same saving discipline that will heal our souls. Otherwise we are living in hypocrisy, a living death; just as when we judge others struggling with their sins. This has been delivered to us from the Apostles and Holy Fathers, and remains unchanged to this day. The Orthodox teaching on chastity and Christian marriage is a fundamental element in Christian life and discipline. We are called to conform our lives to the Church and its disciplines, not alter the teachings of the Church to fit either a cultural fad or our own passions. Where we stand against the prevailing cultural trends, we must stand fast, because we know that obedience to the Church’s teaching leads us to communion with God and eternal life; and disobedience leads to alienation from God, spiritual death.
As the Lord proclaims in the Gospel of St. Luke, “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required. . .” (Luke 12:48, RSV). We Orthodox Christians have been granted eternal life as a free, unmerited divine gift. Virtuous struggle against sexual temptations is hardly too much for the Lord to ask of us. The Lord honors the genuine intent of those who, with humility and repentance, so struggle, even as He judges those who, moved by a spirit of pride and defiance, persist in the spiritual delusion that unnatural or unholy sexual activity can be blessed. I have already instructed the clergy of our Archdiocese to honor their ordinations by acting in full accordance with our uncompromising Orthodox moral tradition. I expect all of us faithful to honor our baptism and unique calling as Christians.
These teachings are not onerous, but rather, part of the light yoke and easy burden of being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada