|The “Kasperovskaya” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos|
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we gaze upon the icon of the most Holy Mother of God and our Savior, we are reminded of the truths in which our faith as Orthodox Christians is
rooted: the One Who is Life Itself emptied Himself and took on our human nature, that we might become partakers of His divine nature.
The Holy Virgin gave birth in time and space to the eternal God, Who came into the world to free us from sin, death, and corruption. He took on our human nature to transform us, to reconcile us to the Father, and to restore in us all that had been lost through the devil’s deceit. All creation rejoiced, as we sing during the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, as God “made her body into a throne, and her womb more spacious than the heavens.”
The icon of the Mother of God, however, reveals another truth. The Mother of God tenderly embraces her Son, caressing Him as He clings to her. Like all mothers, she protects her child from every harm and danger. She reassures Him with the same maternal love every mother offers her child. Recognizing Him as God’s greatest gift to the world, she lovingly and selflessly accepts her duty to defend this precious gift of Life Itself, regardless of the costs or consequences.
Sadly, the culture in which we live seems to have forgotten that life is a gift from God—the very God Who all too often is not acknowledged as the Source of Life, if acknowledged at all. Abortion on demand, branded as a “human right,” remains the law of the land and a blatant denial of the very image of God in which all human life is created. Hastening the death of the elderly or terminally ill under the deceptive guise of “pain management” and “death with dignity” is hardly an isolated event today. Sacrificing human life in the name of freedom or as a means of “protecting” society from “criminal elements,” has become an accept fact. The very thought of life as a sacred gift and the possibility of repentance is shunned outright among the “enlightened,” who deem any connection whatsoever between creation and its Creator as “politically incorrect.” Our society trumpets its commitment to ensuring “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet we, as people of faith, cannot blind ourselves to the fact that society has not only embraced the “culture of death,” but has sadly perfected it—at the expense of those created in God’s image, not the least of which are the millions of innocent unborn children upon whom the death penalty has been proclaimed for no reason other than they exist.
I call upon you to join me in praying that our society, like the prodigal son, will come to its senses and experience a collective repentance. Let us pray that everyone, from civic and religious leaders to common citizens, will bravely denounce the culture of death that surrounds us and embrace life—in the womb, beyond the tomb, and at every point in between—as a sacred gift from God that must be protected by all means. If we, as people of faith, truly believe that we possess the fullness of revealed truth, then it is our duty—rather, our divine calling—to proclaim, in our words and actions, the truths of which the icon of the Mother of God and Our Savior reveals to us. We cannot wall ourselves off from the society in which Our Lord has planted us. While we are not “of the world,” as Saint Paul reminds us, we are nevertheless “in the world”—just as Our Lord, in the very midst of the world, proclaimed its salvation.
May He Who is Life Itself open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, and our lives to His presence in this world, and may He strengthen us to proclaim the precious gift of life that finds its life in Him.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada