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His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah speaks at a Divine Liturgy before the annual March for Life.Fr. Mark Hodges / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C, February 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah offered an impassioned plea to preserve and defend the sanctity of life in his homily at the high Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church before the annual March for Life.

The Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in the nation's capital hosted a Divine Liturgy on Friday morning in honor of the sanctity of innocent human life. The cathedral is pastorally administered by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

The cathedral annually holds the celebration on the day of the March. Priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, seminarians, and layfolk from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere gather to pray for America's moral sanity on the infamous day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized “child murder in the womb.”

In the sermon, Metropolitan Jonah said, “God has so richly poured out His love upon us. This is the day we witness together.”

Relating abortion to the most recent major feast of Theophany, the Baptism of Jesus, Jonah said all Orthodox Christians died in the waters of holy baptism. “A new person was re-created. Therefore, our old man and his ways must be rejected,” the hierarch said, referring to the sins of abortion, homosexuality, and other immoral acts.

“We can't take any baggage with us through death. Likewise, you can't bring anything through your death to the old man. Let him go!” Jonah exhorted. “We have to wholly submit our hearts and our minds and the totality of our being, including our attitudes and everything else, to God and to His Gospel.”

“So there's no room in us for the culture of death,” His Beatitude continued. “There is no room in the Christian for the acceptance of the horror of abortion, or the snuffing out of the lives of the elderly, or those who are no longer deemed 'useful.'”

“There's no longer room for actions or attitudes that are shaped by this world, because the world is under the influence of the Devil. … Don't listen to the things of Satan,” the bishop commanded.

“By the grace of the Holy Spirit within us, we must conform ourselves to the teachings of the Gospel,” Jonah exhorted. “This is what life is for an Orthodox Christian.”

“So what does this mean, then?” he asked. “It does not mean that we judge those who have not been enlightened with the Holy Spirit,” Jonah said. “We cannot call them 'brethren,' because they do the works of darkness, and we are called to 'come out' from darkness. But we condemn no one.”

“It doesn't mean we don't love them,” he clarified. “It means we can't consent to those values and actions which are contrary to the Church's teaching.”

“This is not about politics,” Jonah emphasized. “It's about living a life in which our conscience can remain clear. There can be no compromise on that which is contrary to the will of God, and the holy Scriptures.”

“Instead of being conformed to the world, we are to be transformed, completely informed by, illumined by, and guided by the grace of God. This is our task,” he said. “It's a very hard task, not only because it is politically incorrect, but because as the scriptures tell us the world will hate us.”

“The world will hate us because those doing the works of darkness will feel judged by us, whether we are judging them or not,” the Metropolitan explained.  “We have to accept that the world will hate us, and reject us, and regard us as foolish, and accept this as part of our cross to bear for Christ.”

“The world hated the Lord, and rejected Him. And we can expect nothing less,” he said. “Bearing that cross is the only way to salvation. … For if we are truly bearing that cross for His sake, unspeakable joy is reserved for us in heaven. And, we partake even now of that Kingdom, shining with joy as a beacon that others might also come to salvation.”

Before the Divine Liturgy, congregants venerated the icons, making the sign of Jesus' cross upon themselves three times. They lit candles to represent the prayers of the saints. Everyone stood at attention throughout the service.

The ethos was solemn but full of confident joy as His Beatitude, surrounded by priests and other clergy, offered holy Communion to participants.

Each ethnic “jurisdiction” within the one Orthodox Church commemorates the sanctity of life differently. By direction of the holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the following litany petitions are added:

Again we pray that You will grant to the people of this nation repentance, particularly for unspeakable evil of abortion, the mass murder of our children, and grant us all the will to do good, to flee from evil, and to practice all righteousness, making us respectful of innocent human life from conception, and sharers of Your blessings, caring for one another in mercy and truth.

Again we pray that You will banish all evil from our hearts and wickedness from our laws, particularly abortion, euthanasia, human cloning and destructive embryonic stem cell experimentation, enabling us to be servants of Your good will and performers of Your love.

Again we pray that You will kindle in our hearts the will to provide for women in crisis pregnancies, care for the needy, to show kindness to the poor, to aid the homeless and help the helpless.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, by OCA practice on the Sanctity of Life Sunday, the people pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, Who are in the bosom of the Father, True God, source of life and immortality, Light of Light, Who came into the world to enlighten it: You were pleased to be conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of our souls by the power of Your All-Holy Spirit. O Master, Who came that we might have life more abundantly, we ask You to enlighten the minds and hearts of those blinded to the truth that life begins at conception and that preborn babies in the womb are already adorned with Your image and likeness;  enable us to guard, cherish, and protect the lives of all those who are unable to care for themselves. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with divine and infinite love. Be merciful, O Lord, to those who, through ignorance or willfulness, affront Your divine goodness and providence through the evil act of abortion. May they, and all of us, come to the life of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

His Beatitude also offered the hand cross for the faithful to venerate and sprinkled holy water in a blessing for all those participating in the march.

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