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Contemporary issues in the light of Orthodoxy


First let us enumerate several important facts related to this question.

Fact 1:

The true Church of Christ has never in the past given her blessing for such a practice.  This is clearly stated in the Book of Needs, where, in the Order of Confession, among the questions addressed to women we find the following: “Did she wear herbs so as not to have a child… or whether someone poured something in her womb so as not to conceive, or ate some herb… She is to desist and to be excluded for six years.”  Here the Book of Needs draws support from a ruling of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.  Thus, the use of contraceptives goes against not only the spirit and purpose of the Christian marriage and the teachings of the Church Fathers, but also goes against the clear and direct decrees and laws of the Church.

Fact 2:

As far as I know, all the bishops of our Church Abroad are in full agreement that such practices are not permissible.

Fact 3:

Although they cannot be considered in any way an authority for us, it is nevertheless altogether indicative that the Roman Catholics, despite their other errors, have always absolutely forbidden contraception.

Fact 4:

Unfortunately, in recent times, so-called teachers in the more liberal Orthodox jurisdictions, in their explanations of Orthodox marriage, give some sort of “sacramental” significance to physical union, and because of this consider the use of contraceptives altogether permissible.  The fact that throughout history the understanding of the Church contradicts their new thinking they explain as being due to an excessive influence of monasticism on the Church’s historical understanding of the question.  Of course we can hardly agree with these modern theologians, but must take into consideration that it is these ideas which are published in the English language, and it is these which fall into the hands of our youth.

Fact 5:

Contraceptives can be divided into two groups.  The first are those which physically prevent the actual conception.  The second are those which pretend to be contraceptives, but actually do not allow for development after conception.  This is already no longer contraception, but automatic abortion, i.e. murder.

We find an ambivalent attitude in the Orthodox flock on the question of the use of contraceptives.  Church-oriented people who are obedient to the Church’s teachings do not require such things, but those who do not live a Church-oriented life are incapable of understanding why such things are prohibited.  If you try to explain why, they consider that you are interfering in something that is none of your business.

First we will explain how it is that Church-oriented people do not require contraceptives.  Intercourse is not sanctioned during the four periods of fasting and also on all Wednesdays and Fridays, from the evening before, throughout the entire year.  This eliminates some 180 days of the year.  In the Instructional Notice found at the end of the Service Book, in Rule 18 we read the following: “Any priest or deacon who has a wife must abstain from intercourse with her several days before serving, also, after serving, for that day.  Anyone not abstaining but serving, sins gravely.  Not only priests, but also all Christians who are to partake worthily of the Divine Mysteries of Christ must keep themselves from this impediment…”  If we were to interpret this rule minimally, i.e. that abstinence is required two days prior and one day after Communion, and supposing that a pious couple might commune at least once a month outside of Lenten periods, also on holidays, then at least another thirty days are eliminated.  If we take into account the biological fact that the right conditions for conception are normally present in a woman only four days a month, it becomes obvious that those who abstain according to Church rules do not require any artificial means.

Taking these Church limitations on married life into account, it becomes obvious that the errors of the modern theologians are logical.  Having relaxed or completely abolished fasting, they now have to make the next relaxation, justifying it in all manner of wisdom foreign to the Church.

But what can we do with those members of the flock who do not fast, do not often commune, do not practice abstinence?  How is a pastor to guide those who are not fully obedient to the Church?  Our only hope is somehow to convey to these people that the very crux of Orthodox Christian marriage, the common end of all our sacraments and the whole Christian life is the attainment of salvation.  If couples could understand that their marriage bond is nothing other than their means of salvation, the limitation of the will, obedience, raising of the spirit above the flesh, then they would see that, contrary to what the world asserts, the physical component is not really the pivotal point of their union; then they could follow the Church’s teaching in this sphere.




This is a question which often arises among our young people, and is one of those to which the Church has long since given a direct definition.  In view of the fact that contemporary anti-Christian propaganda asserts that there is absolutely nothing immoral about killing a baby in the womb, we should repeat here a few facts connected with this issue.

Fact 1:

The Church, beginning with the Old Testament, has always forbidden killing in the womb.  In Exodus we read: “And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty… But if it shall be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life” (21:22-23).  Abortion is clearly considered murder.  In other books of the Old Testament we often come across an understanding that human life begins before birth, in the mother’s womb.  In Psalm 138 we read: “For Thou has possessed my reins, O Lord, Thou has helped me from my mother’s womb… My bone is not hid from Thee, which Thou madest in secret…”.  In the Prophet Jeremiah we find: “Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and before thou comest forth from the womb I sanctified thee, I appointed thee a prophet to the nations” (1:5).  The Prophet Isaiah writes: “Thus saith the Lord God Who made thee and He that formed thee from the womb; thou shalt yet be helped.” (44:2).

Fact 2:

Although there is no definite dogma on this, many Church Fathers consider that a person is complete, i.e. possessing both a body and a soul, from the moment of conception, because he receives not only his body from the union of his parents, but also his soul.  In his book Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky refers to the following Holy Fathers on this point:

“In the view of other teachers and Fathers of the Church (Tertullian, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius the Great, Anastasius the Presbyter), both soul and body receive their beginning simultaneously and mature together; the soul proceeds from the souls of the parents just as the body proceeds from the bodies of the parents.  In this way creation is understood here in a broad sense as the participation of the creative power of God, which is present and essential everywhere, for every kind of life.  The foundation of this view is the fact that in the person of our forefather Adam, God created the human race – He hath made of one blood all nations of men (Acts 17:26).  From this it follows that in Adam the soul and body of every man was given in potentiality.  But God’s decree is brought into reality in such a way that God holds all things in His hands: He giveth all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:25).  God, having created, continues to create.

“Saint Gregory the Theologian says: ‘Just as the first body which was originally formed in us of dust, subsequently became the source of all human bodies and has not been cut off from the first-formed root, one man containing others within him – so also the soul, being in-breathed by God, from that time comes together into the formed composition of man, being born anew…’

“In his diary, St. John of Kronstadt has this observation: ‘What are human souls?  Thy are all one and the same soul, one and the same breath of God, which God breathed into Adam, which from Adam until now is disseminated to the whole human race’.”

This understanding is expressed in the Church feast days of the conception of the Holy Mother of God and of St. John the Baptist, as well as the celebration of the beginning of our salvation – the Annunciation.  In the services the newly conceived are talked of as complete people.  We are all familiar with the meeting between Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary as described by Saint Luke: And when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb (Luke 1:41).  Here it is clear that the infant in the womb was not only a complete individual human being, but was even capable of reacting to other things outside the womb.  Such examples are also found in the lives of saints; e.g. Saint Sergius of Radonezh, while still in his mother’s womb, cried out during the Liturgy.  This all confirms the view of the Church that the embryo is an autonomous individual human being, and that the termination of his being from the moment of his conception is nothing other than murder.

Fact 3:

From the earliest times there exist Church laws and edicts against abortion.  In the first-century Didache (tenets of the twelve apostles), in the second chapter we find a direct prohibition of abortion.  Also the Church Fathers, right from the beginning, opposed abortion.  For example, St. John Chrysostome, while denouncing adulterers, says: “And why sow there, where the very field itself is preparing to destroy the fruit; where murder is committed before birth, so that you not only keep a whore in her promiscuity, but even make her a murderess?  Do you see how from drunkenness comes fornication, from fornication – adultery, from adultery – murder?”

Fact 4:

The Church has always considered abortion a grave sin and prescribed a severe punishment for those who commit this offence.  Canon 21 of the Local Council of Ancyra states: “Women conceiving after adultery and destroying the fruit, and those who prepare infanticidal poisons were by a former ruling forbidden to receive communion until death, and this they follow.  Seeking, however, a more condescending solution, we decree that such are to undergo a ten-year period of penance, following the normal stages.”  One notices here that it was unthinkable to the Fathers of the council that anyone could want to destroy fruit conceived in wedlock, and so they talk only of those who conceive after adultery.

Saint Basil in his second canon rejects all talk of dividing the development of the embryo into stages.  He writes: “Anyone who deliberately destroys an embryo in the womb is liable to prosecution for murder.  We do not make any fine distinctions between developing and as yet undeveloped embryos.”  And in his eighth canon he says: “Those who give medical treatment for the sake of aborting the embryo in the womb are murderers; likewise those who take infanticidal medications.”

We often hear how in the last seventy years Communism has destroyed Russia.  This is true of course, but normally people are referring to the economy and the environment.  It is rarely that anyone realizes that the country has been turned into a land of murderers.  According to the most conservative estimates the average Russian woman undergoes six abortions.  Every fourth abortion in the world is Russian.  If one takes into account that among Central Asian women abortion is rare, then it is obvious that Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics, and Moldova are afflicted by an epidemic of infanticide.  Every year, according to official figures, in our Russian land eight million people are killed by their mothers in the womb.  In actual fact the real figures are higher.

Of course it is not only the women, but also the fathers who are guilty of the murder of their children.  Thus the majority of the population directly takes part in murder.  Is this not one of the main obstacles to a rebirth of Russia?  Also here in the diaspora not all acknowledge the seriousness of the question.  All confessors are aware of how widespread this sin is here as well.


The next possibility which is available to today’s pregnant women is special medical analyses. The main one, over which there is a large moral question mark, is amniocentesis.

What does it consist of? A long syringe is inserted into the womb of the mother, piercing the embryonic sac and drawing out a small quantity of embryonic fluid in which the infant swims while in the mother’s womb. This fluid contains cells of the infant which are genetically analyzed.

What is the goal of this analysis? By this method illnesses of defects which might be genetic in nature (such as Down’s Syndrome) are revealed. One must realize that the analysis itself is of considerable risk to the fetus, for the infant can be injured or killed in the process.

What is the moral question involved in this test? The dilemma is that if an illness is discovered, abortion is nearly always suggested as the only solution. Doctors in the United States are obliged to suggest such an analysis, and abortion as a solution under such conditions. A doctor is liable to be tried for not having suggested the test. Therefore, it is our duty to warn young couples of the abominable results of such testing.

One should add that this examination is sometimes performed to determine the sex of the child. One part of the test is a genetic analysis which reveals the sex of the child. If the gender is not the one that the parents desire, they can kill the unborn son or daughter in the hopes that the next conception will be more to their liking. In this situation the sin of child murder is combined with the most terrible sin of pride.

Artificial Methods of Conception

Modern medicine offers a variety of artificial methods of conception for couples unable to conceive naturally. One such method is artificial insemination. Other possibilities include surrogate parenting, embryo transfer, and in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

It would not be necessary to speak of any of these methods if they were not so widespread. Since these are very possible options that are offered to our young couples, it is important to define briefly their nature.

The most common method is artificial insemination. Over 20,000 children are born in America as a result of this process. There are two types of artificial insemination. The first is artificial insemination by the husband. Here the husband’s sperm is artificially planted in the wife’s uterus. In the second type of artificial insemination, called AID, or artificial insemination by a donor, the sperm of an anonymous man is artificially planted in the uterus. This cannot even remotely be considered as an option, and is absolutely unacceptable for an Orthodox Christian.

Surrogate parenting is a method introduced to compensate for the inability of the woman to conceive. The uterus of a surrogate mother is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the father. After the birth the surrogate mother turns the child over to the father and his wife. This process is in its essence adulterous, and therefore totally unthinkable for Christians.

Yet another option is embryo transfer, which is the very latest technical development, advancing the technique even further. In this procedure the artificially inseminated embryo of a surrogate mother is transferred to the wife of the father, who then gives birth to the child. Again such an experiment is unthinkable for Christians.

The final common practice is in-vitro fertilization or IVF. There the sperm of the man and the eggs of the woman are fertilized in a test tube, or, more likely, a saucer. This results in the production of a number of embryos, with the most healthy one being chosen and implanted in the mother’s or the surrogate mother’s womb. The embryos not selected are either simply discarded or frozen, in case the embryo chosen is rejected once implanted in the mother’s womb.

So far these methods have not been fully perfected, and it is still necessary to introduce the embryo into a woman’s womb to develop. However, the time is not far off when the embryo will grow and be born entirely from a test tube. It is very clear that medicine has invaded an area of decision-making that belongs to God alone.

The Moral Upbringing of our Children and Youth

Let us now examine those moral questions which touch upon the moral upbringing of our children and youth.

Some years ago Archpriest Vladimir Glinsky made the following observation about the contemporary moral state which surrounds our youth. He wrote: “The ‘Tree of Knowledge’ has completely obscured the ‘Tree of Life’ from view. The conception of sin is abolished. Morals are based on godless principles. The understanding of human personality has been perverted: it exists somehow independently, for itself, without any connection with God. Mankind’s replacement is in an unhealthy state; the majority of the younger generation feels welded together due to an extreme oversimplification of their inner world, but without any ideal to justify this bond.

On the Sexual Revolution

The inner state of youth’s emancipation is reflected in the struggle against nobility of appearance in all things: behavior, taste, entertainment, fashion, etc. An absence of shame and aesthetics are accentuated. Slavish obedience to what is in fashion is the vogue.”

This lack of principles is especially evident in the contempt for the Seventh Commandment. It is an accepted fact that a “sexual revolution” took place in the ’50s and ’60s. All “old-fashioned” prohibitions against animal-like behavior were discarded. Humanity entered into an era of “liberated morality” and “free love.” The result of these changes was the obvious obliteration of normal human existence. Mankind stepped away from the divine and became totally immersed in the carnal, the bestial, the demonic. Social scientists avidly rummage through this dirt, and even the most sincere Christians, living amid such corruption, cannot help but be affected to some degree by contemporary moral conditions.

Statistics which describe the moral picture of contemporary humanity are abundant. We offer only some of these statistics in order to illustrate the depth of the abyss into which contemporary morality has fallen. According to the most conservative figures, by the age of 15, 51% of boys and 31% of girls in America have lost their virginity; by the age of 18 the numbers have risen to 80% of boys and 56% of girls. Every year around 1.5 million girls, still minors, become pregnant; 50% of these pregnancies end in abortion. 55% of men and 45% of women in this country have committed adultery.

The dissolution extends further. Now homosexuality, bestiality, child molestation, and even incest, have become the norm. The magazine Newsweek writes in its Dec. 30, 1991 issue that in its rules for the 1990-1991 academic year, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst forbade discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, national background, physical defect, veteran status or sexual orientation, which shall not include minor children as the sex object.” In the 1991-92 statement the last 15 words were deleted. In effect, this means that Amherst, a respected institute of higher learning, will now no longer discriminate against fornicators who have minor children as the object of their activity.

Many hold that the sins common to modern society always existed. Indeed, if one were to look into the Book of Needs, almost all of the contemporary sins are listed. The modern era differs from others in that sin, in spite of its diffusion, was always considered sin. Now all concepts have been reversed. Sinful behavior is considered completely acceptable, even healthy.


The merciful and long-suffering Lord Who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to Him and live, sends corrective punishment to fallen humanity. The epidemic of AIDS is nothing less than the corrective wrath of God. The chief means of infection by this illness are fornication and the use of dirty needles to inject drugs. Here it is obvious that the unquestionable result is the product of sinfulness. Does anyone in the press or in a prominent position speak of this? Does anyone call them to repentance? No. Indeed, just the opposite. Even the most innocuous claims that this might be allowed by God for sins is met with indignation and exasperation. And worse, liberal forces exploit the epidemic of AIDS in order to implement a program of sex education in the earliest grades. The state of New York recently recommended that its schools begin education on AIDS prevention with nine-year-olds. In the older grades the school administration can distribute prophylactics to students, which will supposedly prevent the spread of AIDS. Yet many sensible doctors know that there is absolutely no proof that prophylactics lessen the risk of infection. Nevertheless children are instructed on “safe sex,” which serves as a blessing by the school authorities on such behavior.

It is no surprise that in America, among believers, the practice of home schooling is becoming more widespread. There are already many Protestant, Catholic, and simply conservative organizations who, for a fee, distribute full home education programs and materials to those who order them. This is a big task for a mother, who is mainly responsible for home education. Of course, not everyone is capable of teaching, but due to the irreverent atmosphere that more and more pervades our schools, it is becoming the only alternative.


No matter how much pious Christian families try to protect themselves and their children from the pernicious influence of the surrounding world, forbid their children to associate with amoral persons, send them to special schools or home school them, in general – no matter how much they try to guard themselves from all evil, nevertheless, despite all their efforts, they still have a television set in their homes, and they watch it. Therefore, quite often all those corrupting influences from which they have protected themselves so carefully will be passed on to them in a concentrated dose through this piece of equipment. Since such a situation obtains even among morally pure families, television may be regarded as the most dangerous element in modern society. Professor Neil Postman wrote the following in the News and World Report magazine about the influence of television on children:

“Television has a catastrophic effect on children. It uncovers for children all the secret taboos and thus erases the border separating childhood from the adult world. This piece of equipment completely steals their childhood from children. It transmits one and the same information to all, irrespective of the viewer’s age, gender, education, or experience. In this manner are removed the many important criteria which separate the adult from the child. For example, one of the main differences between an adult and a child is that the adult knows and understands aspects of life that are concealed from the child. But television brings to the surface the naked reality of life. For this purpose, in order to create a sensation that would attract viewers, TV programmers are ready without compunction to show homosexuality, incest, divorce, fornication, promiscuity, betrayal in marriage, and various kinds of violence and sadism.

Television plays a more important role in the education of children than school. From ages six to eighteen each child spends an average of 15,000 to 16,000 hours in front of television. During the same period of time, he will spend only 13,000 hours in school.”

In fact, if one stops to think that in an average family the television is turned on for 49 and-a-half hours per week, it is not surprising that it has such a terrible effect not only on children, but on the adults in the home as well. If an Orthodox family is engaged watching television (and, unfortunately, there are very many such families), then how can it find time for spiritual reading? There is also no time left for talking with the children, which is so important for bringing up children in the spirit of Orthodoxy.

The righteous St. John of Kronstad often spoke out against going to the theater, since he believed it to be a destructive type of amusement. What would the saint have said, had he known that Orthodox Christians bring theater into their homes, not only to watch cultural programs, but for the most disgusting shows?

Television is the most harmful phenomenon in modern society affecting our parishioners’ children. There was a time when one could speak of some small benefit of television. At the present moment, however, even this small benefit is so inconsequential that it is completely engulfed by the enormous harm of this invention.

Even without the influence of television mankind is following the wrong path. Having rejected God and the eternal life He gave, contemporary mankind has reached a dead end. Forgetting about its spiritual immortality, it has placed all its hopes in life on earth. Modern philosophy teaches that everything ends with death, and in accordance with such reasoning pleasure has become the goal of earthly existence. All human efforts are aimed at the acquisition of earthly goods, and all human energy, which could have been better used for spiritual improvement, is being spent on material acquisitions and the pursuit of pleasure. Such a narrow viewpoint, unfortunately, is affecting the faithful as well. This view of life not only spoils man’s attitude towards life, but also distorts his view of death.

Death of the Terminally Ill (Euthanasia)

Because of loss of faith in God, and no faith in eternal life, modern society has fallen into two extremes with respect to the question of death. One extreme is evidenced in the endless and senseless extending of life of the terminally ill. The other extreme, which is even more horrible and blasphemous, and yet is becoming more popular and gaining greater coverage in the press, is the alternative of a painless suicide for the aged and terminally ill.

In order to illustrate the second extreme we offer an account written by Dr. Timothy E. Quill, which was published in the March 1991 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The article is entitled “A Case of Individualized Decision-Making” and describes the case story of Diane, who was diagnosed with acute myelomonocytic leukemia. Here is a synopsis of the article:

“Diane came to my office with her husband and son. They had talked extensively about the problem and the options. She remained very clear about her wish not to undergo chemotherapy and to live whatever time she had left outside the hospital…

We arranged for home hospice care, although at that time Diane felt reasonably well, was active, and looked healthy, and we tried to anticipate how to keep her comfortable in the time she had left.

Just as I was adjusting to her decision, she opened up another area that would touch me profoundly. It was extraordinarily important to Diane to maintain control of herself and her own dignity during the time remaining to her. When this was no longer possible, she clearly wanted to die. As a former director of a hospice program, I know how to use pain medicines to keep patients comfortable and lessen suffering. I explained the philosophy of comfort care, which I strongly believed in. Although Diane understood and appreciated this, she had known of people lingering in what was called relative comfort, and she wanted no part of it. When the time came, she wanted to take her life in the least painful way possible. Knowing of her desire for independence and her decision to stay in control, I thought this request made perfect sense. I acknowledged and explored this wish, but also thought that it was out of the realm of currently accepted medical practice, and that it was more than I could offer. In our discussion, it became clear that preoccupation with her fear of a lingering death would interfere with Diane’s getting the most out of the time she had left until she found a safe way to ensure her death. I discussed this at length with her family. They believed that they should respect her choice. A week later she phoned me with a request for barbiturates for sleep. I made sure that she knew how to use the barbiturates for sleep, and also that she knew the amount needed to commit suicide…

The next several months were very intense and important for Diane. Her son stayed home from college, and they were able to be with one another and say much that had not been said earlier. Her husband did his work at home so that he and Diane could spend more time together. She spent time with her closest friends…

Bone pain, weakness, fatigue, and fevers began to dominate her life. Although the hospice workers, family members, and I tried our best to minimize the suffering and promote comfort, it was clear that the end was approaching. Diane’s immediate future held what she feared the most – increasing discomfort, dependence, and hard choices between pain and sedation. She called up her closest friends and asked them to come over to say goodbye, telling them that she would be leaving soon. As we had agreed, she let me know as well. When we met, it was clear that she knew what she was doing, that she was sad and frightened to be leaving, but that she would be even more terrified to stay and suffer. In our tearful goodbye she promised a reunion in the future at her favorite spot at the edge of Lake Geneva, with dragons swimming in the sunset.

Two days later her husband called to say that Diane had died. She had said her final goodbyes to her husband and son that morning, and asked them to leave her alone for an hour. After an hour, which must have seemed an eternity, they found her on the couch, lying very still and covered by her favorite shawl. There was no sign of struggle. She seemed to be at peace…

I wonder how many families and physicians secretly help patients over the edge into death in the face of such severe suffering. I wonder how many severely ill or dying patients secretly take their lives, dying alone in despair. I wonder why Diane had to be alone for the last hour of her life. I wonder whether I will see Diane again, on the shore of Lake Geneva at sunset, with dragons swimming on the horizon.”

Dr. Quill is so convincing in his decision that one can momentarily waver, thinking: “Is this not the humane way out for the sick person’s terrible situation?” But suddenly one shudders, thinking, “Is this not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Is it not a protest against the All-wise will of God, a protest against our Source of life?” It is not accidental that the suicide promised to meet the doctor who had helped her kill herself “there where dragons swim.” Take note of how well this demonic trick is camouflaged.

This type of medical “assistance” is now being more frequently reported in the press. Everyone is probably acquainted with Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s invention, called the “suicide machine.” The machine works on a simple principle. The incurably ill person, who desires to put an end to his suffering, plans out his end with Dr. Kevorkian. The doctor fills an intravenous bottle with poison and hooks the patient up to the machine. The patient himself pushes the button which injects the poison and kills him. Doctors Quill and Kevorkian are in the front lines of this blasphemous movement, but the medical community in general is headed in that direction.

The moving force behind all of this is financial. The fact is that because of the high cost of modern medical treatment, society cannot produce the necessary funds to treat the critically ill over a long period of time. For example, the cost of medical care required for one person infected with AIDS is around $100,000 a year. Some cases of cancer are much more expensive. The number of ill people continually increases, but the means to cover the costs do not materialize. The government does not know where to acquire the funds. For the godless, the logical solution to this dilemma is to restrict the span of the illness. This can be achieved by two means. The first way, though more radical and less widespread, is suicide, as in the cases cited above. The second, more realistic means is dealt with by every citizen of the United States. As of December 1, 1991 a new law went into effect called the “Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990.” The law calls for every patient admitted to a hospital or rest home and receiving a government subsidy to be offered a document to sign called “A Living Will” or some similar document. These wills give the patient the possibility, while still in a sound state of mind, to determine the degree of medical attention he wants in order to prolong his life. The patient chooses from a series of levels of medical assistance. One extreme offers the patient all possible means available to prolong life. The opposite extreme is where the patient refuses all artificial assistance, including the most basic drugs, even nourishment. Between these two extremes are a wide number of degrees of assistance from which the patient chooses.

As such, these wills are in themselves not negative. The Orthodox Christian may use them to determine his wishes at the end. For example, the patient can determine that the most essential point at the end of his life is a visit by a priest, receiving Holy Communion, and final spiritual guidance and prayer.

What is troubling about these testaments is that they are motivated by money, and therefore the final outcome might be a choice of suicide. Only three months ago a proposal was put to vote in the state of Washington, asking the electorate to decide whether to give doctors the medical right to kill the critically ill if they request it. The proposal was not passed, but only by a slight margin. 47% of the state’s voters decided to give doctors the possibility of killing their patients. This time, due to a 3% margin the proposal was rejected, but most likely it will be accepted in the future. Ultimately, everyone will have the right to kill himself with the help of the latest technical developments. God preserve us from such blasphemy and grant us a Christian ending to our life!

The times are difficult and, according to many accounts, apocalyptic. The enemy of mankind is increasing his onslaught, and the flock is dwindling. But such times must be. It is clear from all that has been discussed that the one repository of truth from whence it is possible to obtain answers to all of these complicated problems, the only source of the light of Christ, is the Orthodox Church, the foundation of all our morality.

Thus the only path to a correct understanding of all moral questions of modern life is life in the Church. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 19:7).


(To be continued)

Father Gregory Naumenko

(Reprinted from “Orthodox Life,” No. 1, 1992)

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