Words of the wise old woman from Đakovica
One of the last Serbian old women from Đakovica (Kosovo and Metohija) is Poleksija Kastratović, a servant of our church in Metohija for decades. When she became a nun, she received a new name, Theoktista. In an interview she gave to Svetigora magazine about St. Paul’s feast in 2015, she said: “Unborn children are our undoing. Nobody else did that. Because the unborn children are waging a war against us, and we don’t see that, but we see the Albanians. Because they scream. A woman told me here, she was in this situation several times–that she did not want to give birth./…/ And she dreamed that she has gone to heaven. A male child comes along because she had had it eliminated: he wants to beat her with a stick, and a beautiful, nicely dressed girl comes and says: “Leave her alone, she’s still our mom.” “Our mom? She didn’t let us live in that world–I won’t leave her alone!” The woman has had several abortions, a boy and two girls./…Those unborn children are waging a war against us, not Albanians, but those children. But we blame Albanians for everything.”
What else can we think about now that, after only a decade, there are half a million fewer of us, Serbs, than in the 2011 census?
Words of Bishop Pavle
Bishop Atanasije (Rakita) remembers what Bishop Pavle of Raška and Prizren (later Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church) told the students at seminaries: “In front of the seminarians from Karlovac, whom he met on 31 October 1990, Bishop Pavle of Raška and Prizren spoke about family and faithfulness to Christ. He warned of two sins, which had taken deep roots in the Serbian people, namely infanticide and drunkenness. Fornication and infanticide in particular threaten to destroy the entire nation. We are often accused of not knowing family life, because we are monks, but even if we don’t know what a family is, we know what God’s commandment is,” said the Bishop. The lesson ended with a warning that the Bishop often repeated in this dining room: “Priests must not be traitors to Christ’s teaching. True, there are such traitors today, but that should not be surprising. The apostles saw Christ’s works with their own eyes and listened to His words, and still there was one among them who betrayed Him. And we don’t listen to His words directly and we don’t see His miracles, but we receive all this through the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Mysteries. There will be traitors, but let’s try not to be those persons!”
How many priests today testify to the Patriarch’s words, and fight with all their might against drunkenness and abortion? Or does it all come down to the story of “Eucharistic ecclesiology” and the separation of ontology from ethics? And who will preach, in word and life, if the priests will not?
Words of Patriarch Pavle
When, in the middle of the last decade of the last century, radical quasi-feminists attacked Patriarch Pavle for his position (which, of course, is the position of the Church) on intrauterine infanticide, he said: “Last year the word was sent against abortion and the women’s lobby demonstrated and wrote in newspapers: ‘A woman is a free being and she decides whether to give birth or not.’ We did not say that she is not a free being, but we do not agree with the principle that the embryo is part of the female body. An egg is a part of a woman’s body and a seed is a part of a man’s, while the embryo is something else, a separate personality, a whole, not a part, and it belongs neither to a man nor to a woman. We were even criticized for being against Albanians being born. But we didn’t even mention them. Neither Albanians, nor the Roma, nor anyone, we only warned the Serbs who, if they continue like this, will soon be a minority in their own country, and if they still continue–they will disappear. We spoke to those who care whether we disappear by our own hands, and not only from constantly dying for justice and freedom. Mahatma Gandhi says that he spent his happiest years with his wife when they lived like a brother and sister. Those who do not want to give birth should abstain. If Gandhi could, why wouldn’t they.”
Did anyone listen to Patriarch Pavle?
According to the results of the latest census, obviously not.
Priest Vladimir Zielinski, in his text “Thanking Life”, describes why abortion is a real crime: “During the artificial termination of pregnancy, at least four people participate: a doctor (or medical staff), the pregnant woman, her partner and the fetus itself. The first three form a sort of conspiracy to eliminate the fourth. That conspiracy is just one cell of that malignant tumor that has penetrated and surrounded the entire modern society with its metastases. The ‘tumor’ called ‘abortion’ grows into an ideology (of which bioethics can become a part), which penetrates everywhere, usually in a ‘diffuse’ and not very well-argued form. Its phraseology revolves around words about the free choice of motherhood and the absence of truly human life in the first period right after conception, etc. However, the program of that ideology has no significance; of decisive importance is its poisonous function, which consists of diluting the natural and saving feeling of sin or guilt, which spontaneously appears during the killing of the conceived fetus at every stage of its development. This function elaborates the appropriate view of man, which paves the way to justifying his murder in the first days of his existence.
The basic thesis of that ideology (anti-Church in its essence) relies on cutting off any ontological significance of human life and on establishing the radical, rational randomness of every human personality.”
Serbs loved death instead of life, and accepted the ideology of intrauterine infanticide as their own. Whoever accepts that ideology, for him, both his own and other people’s existence is a coincidence.
That is why it is no coincidence that, after a decade of the “golden age”, there are half a million fewer of us.
We are disappearing.
As Kafka said in “The Country Doctor”, it’s enough to answer the wrong call once and you can’t fix it.
Repetition is the mother of learning
If you still do not understand why we are dying out, read again the passage from the Basis of the Social Conception of the Russian Orthodox Church, which expresses the position of the entire Eastern Orthodox Church, but, above all, the position of the Creator of heaven and earth.
Since the earliest times, the Church has considered the intentional termination of pregnancy (abortion) to be a grave sin. Canonical rules equate abortion with murder. At the base of such an assessment is the conviction that the embryo of a human being is a gift from God, which is why, from the moment of conception, any attack on human life is considered a crime.
The development of the fetus in the mother’s womb is described by the psalmist as a creative act of God: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb… My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth; Thine eyes did see my substance (Ps. 139; 13, 15-16). Job also testifies to this in his words addressed to God: Your hands shaped me and made me… Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit… Why then did you bring me out of the womb? (Job 10; 8, 10–12, 18). Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (Jer. 1; 5-6), the Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah. “Do not kill a child by causing an abortion”–this order is among the most important commandments of God in the “Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”, one of the oldest monuments of Christian literature. “A woman who commits an abortion is a murderer and therefore answerable before God, because… the embryo in the womb is a living being, which God takes care of,” wrote Athenagoras, a 2nd century apologist. “He who will become a man is already a man,” argued Tertullian at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century. “She who kills the fetus conceived in the womb is liable to be condemned for murder… Those who give potions to expel the fetus in the womb are murderers, as well as those who prepare poisons to kill children,” say the 2nd and 8th rules of St. Basil the Great, which are included in the Book of Rules of the Orthodox Church and confirmed by Rule 91 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. At the same time, St. Basil specifically says that the severity of the guilt does not depend on the time of pregnancy: “We do not distinguish between a fetus that has already taken shape and a fetus that has not yet taken shape.” St. John Chrysostom said that those who perform abortions are “worse than murderers.”
The wide distribution and justification of abortion in modern society is understood by the Church as a threat to future humanity and as an obvious sign of moral degradation. Faithfulness to the biblical and patristic teaching on the sanctity and invaluability of human life from its very beginning is incompatible with the understanding of a woman’s “freedom of choice” to decide the fate of the fetus. In addition, abortion poses a dangerous threat to the physical and spiritual health of the mother. Likewise, the Church unwaveringly considers it its duty to step in to protect the most vulnerable and dependent human beings, namely unborn children. The Orthodox Church cannot under any circumstances give a blessing for an abortion. Without rejecting women who have had an abortion, the Church invites them to repent and overcome the disastrous consequences of sin through prayer and penitence, which will be followed by participation in the Holy Sacraments. In the case when the extension of the pregnancy immediately threatens the life of the mother, especially in the case that she already has children, in pastoral practice it is recommended to show condescension (i.e. leniency). A woman who terminates her pregnancy in such circumstances is not excluded from Eucharistic communion with the Church, but this communion is conditioned by her fulfillment of the personal prayer and penitential rule. That rule is determined by the priest, who receives her confession. (Of course, it is understood that the priest has real evidence that the mother’s life was in danger (highlighted by the author). The fight against abortion, which women sometimes choose because of extreme material hardship and helplessness, requires the Church and the state to create effective measures for protection motherhood, and also the creation of conditions for the adoption of children that the mother cannot raise on her own for some reason.
The responsibility for the sin of killing an unborn child, along with the mother, is also borne by the father, in case he agreed to the abortion. If a woman had an abortion without her husband’s consent, this can be grounds for divorce (v. 10.3). The sin also falls on the soul of the doctor who performed the abortion. The Church calls on the state to recognize the right of medical professionals to refuse to perform an abortion on grounds of their conscience. The situation in which the legal responsibility of the doctor for the death of the mother is at an incomparably higher level than the responsibility for killing the fetus cannot be considered normal, as it encourages doctors, and through them, patients, to perform abortions. The doctor is obliged to exercise maximum responsibility when establishing a diagnosis that could encourage a woman to terminate a pregnancy. At the same time, a believing doctor is obliged to compare the medical data with the commandments of the Christian conscience.”
Is it now clear what the root cause is that there are half a million fewer of us than a decade ago?
Instead of a conclusion
Before starting anything, we should pray to God and repent of our sins. Father George (Karslidis), a well-known clergyman in Northern Greece, instructed a woman who had committed infanticide, and she was a beautiful and rich woman from high society, as follows: “Here is what you should do. Dress up in some clothes, don’t tell anyone who you are, and go to such and such a village. And you will beg there for a whole week, telling no one about your past or your future. Don’t even tell anyone your name. That humiliation will help your soul to truly calm down and to cleanse itself of the evil that you inflicted on another soul, your unborn child, who was killed before he could even be born into this world.”
The woman fulfilled all that and after that she felt what she did not feel after the confession–relief in her soul. And she was healed of a grave sin.
Repentance must be complete and sincere.
The Lord’s law is like two plus two equals four, that is–what is born as evil is doomed. For decades, God endured Serbs worshipping death, and this turned into autogenocide. And now the moment of truth has come, but also of punishment–that’s when the Creator of heaven and earth withdraws and lets people reap what they sowed with the devil.
If we do not repent collectively, which means the renewal of mind and soul and the creation of God’s commandment about procreation and multiplication, we have nothing to hope for. And hope, always and always, is in the One to whom the priest addresses at the end of the Holy Liturgy with “Glory to You, Christ God, above us, glory to You!”