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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Demetrios Constantelos

Greek Orthodoxy - From Apostolic Times to the Present Day













Page 4

Modern theologians echo Stanley’s thesis. Hugo Rahner, a leading Roman Catholic theologian, adds that "God spoke his revelation in the world of the Greek spirit and the Roman imperium and the Church guards this truth framed in the Greek speech of her sacred Book…The Church will continue to speak Greek even if…Hellas descend into the abyss of utter oblivion." And Georges Florovsky adds: "The task of our time, in the Orthodox world, is to rebuild the Christian-Hellenic culture, not out of the relics and memories of the past, but out of the perennial spirit of our Church, in which the values of culture were truly christened. Let us be more Hellenic in order that we may be truly Christian." The Greek spirit and culture and permanently wedded to the Christian faith, neither of which can be separated from the other without deforming itself. Indeed, "the heritage of the Greek spirit only attains immortality within the shrine of the Logos whose words are recorded in the tongue of Hellas."
While Tertullian, the second-century Christian apologist, scornfully satirised those who "advocated a Stoic or a Platonic or a dialectic [Aristotelian] Christianity" and Christianity wrestled for several centuries with Tertullian’s question, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?", Greek Christianity had achieved at an early age a balance between the wisdoms of two cities, the thyrathen, that is, the Hellenic, and the Sacred.
The early Church arrived at the conclusion that the study of Greek wisdom was both useful and desirable provided the Christian rejected evil and retained all that is good and true, "for the good wherever it is found is a property of the truth," as Sokrates, the ecclesiastical historian, writes. But as a whole the Fathers and writers of the Greek Church did not seek to borrow essence and content from ancient Greek thought, for those they possessed in their sacred revelation. They sought to borrow methodologies, technical means, terminology, and logical or grammatical structures in order to build up the Christian edifice of theology, of doctrine, and thought.
As ancient Greek religion encompassed the whole of man and was concerned with the totality of man by having elaborate rituals for different occasions of his life – for rain and harvest, for the ill and the traveller – so the Orthodox Church is likewise very much concerned with the whole of man, body and soul. Thus she has rituals, prayers, and festivities for every significant event of man’s life. As the ancient Greeks "never felt any limitation to their religious imagination and curiosity," likewise the Christian Greeks enjoy a variety of religious events and expressions. … Even though Greek Orthodox Christianity subscribes to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed and to the doctrinal decisions of ecumenical synods, and at the face may appear very conservative, if not stifling, the truth is that in practice there is in Greek Orthodoxy a tremendous variety of religious expression and freedom, similar to that of ancient Greece. …
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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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