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Orthodoxy in Greece today


James writes: 

I am a Primary teacher in Scotland and would like to find out more about The Greek Orthodox Church -especially forms of worship,prayer-life in general and the veneration of saints. Iwould also like to know what impact the Church has on everyday life today in Greece. I do hope someone will be able to help. I will respond to your e-mails. Many thanks.

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Dear James, Maybe, the best would be to spend your next vacation in Greece, to see how life is in our Churches and Monasteries! The main form of worship is the Divine Liturgy and the partake of the Holy Communion. Vigils are not rare and not only in Monasteries. 

Entering a Church one can see icons of God and the saints. Our Churches are full of icons depicting God's love for man. Veneration of the saints is part of this love. Venerating the saints we ask God to give us their love, their sanctity, which is God's love and sanctity.

If you were to come to Greece sometime I would suggest that you do it at the period of Easter, in spring. Unlike what happens elsewhere, in Greece Easter is the most intensely felt feast. You will see in the time of Easter how important is the role of sacrifice in the way to eternal life. Nietzsche had said that man, the most sad among all creatures, is the one that knows how to laugh. Make this sadness a sacrifice and you will have laughter as holy joy: this you will see most clearly at Easter time in Greece.

Church and the Greek society are just inseparable, although, of course, distinct and in some aspects contrary - but who would expect from all social life to resemble the Church? If you want to learn how Greeks feel with their relationship to God, you can read (I hope there are translations in English) works by Alexander Papadiamantis. This relationship is to be found mainly in the immediate experience of God in various degrees in everyday life's warmth of love or fear of evil, or in the participation in the saints', even modern ascetics', experience of God. The Archbishop and the Metropolitans are more like a symbol of a life, which the faithful seek in the simple priest and the holy ascetic. In this sense, the Ecumenical Patriarch is even closer - symbolically- to the hearts of modern Greeks.

To the degree that modern Greeks read, books by and about the Holy Fathers of the Church, especially of the period that starts from St. Athanasius and ends to St. Symeon the New Theologian, are very popular, as well as books about modern holy persons, usually ascetics. This is not all of Greece. There are other sides too, sides of cheap tv shows or of expressed atheism. More interesting is a tendency of many young people to know anew the teaching of the Church. This tendency is in danger because usually sermons and the whole preaching, if it is not heartless or irrelevant, it strives to appear modern. Today in Greece the Church is in a great agony on how to form its consciousness and priorities and there is reasonable hope that this will be fruitful.

However, you can have a maybe more revealing view of the relationship of modern Greek society with religion in the collection "Christianity in (33) Modern Greek Paintings", published here on our site. You will see, from a romantic marriage of faith with patriotism, to an, equally romantic, search for authenticity in pure tradition, or in pure sentimentality, or the more genuine and promising search in Orthodoxy for a mystical understanding of life, for a framework where existential concerns can lead to a truth personally revealed and infinite.

This is a very rough picture, but you can't have everything in an email message!Add a note!


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Christianity in (33) Modern Greek Paintings

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