Greek Mythology, Religion, and the Orthodox Church

The origins and the Homeric religion

Although its exact origins are lost in time, it is believed that the modern Greek religion goes back to the period of Aryan invasions of the second millennium BC, when the invaders encountered the two peoples that existed in the region since Neolithic of Greece: the Aegean (Pelasgians ) and the Minoans of Crete. The merger of the Aryans, and Aegean Minoans began what today is known as "Greek culture" and that gave birth to "Minoan-Mycenaean civilization", which flourished in the period 1600 to 1400 BC Prior to the invasions, the Helladic communities had been widely separated geographically, so for the foreign invaders were simply swept away everything, including the various religious beliefs that were prevalent in the outlying districts.

At first the result was a confused conglomeration, but gradually a certain systematization of the gods began to take shape. The marriage of Zeus, the god of the sky of the conquerors, and Hera, the goddess of fertility of the conquered, symbolized the attempt at fusion, although the constant conflict between the divine couple, as seen in the Iliad, indicates the tensions still alive the fight. Besides the classic greek Pantheon was peopled with divinities borrowed from all the cultures involved: Zeus the sky father, Demeter the earth mother, and Hestia, the virgin goddess of the hearth, were borrowed from Indo-European invaders; Rea was indigenous Minoan goddess, Athena was Mycenean, Hera and Hermes were Aegean; Apollo was Ionian; borrowed Aphrodite from Cyprus and Dionysus and Ares from Thrace.

Just before the violent Doric invasions, the Achaeans had fought hard the Trojans of Asia Minor. The chronicle of that war, the Iliad, provides the first clear picture of how the Greek religion evolved from a mixture of Achaeans, Dorians, Minoans, Egyptians and other Asian influences. This was the phase "Homeric" Greek religion: Zeus was the supreme lord of the skies, retaining his original Aryan importance, shared domain with its two pre-Aryan brothers, Hades, lord of the underworld, and Poseidon, lord of waters . Through a wide range of myths and legends (the clearest illustration is Hesiod's Theogony) the other gods and goddesses were carefully related to one another, until a divine family was established with the head of Zeus.

The Homeric pantheon was a very small family group with natural forces, but not identical to the natural forces themselves. The gods had supernatural powers (particularly on human life), but their power was severely limited by a concept of fate (Moira), intended as a juggernaut. It is not thought that the gods were omnipresent, omniscient or omnipotent. Deprived of normal divine attributes, the Olympians were simply considered the greatest of human beings, but not different or alien, which led them to fight among themselves and often to intervene in the affairs of mankind (this intervention was in fact called the "deus ex machina," or divine intervention).

The superhuman features of the Olympians were mostly the immortality and the ability to reveal the future to humanity. The Greeks did not consider the gift mmortalità a particularly enviable. Death was a necessary evil, the dead were impotent shades without consciousness, and there are only vague images of the Blessed Islands in the Olympic world.

The Greeks, however, expect the gods about the future of his earthly life. Thus divination was a central aspect of religious life (see the Oracle of Delphi). The Olympians were, perhaps, so important in their role as civic deities that each of the Greek city-states had appointed one or more gods as their protector. There were public cults dedicated to securing the city against invaders, or pestilence. The religious festival became the occasion of meeting citizens and foreigners.

Subsequent developments

The civil war that followed the classic period (500 BC) put the old gods on trial. In fact, often the gods had not responded to the devotion of humans with those visible and immediate rewards that were expected. Although the Homeric gods had distinctive personalities, their reality still had to be accepted intellectually.

This form of religion was suited to the more sophisticated city dwellers, among whom was a strong tendency to monotheism. However, it does not fit the needs of the people of the provinces, peasants and shepherds, who retained primitive notions steeped in religious superstition (eg animism).

Once the gods were put on trial, opened the door to the popular religion of the Greek countryside. Since there could no longer trust the gods to make life pleasant, emphasis was placed on regeneration and the afterlife. The mysteries gained importance after Homeric religion was established that, but the origins in the seasonal festivities that underpin many of them date back to 1400 BC The Eleusinian Mysteries were perhaps the most practiced of the mysteries. Other popular rites were the mysteries of Dionysus and the Orphic.

In reaction to Dionysian excesses, Apollo eventually appropriated many of the virtues of the older gods, such as justice, harmony, legality and moderation. The tension between the Apollonian and Dionysian strains was particularly illustrated in the work of Greek playwrights like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, who had begun to question the justice and integrity of the gods.

It was the evolution of philosophical thought to give us a clean break, to increase and move the greek religious thought to a new kind of speculation. The Greek philosophers adopted a more rational and scientific approach in looking at the relationship of humanity with nature, espousing a logical connection between man and nature, going to establish a relationship no more a secret and mysterious as that between the 'man and god.

It was Plato who made ​​an absolute abstraction of the highest virtue, giving to that abstraction the quality of absolute good that even the gods must meet. Philosophical reflection thus led to the rationalization of myths and legends by completing the destruction of the Homeric pantheon. The vacuum was then finally filled by Christianity.

The Orthodox Church

The doctrine of the Christian Church was founded in the course of centuries during which the councils were represented at the leaders of all Christian communities. The Eastern Church recognizes the authority of the Councils of Nicea 325 AD, Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680) and Nicaea II (787) . Although initially the Eastern and Western Christians shared the same faith, the two traditions began to divide after the seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD It is commonly believed that the separation had become final with the so-called Great Schism of 1054.

In particular, this happened during the papal claim of supreme authority and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The break became final with the failure of the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century. However, for most of the Orthodox, the decisive moment was the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 (commissioned by the Western Christians). The sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1453 eventually led to the loss of the Byzantine capital by the Ottoman Muslims. This has never been forgotten.

The divisions between the Eastern and Western Churches took place gradually over the centuries, the fragmentation of the Roman Empire. In the end, while the Eastern churches accepted the principle that the Church would maintain the local language of the community, Latin became the language of the Western Church. Until the Great Schism of the five great patriarchal sees were Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. After the break with Rome became the orthodoxy of "Eastern" and the dominant expression of Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean, most of Asia Minor, Russia and the Balkans.

The Orthodox Church is one of the three main Christian groups (the others are Catholics and Protestants). About 200 million people follow the Orthodox tradition. It consists of a series of self-governing churches that are "autocephalous" (which means they have their head) or "autonomous" (meaning self-government).

The Orthodox Churches are united by faith and a common approach to theology, tradition and worship. They draw on elements of Greek culture, Middle Eastern, Russian and Slavic. Each church has its own geographic boundaries (rather than national) that typically reflect local cultural traditions of its believers.

The word "Orthodox" derives its meaning from the greek, and consists of the words "orthos" (right) and "doxa" (creed). Hence the meaning of orthodoxy as "correct faith" or "right thinking".

The Orthodox tradition developed from Christianity of the Roman Empire and was then shaped by the pressures, politics and the population of each specific geographic area. Since the capital was Byzantium Eastern Roman Empire, this style of Christianity is sometimes called "Byzantine Christianity".

The Orthodox Churches share with other Christian Churches in the belief that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, faith in the Incarnation of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection. The Orthodox Church differs substantially from other Churches for the lifestyle and worship, and for some aspects of theology. The Holy Spirit is seen as present in the Church and the Church as a guide and working through the entire body of the Church, as well as by the priests and bishops.


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