Athens and Jerusalem
The Bond Between Christianity and Hellas
By Gerasimos J. Konidares, The Greek Orthodox Theological Review ,
1965- 1966, vol. XI., ed. Holy Cross, Greek Theological School Press,
Brookline Massachusetts, σελ. 217-235
The survival of nations and mainly of small nations, especially in the critical and difficult periods of their history, depends not only on their physical, spiritual and moral strength and will to secure the divine gift of their freedom, but also on the existence or responsible and able leadership and unity as well, which have the necessary moral basis and depth.
The fulfillment, however, of all the above mentioned factors and especially that of the will of survival, belongs to spiritual, moral and political leadership. In other words, if political leadership is based on a strong spiritual and moral basis, then the survival of our nation becomes possible and the defense of our freedom a successful one.
Moreover, the real value of national leadership, which really enjoys the confidence of the nation and is mindful of its responsibility, depends on its ability to make decisions in times of struggle for the national survival and on the firmness to carry them out to their practical application and to secure the unity and the fulfillment of all the aspirations of the people. This existence of accord and unity of ideas and goals and the moral preparation of the people belong, first of all, to spiritual and moral leadership and especially to versatile politics.
History is the unfeigned witness of truth, which is expressed by the above mentioned thoughts and appraisals. We can surely find them in our national history.
The Greek nation, which in the ancient times had the privilege to create a great civilization with superior values and patterns, never getting old, presents an eternal youthfulness, but it has not been always blessed with unity and capable leadership. However, this unity and this capable leadership are the most important factors in achieving national survival in the dramatic moments of national history.
Hellenism in ancient times had shaped the values of life such as freedom, the"Logos"theory and culture in general as powers which move and inspire the citizen and the City-State, but at the same time Hellenism promoted, further than it should have, the individual character of the Hellenes, "atomokratia" or individualism, which in many other respects is a precious element for the spiritual and economical life of the nation. Consequently, a kind of political localism was nourished and political parties appeared with strong ambitions and goals. Hence, it is quite explainable, why in Hellenism the principle of unity was so weak, although elements of racial, linguistic and religious unity could be found as well as common morals and customs which confirmed the basic unity of the Hellenic nation. This is why Th. Mommsen, the renowned German historian, in his exposition of the History of Hellas during the Roman conquest writes the following:"The general cultural evolution of the Hellenes has not been kept in balance with the policies of the democracies; on the contrary, its excess-as it happens in the full blooming of the flower which bursts of the calyx-has not helped the prevalence of that substantial stability and expansion which is required for the shape of the State. The small city-states or allied cities were necessarily limited or fell into the hands of the barbarians and Panhellenism only was a guarantee for the further preservation and development against the neighbor races."(Romische Geschichte, V, p. 230)
While the idea for the formation of a strong Panhellenic State has been impossible of realization with any Greek power other than that of Macedonia, still this power had met strong opposition. And it is true, of course, that this principle of Panhellenic unity, although it has found strong adherents, nevertheless, lasted for a short period of time. Because first it was realized with an external imposition and under unsuitable historical cultural and moral circumstances; and secondly, it could not outlive the Hellenic notion of autonomy (freedom), which so much had been exploited by the Romans during the period of their political expansion to the East. Thus the civil wars and the quarrels inside the small states divided and weakened and irreparably wore out the strength of Hellenism as a whole, which only by and through Macedonia could be united. Thus the defense of freedom and its rescue from its various enemies became finally impossible because of the quarrels between the Achaian and the Aetolian confederacies and their hostility against Macedonia, which was considered as the bastion of the Hellenic world (Polybius). The result? The Hellenes lost their unity and with it their freedom and independence.
Hellenism, therefore, being divided, submitted itself to the inexorable power of the course of the events during the epoch of ecumenical Hellenism and to the political emergence of Rome . Rome, of course, crushed Macedonia, the only power which could make a reality of the idea of a Panhellenic State, because of its tradition and its institution and at the same time it became the conqueror of Carthage in the West and of the Greek mainland (146 B.C. destruction of Corinth) and shattered finally the rest of the political powers of the Eastern Hellenism (146-30 B.C.).
The new situation which deprived an advanced and civilized people of freedom was naturally painful and oppressive and brought many evils, but it did not lack certain good aspects, too, because it wiped out the prevailing superstitions, threw down the barriers that separated the Hellenes from the barbarians, enlarged the intellectual horizon and brought before the Hellenes a new world and new roads for action. Finally, it developed closer relations with other peoples. (Cf. C. Logothetis, The Philosophy of the Fathers of the Middle Age, Vol. I, 1930, p. 1.) And it is true that the wiser and the most prudent of the Hellenes in combating the corruption of the Roman period turned themselves towards the study of practical problems rather than the theoretical study of beings. Also it is true that because the withering ancient religion failed to provide the moral restoration the people needed, philosophy took its place, guiding the people towards"a moral life and virtue"and"offering comfort in the difficult circumstances and the calamities of life."All these things are true indeed. However, it is beyond any doubt that Hellenism neither could be raised up with its own spiritual and cultural powers nor through philosophy (although philosophy twice has tried unsuccessfully to renovate the withering pagan religion during the first century B.C.-first century A.D., and during the fourth century A.D.).
But at this difficult period of political and national enslaving for Hellenism a new power appeared, the religion of the Nazarene, as the new law of God,"the new teaching"for"a new man,"for a new world. The new religion of the spiritual worship and love"in Jesus Christ"became soon the property of Eastern Hellenism which had broadness of spirit and in which physical and therefore spiritual and moral powers could be renewed and reformed. The new religion had a universal character and under the form of the catholic Church soon became the property of Eastern Hellenism, which was regenerated and reformed through it. But this new spiritual and moral power was superior to any previous one because it placed in the minds and the hearts of the Hellenes new ideas and new principles. The unity of faith, for instance, and the unity of authority in the local districts were associated with the appearance of a new spiritual leadership, bringing thus a new element in the life of Hellenism, because the Hellenic language and philosophy became the proper means in the formulation and the spreading of Christian teaching.
Hellenism acquired from Christianity a new impulse and the unity which previously was lacking as well as the sense of continuity and the responsibility for preservation and the moral progress of the people. Because of this renewal and because of this new responsible leadership (thanks to the work of Constantine the Great) a miracle happened, namely, the one thousand years of the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman State of the Hellenic Nation. When, therefore, the Byzantine Empire fell, after producing a great and fertile work (Cf. G. Konidares, in the periodical K ιβωτός 1953) the Hellenic Nation was not found divided in 1453, as it was during the Roman conquest, but united in faith and under the responsible leadership of the Orthodox Catholic Church, which was in a position to offer not only comfort to the people but at the same time to preserve and restore the Nation. The Orthodox Catholic Church, preserving the memory of the great past and strengthening education through culture and language, led Hellenism towards its national and political regeneration. Although the Nation lost its political entity and its leadership, it still preserved its spiritual and cultural existence and leadership and thus it was saved. In other words, ecclesiastical leadership became temporarily both a political and spiritual one by taking over the actual responsibility of the political authorities.
The awareness of the responsibility for the future of the Orthodox Hellenic people and the Nation and the spirit of self-sacrifice, which the Orthodox Church had inspired through many examples (the new martyrs) strengthened, without any doubt the preservation and the regeneration of the Hellenic Nation, through spiritual and moral unity. Then, after the Nation's rebirth and reawakening, the spiritual leadership surrendered to political and civil authority to the representatives of the people. Many historians exalt, correctly, culture, tradition and the language as dynamic factors for the survival of Hellenism, but they forget the greater power which preserved, renewed and regenerated Hellenism spiritually and morally, namely, the Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ. This Church with her canonical continuity gave Hellenism unity (through culture and language) and provided the Nation with the responsible leadership which directed the people towards the successful revolution against the barbarian tyrant. And, of course, because there is no history without any shadow, the Hellenic Church from her human side, could not escape from this law of history, but the history of the Hellenic Church can certainly display considerably more bright pages than dark ones.
It is fitting, therefore, to see in general lines, what the Hellenic Church has offered to the Hellenic Nation during the one thousand, nine hundred years of her life; because from this general survey of the history of Christian Hellenism we can draw up lessons for the future of Hellenism and for the renewal of the spiritual and moral power of its Church; the Church which united and reformed Hellenism (K. Paparregopoulos) and offered to it through her responsible leadership the strength for survival, above any other power in its life and in this world. Without the Hellenic Church what could Hellenism be today?
From the days of our school years we have been familiar with the idea that the Orthodox Church and the Hellenic Nation had been unbreakably bound together during the gloomy years of the Turkish domination and thus"Hellene"and"Orthodox"have become since then almost of equivalent meaning.
It is natural, therefore, that when we speak about the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the Hellenic Nation our minds turn towards the great but sad period, during which the Church as the head of the Nation protected it from destruction without changing the structure of her spiritual organization to a political one. But we have to stress this from the very beginning; what is known to the common people about this matter is really a very small part of what happened in the history of the Hellenic nation. Because, indeed, the contributions of the Orthodox Church as the legitimate continuation of the ancient catholic Church, that is of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, are greater, broader and more important than is usually believed.
The history of this great subject began since the first days of Christianity in Jerusalem, when Hellenism offered to the new religion of the Nazarene-by divine Providence-precious services, so that it can be said that the contributions of the Church to the Hellenic nation are in reality a"re-contribution"to Hellenism. Because on the one hand, Alexander the Great crossed over to Asia and offered his Hellenic culture to the East, but on the other hand, Paul, the son of Hellenized Judaism and the bearer of the Hellenized Ecumenical Christianity (1), crossed to Europe and paid back for the benefaction. He did it by spreading ecumenical and Hellenized Christianity (Hellenized in form, notwithstanding the existing antitheses, cf. I Cor . 1:33) in the European Hellas and later in Hellenic Asia, as a divine, spiritual, uniting and creative power. The Hellenists and the Hellenic language became the carriers of ecumenical Christianity and the means of its development and expansion.
Now I come to the point which concerns the most serious and momentous contribution of the Church to the Hellenic nation, which has influenced all its history up to our times. It is an event of great satisfaction that last century this fundamental contribution of the Church was officially recognized and was expressed in an excellent way and a truly epigrammatic one. In 1852 the Standing Committee for the Ecclesiastical Affairs, addressing the Parliament of the Hellenes, said:"The Orthodox Church has preserved during the years of trials the spiritual and national unity of the Hellenes."In this epigrammatical formula we may add also that the Church, in addition to the language and the law, is the most vital bond between the Hellas of the past and the Hellas of today. It is the bond of Orthodoxy, since almost no heresy found a place here.
But the question arises when and how this religious and national unity of the Hellenes was completed and why this unity is the most important contribution the Orthodox Church has offered (and still offers) to the Hellenic nation, without any damage to the ecumenical, spiritual and moral mission of the Church? Indeed,"individuality"or"individualism"is a basic characteristic of the Hellene's life. This has been developed under special circumstances in pre-historic and historic times. Thus historians are right when they assert that in the political organization and discipline there was a great obstacle and that was the excessive development of individuality in the Hellenic nation.
The various struggles, the political and economical ventures, the genius in commerce and the navy strengthened and developed the individualistic spirit of the Hellenes, who carried it further towards the localism of the small city-state of ancient Hellas . Because of these historic and political circumstances, under which the speculative and the physical structure of the Hellenes was found, discipline and the function of the political organization and therefore the unity of the Hellenic nation became impossible in ancient times. Thus Plato's reaction against the Hellenes' individualism, expressed in his socialistic ideas about the State, had not any influence upon the Hellenes. The same thing could be stated about the socially organized state system of Sparta (common mess, limitation of personal property, etc.).
Such was the power of the Hellenes' individualism that Macedonia itself, the only Hellenic state which through its royal dynasty and its institutions and its military spirit could make real the idea of Panhellenism, could not finally achieve its imposition over the rest of the Hellenic states. Therefore, when King Philip, who united the Hellenes by force, died and before Alexander the Great's rise in the battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.), the Hellenes were divided again. They were united afterwards by force, under Alexander the Great, through the treaties of Corinth, when the great Macedonian was proclaimed as the general and the emperor of the Panhellenes in the war against the Persians, but again they were divided for good, after the death of the great Hellene. Their tragic division led them definitely to their fall.
During those critical times of Hellenism, Isocrates (435-338 B.C.) strongly advised the Hellenes, especially in his famous Panegyric speech,"that they should agree with each other and be united against the barbarians."In his speech to Philip he exhorted the Macedonian king to follow Hercules' example, who was the head of the race and as the leader of the united Hellenes march against the barbarians. Isocrates, however, found soon (in his Panathenaic speech) that his hopes and his dreams failed to be realized.
We know the results of the dreadful strife among the Hellenic states of the Achaia, Aetolia and Macedonia as well as the quarrels among the parties inside the Hellenic states. While the Roman Senate followed a firm and coherent policy and had at its disposal united and disciplined people and army, in Hellas and in the East the conflicts among the States of the Achaian and Aetolian confederacy continued. Moreover, the Hellenes were not only divided and fighting against each other, while the Romans remained united, but at the same time they formed alliances with Rome against each other! Rome could comfortably apply the same method which the British use today, that is,"divide and rule"wn ere the human weakness is great and a small nation permits it.
Discord, individualism and factionalism made impossible the existence of a strong Hellenic state. Indeed, these were the causes of the conquest of Hellas by Rome, which because of its might seized Carthage in the West and Corinth in the East. Then in 146 B. C when Hellas was conquered by the Romans, Corinth, which in reality favored Roman intervention in Hellas, was destroyed on the mainland and the destruction of seventy cities in Epirus followed inevitably. In vain Polybius the historian and other prominent and leading figures in letters and thought had previously recommended accord and unity in the otherwise thinly populated Hellas .
Plutarch the Chaeronean (46- 127 a .d .) the great teacher of the Helenes considered a united Hellas invincible: « Ἀλλά μάλιστα δή διέδειξαν οὗτοι (οἱ Ἀχαιοί) τήν ἑλληνικήν ἀλκήν ἀπρόσμαχον οὖσαν, ὁσάκις τύχοι κόσμου καί συνάξεως ὁμοφροσύνης καί νοῦν ἔχοντες ἡγεμόνος ». Zosimus the historian of the fifth century a.d . believed the same (1, 3, 1) :« Εἰ μη διέστησαν Ἀθηναῖοι τε καί Λακεδαιμόνιοι περί τῆς τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἡγεμονίας ἀλλήλοις φιλονικοῦντες οὐκ ἄν ἕτεροί ποτε τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἐγένοντο κύριοι ». We have insisted on this point in order to show how deeply disunity has influenced the course of history of Hellas and how the Church has become a great unifying power for the Hellenic nation.
Now when Rom,e was at the peak of her power and when downgraded Hellenism was inactive politically, then in Palestine, Christianity the redemptive and ecumenical religion, appeared.
Of course, Hellenic culture was already ecumenical and the Hellenic language, the so-called κοινή dialect, was spoken in all the parts of the vast Roman Empire The Hellenized Jews as well as the Hellenes of Antioch, or of the"Syrian Athens"as the great city of Antioch was called, were the first ones to perceive the profound meaning of the new faith and the new ethics and especially its ecumenical character. The ecumenical message of universal salvation was conveyed and communicated to Hellenic and to Hellenized Asia (with Ephesus as center and also Smyrna for a short period of time) and Hellas, by St. Paul and his disciples, who had started their mission from the Mother Church of Antioch. Since then Jerusalem (Holy Zion) was closely tied and related with Antioch, Asia and Hellas under the strong spiritual and moral power of Christ Jesus Himself. Then in Hellas the great Churches of Thessalonica and Corinth were founded and became the most important centers of the unity of the European Hellenism with a universal impact. Thus after the calming down of the political quarrels (created many times by the Roman conquerors), the limitation of discord, the decline of prestige of Hellenic mainland and the crushing defeat of Macedonia, a momentous, invigorating power appeared, a truly spiritual and moral force, the Christian Religion with its three main characteristics: the unity of faith, the unity of love and the unity of ecclesiastical authority exercised in the local districts.
St. Paul 's message thrust into the minds and the hearts of the Hellenes a new bond of unity of superb spiritual, moral and social character laying down the foundations of the administrative unity of Macedonia and Achaia through the catholic Church of Hellas . This is why the unity of European Hellas, which the brilliant minds of the past were asking for in vain, became a reality in the history of post-classical Christian Hellas and secured, in a period of six centuries, depth and duration so precious for our Nation today.
But we should not forget that the Christian faith was not merely the solid basis of Hellenism's unity, but also the starting-point for the close relation and association of Jerusalem and Athens in a really superb way, as it appears in the sermon of the greatest of the Apostles, the first after the One, on the Areopagus . Indeed this sermon tied together Christian Hellas with classical and post-classical Greece, this country of ours (Hellas) with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre . To the"saints"of the Church of Jerusalem St. Paul brought his"logia"as an expression of gratitude of European Christian Hellas (I Cor . 16:1 ff. and II Cor . 8:1 if.).
Of course, it is not possible to analyze here all the texts from St. Paul's letters, in which this great renovator and reformer of Hellenism and Hellas describes how Athens and Jerusalem, Hellas and Holy Zion, were bound together spiritually and morally through the bond of faith expressed and practiced inevitably in the love towards our own neighbors. Here, therefore, the practice of a new kind of love began, a love with universal impact and meaning. St. Paul, in closing the longest phase of his world-mission, which he started from Antioch and completed at the boundaries of Illyria, wrote to the Romans (15:25-29) in the year 56 A .D.:
"But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints, for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem . It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come to you in Spain . And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."Our financial support today, our collections for the Holy Sepulchre, have their beginning in the work of St. Paul, the greatest of the Apostles, the Apostle of Hellenism, the Apostle of Hellas.
The close relationship of Christian Hellas with Jerusalem was renewed later because the Church of Jerusalem acquired Hellenic hierarchs and this Hellenic character of Jerusalem 's hierarchy is preserved to this day, thanks to the Holy Sepulchre's Brotherhood. Thus St. Paul, through his world mission which created the basis of unity of faith and love in Christ between peoples of all races and of all times, laid down the presuppositions of a deeper unity of Hellenism in general and Hellas in particular (that is of Macedonia, Achaia, Corinth and Thessalonica). This bond in Christ set the basis of an unbreakable spiritual and moral unity of European Hellas from North Epirus to Crete and from the Adriatic Sea to Thrace . This unity, insignificant at the beginning, proved to be in later times of great importance for the future of European Hellenism. Chronologically its formation took place from the fourth century up to the sixth century and its consolidation was completed during the ninth century. Now at this point we must gratefully speak about Constantine the Great. His great personality left an impact- still felt-in the course of world history. As we all know, he was proclaimed Augustus Caesar of the West on October 22, 312 and in 324 he became the undisputed leader of all the Mediterranean world, a world already hellenized to a great extent.
This great emperor through his new religious policy did not simply lay down the basis of a new order in the ecumenical empire of Rome, but more important, he made a radical change in the internal policy of the Empire by reconciling the Roman State with Christianity. That meant: (1) A new foundation of the Eastern Roman Empire's spiritual and moral unity on the basis of the unity of the catholic Church; (2) The beginning of the Hellenization of the State, because the Hellenized catholic Church in a period of 69 years through Theodosius the Great became the State Church definitely and officially. Thus the catholic Church, through her activity in Hellenism's bosom and the convening of the Ecumenical Synods where the Hellenic language was spoken, became the main factor in Hellenizing the Eastern Roman State . This fact is, without any doubt, the necessary consequence of the great event mentioned already: the reconciliation of Christianity with Hellenism, which was begun by St. Paul and especially by the Apologists, and continued by the theological schools of Alexandria and Antioch and was accepted finally by Rome . Upon this fundamental historical fact Constantine the Great's successors were able to build, sustain and expand further their political aspirations. However, at this point we must not forget also the legal recognition of Christianity, which is a witness of Constantine 's political genius, followed by the founding of the New Rome, which later was rightly called Constantinople, in a central place of the Empire, in the ancient Hellenic colony of Byzantium . Thus the new capital of the enormous Empire, from its very beginning Christian and Hellenic, became finally the center of the catholic Church of Hellenism and the sovereign city of the world for the period of one thousand years. Christian, Hellenic and ecumenical Constantinople took an equal and comparable position with that of Rome and became the most respected Church among the ruling and leading cities and churches of the East and the heir of the ecumenical and liberal spirit of Christian Hellenism. All this happened during the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, a period decisive for the future of the Empire and the world (2).
During the first Christian centuries the following cities became centers of culture and of ecclesiastical and pagan philosophy and therefore, they became, in the last analysis, great centers of Christianity and Hellenism: The New Rome, Constantinople; Alexandria up to 640, when the city fell into the hands of the Arabs; Antioch till 638. The Church of Jerusalem, restored and revivified during the fourth century A.D., became a purely Christian center of great importance and by decision of the fourth Ecumenical Council rose as the fifth Patriarchate (the first one being that of the old Rome) (3). Then Cyprus and Thessalonica should be mentioned. Of less importance were the Christian and Hellenic centers of Hellas, namely Corinth, Athens, Nicopolis, Larissa, Dyrrachion and Gortyne of Crete. Thus the unity of European Hellas was achieved in Christianity under the leadership of the Archbishop of Thessalonica and his provincial Synod.
It is obvious therefore that the contributions of the Orthodox and catholic Church to the Hellenic Nation during the period of 4th-7th century are great and various.
We have already seen how the gradual change of the Eastern Roman Empire to a substantially Hellenic one took place and we see why this change was one of the greatest contributions of the Church to the Hellenic nation, because it established the basic presupposition of the unity and defense of Hellenism, which lived among foreign peoples, different in race and who were, at least most of them, hostile to the Hellenic people.
This contribution-and this is very important-was offered"without the East's having the centralizing system of the West,"as the late K. Amantos, the historian and member of the Academy of Athens, has rightly observed (Byzantine History, I, p. 24). On the contrary, in the East democratic autonomy is the basis of the administration in the four Patriarchates and in the Church of Cyprus . Being more precise, we may say that the fundamental ancient Christian principle concerning the Councils as the basic means of the administration of the Christian Churches as well as democratic Hellenic ideals, coincided in this period of the conclusive formation of the administrative system of the Patriarchates and of the autocephalous Churches.
The Councils, working in a democratic way, triumphed, many times, over many problems and definitely over the basic one for Orthodoxy and the ancient catholic Church, namely, christological doctrine, over the Caesaropapism of many emperors from 482- 680 A .D. (when the sixth Ecumenical Council was convened); over the Iconoclastic Controversy (726-787 and 813-843); and over the attempts of the reunion of the Churches made and inspired by the Emperors.
So strong were the ties of Orthodoxy and Hellenism that when the eastern provinces were lost (almost from the middle of the seventh century) (4) and fell in the hands of the Arabs, the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem preserved in these territories both their Orthodoxy and their Hellenism.
The contributions and the services of the Church to the Hellenic nation are not limited to the ones already mentioned. We should also mention the unity attained by Christian and Hellenic Constantinople, the very soul of the catholic Church and the Christian Empire of the Hellenic nation. We must not forget, moreover, the unity attained at Thessalonica, the second capital of Byzantine Hellenism. Of course, this unity was not a perfect one, because Thessalonica remained under the supreme authority of Rome (400- 731 a .d .), although autonomous in many respects and in spite the fact that European Hellenism recognized itself an unbreakable part of the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople as its center. The Emperors of the East, for purely political reasons, preserved this anomaly (till Leo III, 717-731). This explains the existence of the hostility against Rome, for the Christians of the East wanted the supreme Pontifex not to oppose the idea of re-establishing the ancient united Roman Empire, which included the countries of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean . Besides this, however, Christian Hellenism (from Nestus to Dyrrachion and from Achris to Crete), being under the leadership of the Archbishop of Thessalonica (whose Synod had as members the Metropolitans of Corinth, Larissa, Dyrrachion, Nicopolis and Crete, etc.) formed an"hierarchic unity."It is interesting to note that no heresy entered this territory of Christian Hellenism . Undoubtedly Hellas never in the past had acquired such a unity based on the broader unity of Orthodoxy and Hellenism, as in the Byzantine Empire . The Christian Emperor of Byzantium and the Patriarch of Constantinople were the living bearers of the unity of faith, state and people.
Moreover, during Byzantine times, when many invasions struck Hellas and the Hellenic people suffered from the many barbarian raids, the Church through her monasteries became the shelter and the refuge of many people. The monasteries indeed became the source of consolation and spiritual comfort and relief, the centers of religious and national life, the centers of the arts and the Hellenic letters. This unity of Orthodoxy and the Hellenic people proved to be a precious basis for the defense of Hellenism against its many enemies. Unfortunately, however, the political discords among the Hellenes and the general circumstances led the Hellenic Empire to gradual dissolution and Hellenism submitted finally to the Franks (1204) and to the Turks (1453) (5). The greatest danger came from the Crusaders, who brought with them clergymen of the Latin Church. The Orthodox hierarchs were driven from their episcopal Sees, Latin bishops were installed and proselytism was exercised extensively. However, the unbreakable unity of the Hellenic nation and Orthodoxy made proselytism impossible. So, although the Latins stayed in Hellas for a long period of time, they actually remained foreigners in the country.
Now the spiritual renaissance of Hellenism in Alexandria during the third century A.D. and especially the flourishing of Neoplatonism (which was the latest form of Hellenic philosophy) was one of the most important elements which contributed towards the blooming of Christian Hellenism and of the catholic Church (3rd-6th century). We must also add that during this period the Christian art of Byzantium flourished. This spiritual and artistic thriving, especially during Justinian's reign, and the profundity of Hellenic and Christian thought which we can follow in the great Schools of Alexandria and Antioch as well as in the great Fathers of the Hellenic Church, are, naturally, products of vigorous Eastern Hellenism, which although it was fighting against the Persians and the barbarians from the North (Goths and the Slavs) had the strength to fight and think. Undoubtedly this strength could never have been a reality without the regenerating power of the Gospel.
The Attic grace of speech, although partly, then the depth of the Christian, philosophizing eclectic thought of the great Fathers and Doctors (i.e. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen the Christian scholar) were new phases of Hellenism's new world-wide splendor, due to Christianity. Actually through the great Fathers and Ecumenical Doctors of the Church a fuller and deeper humanism appeared with a world-wide impact. Perhaps it is not accidental that a great classicist and philologist of our times, the late W. Jaeger, who as University Professor of Harvard University wrote his famous book called Paideia , also published the writings of St. Gregory of Nyssa. We should say that classical humanism becomes integral with the Christian humanism of the great Greek Fathers. We should not forget that if Greek philosophy secured a predominant place in Europe up to our times, this is due not only to the great classics such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but also to the prominence that Greek theology of the two great Schools of Alexandria (especially through Origen) and Antioch acquired in the European thought up to Kant. One can say so many things for this important contribution of the Orthodox Church to the Hellenic Nation.
Speaking of humanism, we should note here the practical manifestation of Christian humanism, which has developed through the organized philanthropy of the Greek Fathers and Hierarchs, who became the examples for the prelates of the future. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, Synesius of Ptolemais, Theodoret of Cyrus the bishop and the ecclesiastic historian have become inspiring symbols in the long and endless line of humanists and patriotic hierarchs, defenders of the Hellenic people.
To this ecumenical contribution, which is Hellenism's ecumenical radiance attained through Christianity, we should add the Arts, which flourished in Byzantium since Justinian's times up to the seventeenth century. Indeed, Byzantine art attracts so many admirers today.
Speaking now about the ecumenical radiance of Hellenism through its Church, we must also remember the missionary work of the Hellenic Church of Byzantium. With a truly ecumenical spirit the Hellenic Church of Byzantium gave all the means for the spreading of Christianity and civilization to the Slavs and Bulgarians who, through Cyril and Methodius, the Greek missionaries from Thessalonica, acquired written language, philology and a relatively spiritual autonomy. Thus the Slavs entered the stage of world history.
Byzantium 's liberal spirit is a title of honor for the Hellenic Church . Especially when one bears in mind the circumstances of distress under which Byzantine Hellenism and the Orthodox Church were fighting for their survival. Hellenism was fighting for the preservation of its unity. The Church was fighting for her independence from Rome, against Rome 's attempts to conquer and dominate all the Churches and States. Indeed, this historic service of the Hellenic Church is of universal value and was offered exactly during the period the Byzantine Empire was fighting to save itself and Europe as well from the barbarian invaders of Asia and Europe .
It is beyond any doubt, therefore, that Byzantium 's Hellenism, as a religious, political and cultural unity, acted momentously on the stage of world history thanks to the cohesive and renovating power of Christianity. Noteworthy is the fact (which escapes the common people's attention) that the Church of Byzantium worked and fulfilled its historic mission and the task of the State with which it was tied in an unbreakable bond, without any change in her inner structure. The Church remained an unshakable spiritual body and this is why she was not changed to a political one, when later the circumstances became different, especially when she took over the responsibility of the Nation's leadership. On the contrary, in the West the Church became gradually an organization with political interests and purposes. In the East, the Church, although she acquired influence and political power, nevertheless she never forgot that her task is the fulfillment of the kingdom of God and that her origin is not of this world (6). The late K. Holl, the eminent ecclesiastical historian and professor of the University of Berlin, recognized this fact and in a special writing wrote that the Church of Constantinople never had the ambition to obtain power and work against the State and when the conception concerning a Christian State and a Divine State came to a close relation, the result was different from that of the West. The Church had, we think, in spite of a few shadows, awareness of the independence and autonomy of her purely spiritual goals and she knew the boundaries of her activities, but at the same time she never forgot what she owed to the State as such from the times of Constantine the Great and his successors.
Thus no confusion existed concerning the boundaries of Church and State and at the same time no confusion was raised as far as the boundaries of Church and Culture are concerned.
The Church, despite some shadows, remained in reality the judge of cultures which are always temporary human works. Nevertheless, Byzantine culture as a human creation of the Hellenic people of Byzantium, was inspired and derived from the Christian faith, expressed and cultivated in the Orthodox Church.
A truthful witness of the spiritual powers of Christian Hellenism is Comneni's period, before the Fourth Crusade (a shameful deed of the Christian West), which abolished the Byzantine Empire as well as the period of the Palaiologoi (13th-l4th cent.). When Hellenism was fighting against the disgraceful invasions of the West, the Orthodox Church was the main bastion for the defense of the Hellenes against the Franks and the Latin clergy who followed them. Free Hellas, the"Despotaton of Epirus"and the Empire of Nicaea lived a period of new, thriving spiritual and artistic accomplishments not seen and attained in the territories the Franks conquered. Mount Athos, Kastoria (the Mystras of the Hellenic North), Thessalonica, Arta, Mystras and Crete are witnesses to the fact that the Church was still a source of inspiration and artistic creativity. The history of culture of Byzantium 's last centuries shows Hellenism's strength when it is united and independent.
Hellenism, cut to pieces after the calamity of 1204, was never able to recover completely and thus finally submitted politically to the Turks (1357-1453). However, it remained united spiritually after May 29, 1453 because of the unity of faith which renewed the national self-conscience, strengthened the spiritual and moral traditions and preserved the language. The privileges which were given to the Patriarch of Constantinople were due to the fact that in him Hellenism had a spiritual leader, internationally recognized, who knew how to bind together the ecumenical mission of the Church together with her national and secular obligations.
We can understand the importance of this fact if we erase for a moment the role and the accomplishments of the Orthodox Church from the life of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine Hellenism (after 1453). Could it be really possible for Hellenism to exist united and to be preserved and saved from the Frankish conquest without the Orthodox Church? Furthermore, the list of the clergymen who sacrificed themselves for the Church and Country is a long and impressive one.
The Orthodox Church has united, regenerated and preserved the Hellenic Nation in times of trials and distress. The Hellenic Nation has acquired from and through the Church deep-rooted and strong unity and responsible leadership and new spiritual radiance and this is why it survived. The Orthodox Church is today an indispensable factor for the spiritual and moral welfare of contemporary Hellenism, because she has in herself sources of strength and inspiration with which Hellenism lived and thrived for 1900 years. Moreover, the Church is the link which unites us with many countries and especially with those of the Near East, in which Hellenic culture flourished in the past. The events of these last forty years put upon our shoulders heavy responsibilities which we must carry with the Church's blessing and inspiration. Through her we shall be able to convey our message to the Christian O ἰκουμένη as well as to the Orthodox Churches of the Near East, in which we have a special cultural mission. We can carry out this task, when we shall be able to help, with all possible means, the Orthodox Churches. Among these Churches the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople is the first in our respect and devotion. Then comes the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Zion, where the Holy Sepulchre is found together with the church of Resurrection of our Lord and all the sacred shrines of our faith, love and reverence.
Translated from Greek by Dr. George S. Bebis
* A lecture delivered in"Parnassos"Hall (Athens) in 1959 and in Katerini after an invitation of His Eminence, Metropolitan Barnabas.
(1) I cannot here deal with the problem of the relations of Hellenism and Christianity since I dealt with it in another place. G. Konidaris, The Catholic Orthodoxy of Hellenism and the Removal of the Bulgarian Schism, where the bibliography concerned is found. See also: C. Bonis, The Apologists (of Christianity) of the First and Second Centuries in Relation with Hellenism (Athens, 1961).
(2) The synthesis of Hellenism and Christianity, as well as their reconciliation under the protection of Rome were completed after the Roman culture was previously influenced by Hellenic culture. Furthermore, ecumenical Hellenism was physically stronger and thus became the carrier of Christianity. The fusion of these three in Byzantium contributed to the binding of the following values, ideas and virtues:
A. The beautiful and good, the measure of harmony, justice, law, virtue, benevolence, freedom (expressed, mainly, in the polis-state), happiness.
B. The Roman: Discipline, piety, stability, authenticity, faith in the State (res publica), justice, etc.
C. The Christian: Absolute spirituality in faith and worship in Jesus Christ; love, as the forming power of the universe and of the human life; the soul, as a creature of God has an absolute value and thus the Christian personality is the basis of a society of personalities, realized in the Church.
a. Hellenic virtues: Plato, on the basis of the threefold division of the mental powers, accepts four virtues: wisdom (λογιστικόν ), valor (θυμοειδές), prudence (ἐπιθυμητικόν). Fourth: justice, which keeps safe the harmony of the three mentioned mental virtues. Aristotle makes a distinction between mental and moral virtues. Plato's virtues have a moral value, thanks to the work of the Stoics and mainly of Panetius and Cicero. We speak about the Hellenic and Christian culture or civilization, but this matter should be studied more fully.
b. Christian virtues: Faith, hope, love till self-sacrifice, and humility. The above mentioned Hellenic virtues, being renewed and combined
with the theological ones, contribute the climax of the seven virtues, intermingled with various kinds of virtues. The faith in the value of man (humanism), the faith and love for freedom (being the fundamental virtues of the Christian Hellenes) were renewed, since the French Renaissance and the Hellenic Revolution, thanks to the Hellenic Church .
(3) Jerusalem fell into the hands of Sultan Caliph Omar in 637. This Caliph gave the renowned Patriarch Sophronius the well-known privileges for the Church in Jerusalem .
(4) Then the boundaries of Hellenism, State and Church coincide. Heraclius was the first one who was called basileus (king). See, K. Amantos, Byzantine History; A. Vasiliev, The History of the Byzantine Empire ; and Ostrogorsky, Geschichte des Byz . Staates, 1952.
(5) Ioannina and Thessalonica fell into the hands of the Turks in 1430.
(6) Some exceptions, blameful of course, do not invalidate the rule.