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Greek Orthodox Church

The Greek Orthodox Church today comprises five administrative jurisdictions; the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (now Istanbul), the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and the Churches of Cyprus and Greece. All together, the Church counts a membership of approximately fifteen million people living in Greece proper, the Near East, Africa, North and South America, Western Europe, and Australia. It has been estimated that there are more than 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world. The Churches of Alexandria and Jerusalem include many thousands of Arabic-speaking Christians.

Greek and Greek-speaking Christians constituted the greater part of the early Church. With the diffusion Hellenism, as early as the fourth century before the Christian era, the Greeks had come to constitute a very important if not a dominant element in the Near East and North Africa, especially in the large and metropolitan cities. It was because of this Greek world expansion that the rise of Christianity as a world religion was made possible.

The Greek Orthodox Church of today claims that she is the Church founded by Jesus Christ himself; that the Church was guided by the Apostles, including Saint Paul, who visited many Greek cities, was strengthened by martyrs, saints, and the Church Fathers, and is maintained and propagated by her believers in the modern world.

The first contact of the Greeks with Christ is related by the author of the Fourth Gospel. He writes that some Greeks among those who used to visit Jerusalem at the Passover approached Philip and Andrew and asked to see Jesus (Jn. 12.20-24). The Greeks, as seekers after truth, were eager to listen to something novel, to meet the new master.

Since the dawn of history the Greeks have been inveterate wanderers in their search for the truth that sets man free. They have always been cosmopolitan and eager to attend one teacher after the other. Homer’s Odysseus and Nikos Kazantzakis’ Odysseus represent the restless Greek who, whether for knowledge, wealth, or truth, visits many lands and attends many schools of thought and learning. What Thukydides write about the Athenians, describing them as a people that "could neither rest themselves nor permit other to rest," can be said of the Ancient Greeks.

Jesus was aware that the Greeks who came to Him were men with a searching mind and a troubled spirit. Upon His confrontation with them, He exclaimed, "The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified"(Jn. 12.23). Indeed, these Greeks were few in number, but Christ saw in them not only Greeks but Romans and Scythians and other peoples of all times and places who would also seek to find Him. Jesus said the hour had come for the Christian Gospel to be proclaimed outside the limited boundaries of ancient Israel. The Greeks have played a major role in the kerygma and the didache of Christ. The Greeks found in the person of Christ the eternal Logos and the "unknown God" of their forefathers, while Christ discovered in them sincere followers and dedicated apostles of the New Kingdom. It was through this historical meeting between the "unknown God" and the Greeks themselves that Christianity became an ecumenical religion. As T.R. Glover has put it: "The chief contribution of the Greek was his demand for this very thing – that Christianity must be universal…the Greek really secured the triumph of Jesus…. Even the faults of the Greek have indirectly served the church." Thus Christianity and Hellenism embraced each other in a harmonious faith and culture enriching each other. The Greek Orthodox Church of today is the people born out of the union between the icarnate Logos and Hellenism.

 

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