We observe the basic differences between the two cultures: the Orthodox-Roman tradition and the Western way of life.
The first chapter, ‘Names for our Nation’, shows us the great historical journey the Greek nation has made down through the ages. It examines the significance of various names (Hellenes, Greeks, Romans) and looks at what the Roman ethos means. Greek-speaking citizens of the Roman Empire were influenced by Hellenic culture before they knew what Greece was. All so-called Roman civilisation was in fact Hellenic. The chapter ‘East and West in United Europe’ argues that the Western European Romans (the descendants of the Romans in Europe today) are searching for and authentic way of life. The great value of the Roman tradition is that it offers solutions to people’s problems based on Orthodox faith and life. ‘Papacy and the Uniates’ examines the meaning of the ‘Union’, and what it aims to achieve. There is a discussion of Uniate activity. The reader can study the admirable ‘Letter of St Mark Eugenicus to the Uniates’, in which the nature of the ‘Unifiers’ and the true face of the ‘Union’ are laid bare. Particular importance is accorded to the teaching of St Gregory Palamas, who refuted the teaching of the Uniate monk Barlaam, and made clear that hesychasm is an effective means to counter the Uniates’ teaching. The differences between Orthodoxy and Islam in theological matters, and the social, national and political consequences of these distinctions are set out in ‘Orthodoxy, the West and Islam in the Fourteenth Century and Today’. The state of the Byzantine-Roman Empire in the fourteenth century is examined, as well as the theological dialogue between St Gregory Palamas and the Ottomans. Reference is made to the saint’s period in Turkish captivity, and interesting points are made about the time he spent in prison. The chapter looks at the stance of contemporary Western Christianity with regard to Islam. There is a specific chapter outlining Max Weber’s basic views on the capitalist system, as set out in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Theology is closely linked with history and the development of various social phenomena. Particular emphasis is laid on the fact that Orthodoxy-Romanism has no connection with either the Protestant ethic or metaphysics, and is fundamentally different from both capitalism and socialism. ‘The Nation and Nationalism’ states that, although by its very nature Orthodoxy is international, it does not do away with each person’s homeland. The pronouncement of the local Synod of 1872 in Constantinople, which condemned racism as alien to, and incompatible with, the Orthodox Church, is cited. This synodical definition preserves the Roman legacy. ‘Ascetic Life and the Mystical Theology in the Region of Sinai’ looks at the history of monasticism in Sinai, and man’s effort to heal his soul, so that from being in God’s image he might attain to His likeness. We read about the Prophet Moses, who is a ‘prototype of spirituality’, a true example for every Christian who aspires to deification and to attaining knowledge of God. In many theological and ascetic texts Moses is regarded as an archetype for the spiritual father who leads his spiritual children to unity with God. As we read about the Elders of Sinai and monasticism in that region, we become of aware of the nature of the theology of the Orthodox Church, and what a real theologian is. At the end of the book, ‘The Contemporary Relevance of Orthodox Theology’ explains that ‘Orthodoxy is very up-to-date and satisfies even the most restless of people’. People today, especially the young, have become disillusioned with the Western way of life and turn to the Orthodox Church because in it they find true life which heals them and brings them to new birth. The Orthodox Church’s theological tradition of watchfulness and hesychasm is held in particular respect today, because it is capable of confronting all the terrible problems that alarm us, and can bestow meaning and fullness on human life. Even Western theologians are impressed by Orthodox theology and study the Fathers of the Church.
Μητροπολίτης Ναυπάκτου Ιερόθεος