The religion of Greek people is an important aspect of the Greek culture and 98% of the Greek population are Christian Orthodox. The religion of rest of the population is Muslims, Catholic, and Jewish. For instance on Syros, the main island in the Cyclades, the Catholics are about 50% of the population and also on Tinos island the Catholic church is big. The highest concentration of Orthodox Christians remains in the former Byzantine Empire (Greece, Turkey, and nearby countries) and in Russia. But Orthodoxy is found throughout the world and is the third biggest religion in the world.
Officially and like in all European countries, the Greek State and the Orthodox Church are separated. But it’s not written or regulated by the constitution and the Greek Orthodox Church has still a great influence and power in Greek society.
Eastern schism, also known as the Great Schism of 1054, refers to the events that separated the Eastern Orthodoxy from Western Catholicism in 1054. The two parts had for a long time drifted linguistically, politically and geographically. Despite all the more intricate ecumenical contacts in the twentieth century, the breakthrough remains between them.
The linguistic, political and geographical differences were linked to the division of romance in 395. In the Roman Empire, the emperor and political power moved from Rome to Constantinople; This also brought about changes in the spiritual climate of the empire. Tradition had so far invited the emperor to have authority in both worldly and spiritual issues. Those who strongly adhered to this principle came to be on the orthodox side of the conflict, while those who held on to the bishop of Rome (the pope), which had always been the main church potential, came to be on the Catholic side in the conflict.
The Orthodox Church is organized into several regional churches which is governed by their own head bishops. The Patriarch of Constantinople has the honor of primacy, but does not carry the same authority as the Pope does in Catholicism. Major Orthodox churches include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Orthodox Church in America. The religious authority is the scriptures as interpreted by the seven ecumenical councils of the church.
THE TWELWE GREAT FESTS
- September 8, the Nativity of the Theotokos
- September 14, the Elevation of the Holy CrosS
- November 21, the Presentation of the Theotokos
- December 25, the Nativity of Christ (Christmas)
- January 6, Theophany, the Baptism of Christ
- February 2, the Presentation of Christ
- March 25, the Annunciation
- The Sunday before Pascha, Palm Sunday
- Forty Days after Pascha, the Ascension of Christ
- Fifty Days after Pascha, Pentecost
- August 6, the Transfiguration
- August 15, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos
Extended fasting periods
There are four main periods of extended fasting:
- The Great Lent is the period of six weeks preceding Holy Week in anticipation of the Feast of Feasts, Pascha, followed by the fasting of Holy Week. Great Lent is preceded by the Meatfast, that starts on the Monday after the Sunday of the Last Judgment through Cheesefare Sunday.
- The Nativity Fast (or Advent; also called St. Philip’s Fast, coming immediately after his feast on November 14), is the period from November 15 to December 24 (forty days) in anticipation of Christmas, the Festival of the Nativity of the Savior.
- The Apostles’ Fast is the period from the Monday after All Saints (a variable feast) to the feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29.
- The Dormition Fast is the period of the first two weeks of August in anticipation of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
- Eve of Theophany (January 5)
- Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29)
- Elevation of the Holy Cross (September 14)
- All Wednesdays, except for Fast-Free Weeks, in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot.
- All Fridays, except for Fast-Free Weeks, in remembrance of Christ’s Crucifixion.
Orthodox Christians also regularly fast on Wednesdays and Fridays to commemorate, respectively, Christ’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and His Crucifixion. Monasteries additionally commemorate the angels on Mondays by fasting.
Preparation for receiving the Holy Eucharist
Fasting is a part of the preparation for receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Additionally, confession and a specific rule of prayers are necessary for proper preparation. For morning Liturgies, one keeps an absolute fast (no food or drink, even water) on arising from sleep until receiving Communion. Some also abstain from meat and dairy after the preceding Vespers. For afternoon or evening Liturgies, one should keep an absolute fast for at least six hours. One should always check with the primary celebrant of the Divine Liturgy to verify his expectations regarding preparation for reception of the Eucharist. Because the celebrating priest or deacon will commune and then consume the remaining Eucharist, he observes an absolute fast before every Liturgy he celebrates.
The fasting discipline may be relaxed, if necessary, when one is traveling or ill. Additionally, exceptions should be made when receiving another’s hospitality, because the focus should not be on outward shows of piety, but rather accepting the love and generosity of others. Orthodox Christians should not fast to the detriment of their health. Fasting is a means to an end and not an end in itself. If you are new to fasting, ask your priest for guidance before you begin.
- After certain feasts, Orthodox Christians do not fast, in order to show their joy for the feast.
- Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ to Theophany Eve (December 25 through January 4)
- The week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee (first week of the Lenten Triodion)
- Bright Week (the week after Pascha)
- Trinity Week (the week after Pentecost)