It is the glory of Byzantine Christianity to have established and elucidated, as much as the human mind can, the characteristic truths of Christianity. Those truths include:
(1) the oneness of God in his divine Trinity;
(2) the Incarnation;
(3) the Resurrection;
(4) the Divinization of the human person and of the universe; and
(5) the return in Ascension of humanity and the universe to their divine Source and Origin, the Author of Creation (Life’s Journey is an Ascension to the Heavenly Father).
These basic truths of Byzantine theology are still the mainstream of our thinking. It is only with such theology that humanity can remain in constant contact with the light, sound, and feel of the sublime! It is only through this type of Christian theology that humanity can find hope in despair, salvation in sin, and resurrection in death.
For a complete picture, it is important that we consider the character and sources of Byzantine theology. This means sharing some history of which many may already be aware.
Emperor Constantine ended the period of confrontation between Christianity and the Roman Empire. He abandoned the ancient capital, Rome, and moved the center of political and cultural life of what was then seen as the civilized world, to the site of an ancient Greek city on the rivers of the Bosphorus – Byzantium. It was officially called Constantinople, the New Rome, and remained the capital of an Empire still called Roman for over eleven centuries, until its fall to the Turks in 1453. You will recall the he moved his capital in 313.
Especially after the disappearance of the ancient Christian centers in Egypt, Palestine and Syria, Constantinople became the unquestionable center of Eastern Christianity. You will recall that much of our hymnography (various prayers used by the Church in her daily office) were written by monks from these countries.
Missionaries from New Rome brought the Christian faith to the people of the Balkans. Since it is Byzantine theology that is the foundation of our Church, it is important that we understand it. It differs from the theology of the Western Church.
For example, the central theme of Byzantine theology is that man’s nature is not a static, “closed, autonomous entity, but a dynamic reality, determined in its very existence by its relationship to God. This relationship is seen as a process of ascent and as communion – man, created in the image of God, is called to freely achieve a divine similitude or likeness. The vision of man in the Western world is considerably different. Χριστός Ανέστη!