"The glory of God is the living man"
This dictum of St. Ireneus encompasses the theological and anthropological vision of early Christianity, according to which there is an intrinsic and inseparable link between God and humanity. Man is considered to be the highest expression of God’s creative process, while God is regarded as the absolute value, the ultimate criterion of truth for all living creatures. Man’s vocation is to the glory of God; that is, to glorify God with his life, words and deeds. Being created after the image and likeness of God, man is called ‘to become god’ himself by being fully obedient to God’s commandments. Deification of man takes place through Jesus Christ, who is ‘the living Man’ and ‘the glory of God’ in the absolute sense of the word, who is the way, the truth and the life for all humanity.
The Biblical and Christian vision of man as God’s image and likeness is opposed radically to the relativism of ancient Greek sophists, notably Protagoras, according to whom ‘man is the measure of all things’. Protagoras is known for his belief that nothing is exclusively good or bad, true or false: what is true for one person can be false for another, and vice versa. There is no general or objective truth, therefore, and there is no higher criterion of truth than the human being: each individual is the standard of what is true to himself. This vision sends religion to the background of human existence, makes it irrelevant and unnecessary. Indeed, Protagoras is reported to have said: ‘respecting the gods, I am unable to know whether they exist or do not exist’. In other words, it does not really matter whether there are gods or not, as long as man himself is the measure of all things.
However, moving on from this introduction to Orthodox belief, how really has Orthodoxy influenced certain cultures, architecture and traditions? Let’s start with the magnificent 'monument' of Agia Sophia. This is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum in the Turkish Republic, Agia Sophia has always been a precious building of its time. The mystical city of Istanbul hosted many civilizations for centuries, of which both the ...