Man! A creature of responsibility – Homer and Orthodoxy

In this article we analyse an excerpt from ‘Odyssey’, which clearly states that the creature ‘man’, for Homer, is (or should be) a creature of responsibility.

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Homer’s Odyssey, Rhapsody A, Verses 32-34:

Ancient Greek: (Zeus speaking) “Ω πόποι, οίον δη νυ θεούς βροτοί αιτιόωνται. εξ ημέων γαρ φασι κάκ’ έμμεναι. οι δέ και αυτοί σφήσιν ατασθαλίησιν υπέρ μόρον άλγε’ έχουσιν”

English: “Oh! what a thing it is when mortals blame the gods! Because they say that everything bad (everything bad that happens to them) comes from us. But they suffer above fate (‘above/beyond their share’ is the 100% translation) due to their own irregularities”

Many times people transfer their own responsibilities to other people. Very commonly, too, they do the same with God Himself. In this excerpt Homer informs us that this is a completely wrong way of thinking. Man, for Homer, is a creature of responsibility. He suffers or enjoys ‘above/beyond fate’ exclusively and solely because of his choices. How irrational it is really when one acts irregularly all the time and when suffering follows his actions (in any possible form), he protests that this is an unfair treatment from God! Another important finding here is that, for Homer, the Divine is not meant to be evil or in the state of being able to do evil; all evilness among people comes as a consequence of their own bad actions. In Orthodox Christianity we consider God as totally irrelevant to evil and anything bad, unable to be or do anything evil or bad. Additionally, man has been granted by his Creator the gift of free will and, henceforth, is absolutely responsible for his choices and the consequences that emerge from them. We should carefully take in consideration the reference to ‘fate-μοίρα’. The exact translation of the word is ‘share’. So, there is definetly a similarity with what Homer states here and what we call in Orthodoxy ‘one’s cross’, i.e. the personal share of difficulties inside this world that God allows, for reasons that only He knows – surely though for a good final outcome, i.e. entrance to Paradise. The critical point is how to manage our personal cross, and how to avoid making it heavier and more difficult with irregular acts which bring suffering ‘above/beyond fate’…

Isidoros Aggelos

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