3 Greek words that will help you understand your faith

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Many words used in liturgy, prayer, or Christian culture may not have been fully translated into your native language.

Even if you’re not conscious of it, you use Greek terms in your daily language. For example, if you acknowledge your illegible handwriting and decide to improve your calligraphy, you’re speaking Greek without realizing it: Calligraphy originates from the Greek words kalós, meaning “beauty,” and graphein, meaning “to write.” Similarly, if you’re not feeling well and think about consulting a gastroenterologist, you’re once again using Greek: gastro is the Greek term for “stomach,” and enteron refers to, broadly, the “gut.” Even when you ask your server for some extra butter, you’re speaking Greek – back in Antiquity, the Greek boútyron became Latin butyrum and, eventually, English butter.

This implies that if you ever contemplate learning Greek, you won’t be starting from scratch. In fact, you might eventually realize that you already possess a better understanding of some fundamental Greek vocabulary than you initially thought.

This is particularly true if you’re a Christian, as the Gospels were written in Greek. Indeed, many words used in liturgy, prayer, or Christian culture may not have been fully translated into your native language. Have you ever considered the origin of the word “ecclesiastic”? Here are three theological Greek terms that might help you understand your faith a bit better.

Oikonomia, stemming from the Greek oikos (house) and nomos (law), refers to more than your everyday domestic budgetary administration. In Christian theology, it refers to divine economyGod’s own management of the world, and His plan of salvation unfolding through key historical events. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are integral elements of this orderly arrangement, reflecting God’s design to bring humanity into perfect communion with Him.

Parousia, in the original Greek, refers to the notion of presence (it translates, literally, to “being present”). In that sense, it refers to Jesus’ Second Coming. For obvious reasons, the term holds a central place in eschatological discussions within Catholicism – and in Christianity in general. Understanding the notion of parousia demands an appreciation for its usage in the cultural and textual context of the Gospels, emphasizing the vigilance and readiness required of believers as they await the culmination of God’s kingdom – that is, for the completion of God’s economic plan.

The term Paraclete is directly derived from the Greek parakletos. The word is composed of two terms: para, meaning “alongside,” “next to,” pretty much like the para in Parousia implies presenceKletos derives from the verb kalein, “to call.” A parakletos is someone called to “stand next to” us – someone that is present, a helper and, in an extended sense, an advocate. Needless to say, the term carries profound theological weight in Catholicism. As the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, sent by Christ to guide believers. A nuanced comprehension of the role of the Paraclete requires an exploration of its usage in the Gospel of John, where Jesus promises the coming of this Helper to sustain, comfort, and advocate for the disciples.

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