Wine, wheat and oil have always been the main staples of the Greek diet.
For centuries, wine had featured prominently in people’s daily lives, as illustrated by the celebrated symposiums (drinking parties) of ancient Greece, long before it came to play a prominent role in the Christian idea of salvation.
Wine, “that gladdens human hearts,” not only vindicated David in the Old Testament, but went on to reach loftier heights in the New Testament, when Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
So it comes as no surprise that certain key events and figures in the Bible were linked to the wine produced in that period. Moreover, the words ‘wine’ and ‘vine’ are mentioned at least 650 times in the Bible!
This is why several modern researchers believe that the Bible also serves as a farming manual, with plenty of information pertaining to agriculture.
All this points to the fact that wine making – from old Noah, the world’s first vintner, to the time of Isaiah, down to the Roman period and the time of Jesus – formed a cornerstone in the life of the Jewish people.
In the didactic Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, the value of friendship is stressed via the medium of wine. Specifically, it is asserted that new friendships demand greater attention compared to established relationships which are solid and pleasant like old wine.
The Bible also frequently recommends the moderate use of wine to treat several ailments and stresses its health benefits.
For instance, in one of his letters, the Apostle Paul urged his sickly disciple Timothy, in one of his epistles, to quaff some wine to deal with his many illnesses…
Wine also features prominently in the parables told by Jesus to his followers, who were usually simple and illiterate folk. In order to reach their hearts and minds, the parables were clothed in imagery with which they were familiar, so that they could understand even the more allegorical theological messages. Vineyards and wines made regular appearances in these parables.
And Jesus used the notion of the vineyard to describe himself. “I am the vine; you are the branches.”
In this parable, his disciples are branches that bear fruit only if they remain connected to him, accepting his help and grace.
“…wine making – from old Noah, the world’s first vintner, to the time of Isaiah, down to the Roman period and the time of Jesus – formed a cornerstone in the life of the Jewish people.”
In another parable, the Good Samaritan uses wine and oil to sterilize the wounds of the “poor man who fell among thieves.” This confirms the belief in the therapeutic properties of wine.
Wine occupies a prominent place in Christian rituals. Communion, represented by drinking wine from a common cup at wedding ceremonies, testifies to the union of newlyweds into “one flesh” before God.
In the Artoklasia (“breaking of bread”) service of the Greek Orthodox Church, wine is sanctified along with bread and oil. The liturgy includes a prayer calling on the Lord to look over the vineyards.
And as there is a patron saint for all activities associated with people’s daily lives, Saint Tryphon in venerated by Christians as the patron of vineyards.
He is depicted in icons holding a cross in one hand and a pruning hook in the other. On February 1, special wishes for vineyards are read out, while there are many traditions and beliefs associated with this feast. According to one, those who prune their vines on this day will cut their hands in the process.
So in this particular context, wine is essentially identified with rest: it relaxes the body while at the same time it constitutes an ideal communication channel, inviting philosophical thought and contemplation.
However, in the Orthodox Church tradition, along with water which is blessed to bless, and oil which powers candles to give light, wine is used for what is most sacred: the Eucharist. It transforms into the blood of Christ.
In other words, the Orthodox Church loves, respects and blesses wine because it lives from it and receives its blessing.
Nowadays, every authentic sweet Greek wine that is poured into the sacred chalice of the Orthodox Church reconciles the traditions of the past with the realities of the present; eternal truths with daily life; the quenching of the heart’s thirst with the tastes perceived by the mouth; and the spiritual wine of the soul with the notion of leisure.
Each sip of wine helps elevate you to a point where you may begin to suspect the existence of tastes and senses of a different kind, of otherworldly pleasures and situations. It whispers into your ear that you can, instead of contenting yourself with the buzz of alcohol, rise to the inebriated yet sober spirit and the realm of the divine.
“…the Orthodox Church loves, respects and blesses wine because it lives from it and receives its blessing.”