Categories
Church History Saints Spirituality

Saint Dionysius the Areopagite

“But let our leader in the discourse be my Christ (if thus I dare name Him) who inspires all hierarchical revelation…The aim of Hierarchy is the greatest possible assimilation to and union with God, and by taking Him as leader in all holy wisdom, to become like Him, so far as is permitted, by contemplating intently His most Divine Beauty.”

– Saint Dionysius
(The Celestial Hierarchy)

Life

Writings / Teachings

On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology are two of the greatest works of Dionysius the Areopagite. Also known as Pseudo-Dionysius, he was long thought to be the first century disciple of Paul. Later evidence, however, showed this important and influential theologian to be an anonymous fifth century Christian, neo-platonic thinker. Both On the Divine Names and Mystical Theology emphasize the transcendence of God, and the inability of human language to fully capture God’s true nature. Dionysius’s theological method–often called “negative theology” because it never made positive affirmations about God–was adopted by many Christians. This particular edition of Dionysius’s work also comes with an elaborate and instructive introduction, sure to be of help when understanding Dionysius’s writings. Although Dionysius’s work was long unavailable in modern translation, now anyone can read and enjoy this impressive and important theologian!

Tim Perrine
CCEL Staff Writer

  • The Celestial Hierarchy
  • The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy

“The book On the Celestial Hierarchies was written actually in one of the countries of Western Europe, where Saint Dionysius was preaching. In it he speaks of the Christian teaching about the angelic world. The angelic (or Celestial-Heavenly) hierarchy comprises the nine angelic Ranks:

– Seraphim
– Cherubim
– Thrones
– Dominions
– Powers
– Authorities
– Principalities
– Archangels
– Angels

The account of the Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven is located under November 8. The purpose of the divinely-established Angelic Hierarchy is the ascent towards godliness through purification, enlightenment and perfection. The highest ranks are bearers of divine light and divine life for the lower ranks. And not only are the sentient, bodiless angelic hosts included in the spiritual light-bearing hierarchy, but also the human race, created anew and sanctified in the Church of Christ. The book of Saint Dionysius On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchies is a continuation of his book On the Celestial Hierarchies. The Church of Christ, like the Angelic ranks, in its universal service is set upon the foundation of priestly principles established by God. In the earthly world, for the children of the Church, divine grace comes down indescribably in the holy Mysteries of the Church, which are spiritual in nature, though perceptible to the senses in form. Few, even among the holy ascetics, were able to behold with their earthly eyes the fiery vision of the Holy Mysteries of God. But outside of the Church’s sacraments, outside of Baptism and the Eucharist, the light-bearing saving grace of God is not found, neither is divine knowledge nor theosis (deification).”

– oca.org (https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2022/10/03/102843-hieromartyr-dionysius-the-areopagite-bishop-of-athens)

  • Letters

Note: “In his introduction to Mystagogy: A Monastic Reading of Dionysius Areopagita, Orthodox Bishop Alexander (Golitzin) of Toledo writes that it is “now recognized as indefensible” that the author of the Dionysian writings could be the first century disciple of St Paul. ‘The first clearly datable reference to the Dionysian corpus comes to us from Bishop Alexander’s own suggestion is that the real author of the works was the fifth-century theologian Peter the Iberian.'”

Quotes

Now, if anyone should say that God has shown Himself without intermediary to certain holy men, let him know beyond doubt, from the most holy Scriptures, that no man has ever seen, nor shall see, the hidden Being of God; but God has shown Himself, according to revelations which are fitting to God, to His faithful servants in holy visions adapted to the nature of the seer.”

– The Celestial Hierarchy

Troparion — Tone 4

Having learned goodness and maintaining continence in all things, / you were arrayed with a good conscience as befits a priest. / From the chosen Vessel you drew ineffable mysteries; / you kept the faith, and finished a course equal to His. / Bishop martyr Dionysius, entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 8

As a disciple of the apostle caught up to the third heaven, / you spiritually entered the gate of heaven, Dionysius. / You were enriched with understanding of ineffable mysteries / and enlightened those who sat in the darkness of ignorance. / Therefore we cry to you: Rejoice, universal Father!

Feast Day(s)

October 3

icon image source: https://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/icons/of-saints/by-name/d-f/st-dionysios-the-areopagite-20th-c-1di10/

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