Dionysius is numbered among the Seventy Lesser Apostles. This wonderful man was the scion of a distinguished pagan family in Athens. Having completed the school of philosophy in Athens, he went to Egypt to study further. While he was there the Lord Christ died on the Cross, the sun was darkened, and there was darkness in Egypt for three hours. Then Dionysius cried out: ``Either God the Creator of the world is suffering, or this world is coming to an end.'' Returning to Athens, he married a woman named Damaris and had sons by her. He became a member of the highest court among the Greeks, the Areopagus, and thereafter he was known as the ``Areopagite.'' When the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel in Athens, Dionysius was baptized with his entire household. Paul consecrated him Bishop of Athens. He left his wife, children and his position for the love of Christ. He traveled with Paul for a long time and met all the other apostles of Christ. He traveled to Jerusalem especially to see the Most-holy Theotokos, and described his encounter with her in one of his written works. He was present at the burial of the Holy and Most-pure One. When his teacher, St. Paul, suffered martyrdom, Dionysius also desired such a death for himself, and went to Gaul, with his presbyter Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius, to preach the Gospel among the barbarians. He suffered much but also succeeded much. By his labors many pagans were converted to the Christian Faith. Dionysius built a small church in Paris, where he celebrated the divine services. When he was ninety years old, he, Rusticus and Eleutherius were seized and tortured for Christ; then all three
beheaded. The severed head of St. Dionysius rolled a long distance, to the feet of Catula, a Christian, who honorably buried it with his body. Dionysius
suffered during the reign of Dometian in the year 96. He wrote several famous works: on the Divine Names of God, on the Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, on Mystical Theology, and on the Most-holy Theotokos.
John was an Egyptian who lived the ascetic life in the Chozeba community during the reign of Emperor Justinian. Whenever he celebrated the Liturgy, he perceived a heavenly radiance in the sanctuary. Ananias, an elder, labored ascetically not far from him. Wondrous was the humility of these two saints. A man brought his insane son to the elder Ananias to heal him by prayer. Ananias sent him to St. John as being greater than he. John could not help but obey the elder; however, he cried out: ``In the name of Jesus Christ, it is Ananias, not I, who commands you to come out of this young man!'' And the young man was healed immediately.
Dionysius was a hieromonk and a recluse. The following incident occurred to him on the Feast of the Resurrection in 1463. With a cross and censer, Dionysius visited the caves in order to cense the relics and graves of the saints reposing there. Filled with the joy of the Resurrection, as he approached the caves, he cried out: ``Holy fathers and brethren-Christ is Risen!'' And a voice resounded from the graves as powerful as thunder: ``Indeed, He is Risen!''
At first, Hesychius was negligent about his soul's salvation, but then he became gravely ill and died. However, he came back from the dead and regained health. This completely changed him. He shut himself up in a cell on the Holy Mountain, and spoke to no one for twelve years. Before his death, the monks opened his cell and begged him to give them some instruction. He said only: ``He who contemplates death cannot sin.'' From Hesychius descended the so-called hesychasts, who stress silence, divine contemplation, and mental prayer as the chief works of a true monk. There was even a hesychast skete on the Holy Mountain. It is said that St. Gregory the Theologian was a hesychast during the Lenten season. St. Hesychius lived in the sixth century.
The Holy Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite
Glorious saint Dionysius,
Wondrous theologian and lucid scribe!
His mind, gathered in his heart, he directed to God;
He witnessed heavenly mysteries and revealed them to us.
He perceived the glory of the heavenly orders
And described the hierarchy of heaven:
Principalities, Dominions, Virtues, Powers,
Wondrous Thrones, Seraphim,
Cherubim and Archangels,
Golden-winged Angels of God,
And the Mother of God.-
He beheld all with fear,
And also that which shines above the dust of the earth:
Heavenly powers of infinite strength,
Immortal suns and stars most brilliant!
All that he witnessed, Dionysius made clear
And told to the Church.
Thus he adorned and enriched the Church,
And his accomplishments were made golden
By his bloody death for his Christ.
Now he shines in heaven;
And the angelic hosts, blazing with the glory of God,
Call Dionysius ``Brother.''
A vision of St. Andrew: Walking one day along the streets of Constantinople, St. Andrew saw a large, splendid procession. A rich man had just died, and his funeral procession was majestic. However, when Andrew looked more closely, he saw many black figures capering around the corpse with joy: some laughing like prostitutes, others barking like dogs, others grunting like swine, and others pouring a foul liquid over the body of the deceased. They all mocked the processional chanters, saying: ``You are chanting over a dog!'' Astonished, Andrew wondered what this man had done in his life. Glancing around, he saw a handsome youth standing by a wall and weeping. ``For the sake of the God of heaven and earth, tell me the reason for your weeping!'' he said, and the youth replied that he was the guardian angel of the deceased. The dead man had grievously offended God by his sins, and had rejected the counsels of his angel. He had completely given himself over to the black devils. The angel said that that man had been a great and unrepentant sinner: he had been a liar, a despiser of men, a miser, a perjurer and a libertine, who had defiled three hundred souls by his debauchery. He had been honored by the emperor and respected by men, but all in vain. The great funeral retinue was also in vain. Death had caught up with the rich man in his unrepentant state, and the harvest had come to him suddenly.
Contemplate the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians (II Chronicles 32):
1. How Sennacherib and his mighty army surrounded the walls of Jerusalem and mocked the God of Israel;
2. How Hezekiah and the Prophet Isaiah fervently prayed to God for deliverance;
3. How an angel slew 185,000 Assyrians by night; how Sennacherib was slain by his sons; and how Jerusalem was saved.
on fear and joy in God
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice in Him with trembling (Psalm 2:11).
The prophet of God speaks these words to earthly kings and judges, for they are inclined to pride and lasciviousness born out of the power and riches that are given to them. O you kings and judges-clods of dust beneath the feet of God-do not forget that you are only the servants of God, hirelings from today until tomorrow! Of what does a hireling think, digging in the field all day? About the pay that he will receive in the evening. Of what is the hireling proud? Not of his labor, but rather his pay. In what does the hireling rejoice? In his labor, his sweat, or his pay? Naturally, in his pay. O kings and judges, your service in the field of this life is the labor of a hireling. Therefore, with fear serve your Lord, who hired you: for you know not how your Lord will evaluate your labor in the end, or what pay He will render unto you. Serve with great humility, saying to yourself: We are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10). Whether you will receive a reward or punishment when you go down into the grave and come before the King and Judge is uncertain. Therefore, fear must fill all the days of your service.
Rejoice in Him with trembling. Rejoice with a pure and holy joy, as the angels rejoice in the living and unapproachable God. The joy of Paradise is fragrant with purity and sanctity; but the malicious joy of hades is accompanied by rebellious laughter. Therefore the joy of Paradise is eternal, while the laughter of hades is turned to rage and groans.
Serve with fear, for the Lord is just; rejoice with trembling, for the Lord is exalted and holy. O Lord our God-just and exalted, awesome and holy-all of our life on earth is service to Thee and joy in Thee. If we do not serve Thee, we serve our own destruction; and if we do not rejoice in Thee, we rejoice in our own evil works. We worship Thee and pray Thee to help us, that our service be directed by fear of Thee, and that our joy be purified by our trembling before Thee.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.