16 October 2009

'The Brightest Star in the Constellation of Mystics'—St Dionysius the Areopagite


Today, 3 October on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the memory of our Holy Father Dionysius (Denis) the Areopagite (†96). A convert of the Apostle Paul, St Dionysius is mentioned briefly in the Acts of the Apostles 17:34 as one of the few who ‘believed’ in response to the Apostle’s speech on the Areopagus, ‘Mars Hill’. He is remembered by the Church as a Hieromartyr, having become Bishop of Athens and being martyred later for his faith. But he is most famous in connection with the writings attributed to him: four treatises and ten epistles, which taken together constitute the most important works of Patristic mystical theology, known today as the Corpus Dionysiacum. Thus, the French Benedictine Dom Prosper Guéranger calls him ‘the brightest star’ in the ‘constellation of mystics’ (The Liturgical Year: Time After Pentecost, Vol. V, trans. The Benedictines of Stanbrook [Worcester: Stanbrook Abbey, 1903], p. 376). Here is the Life of St Dionysius in the Prologue (St Nicholas [Velimirović], The Prologue from Ochrid, Vol. 4, trans. Mother Maria [Birmingham: Lazarica, 1986], p. 13):

He is counted among the seventy lesser apostles. This wonderful man was of a noble, pagan family in Athens. Finishing his education in Athens, he went to Egypt to learn more. One day while he was there, the Lord Christ breathed His last on the Cross, and the sun was darkened and it was dark in Egypt for the space of three hours. Then Dionysius cried out: ‘Either God the Creator of the world is suffering, or the world is ending.’ Returning to Athens, he married a woman called Damaris and had sons by her. He was a member of the highest court in Greece, the Areopagus, and was always thereafter known as the Areopagite. When the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel in Athens, Dionysius was baptised with his whole household (Acts 17:34). Paul consecrated him bishop of Athens (he having left his wife and children and status from love of Christ), and he travelled widely with Paul, coming to know all the other apostles. When his teacher, St Paul, suffered martyrdom, Dionysius desired to die such a death himself, so he went off to Gaul to preach the Gospel among the barbarians, accompanied by Rusticus, a priest, and a deacon called Eleutherius. They endured much but met with great success. By their labours, many were turned to the Christian faith and Dionysius built a small chapel in Paris (Author’s note: Some historians think that Dionysius of Paris was other than St Dionysius the Areopagite.) where he celebrated divine service. When he was ninety years old, he was seized and tortured for Christ, together with Rusticus and Eleutherius, until they were all three beheaded with the sword. The severed head of St Dionysius jumped a long way and fell in front of a Christian woman, Catula, who buried it with his body. He suffered in the time of Domitian, in the year 96. He wrote several famous works: on the names of God, on the heavenly and ecclesiastical hierarchies, on mystical theology and on the most holy Mother of God.

The identification with St Denis of Paris aside (while the inimitable Charles Coulombe considers the ‘pretensions’ of those who separate the Biblical, Athenian, Parisian, and literary Dionysii ‘exploded by the writings of such as Dom Guéranger and the martyred Archbishop Darboy’ I can’t figure out if he means these writings have made a convincing argument, or simply that he finds their pious opinion authoritative! See ‘Ultra-Realism FAQ’, Question 4.), it has become merely a commonplace in modern scholarship that the author of the Areopagitic writings was not St Paul’s convert, but, usually, ‘an unknown Syrian bishop or priest ascetic who was a leading theologian of the early sixth century’ (Fr John McGuckin, ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’, The SCM Press A-Z of Patristic Theology, 2nd ed. [London: SCM, 2005], p. 104). Ordinarily, this is not the sort of issue I would raise at Logismoi, but I’m afraid there is so much confusion out there that it must be done if this post is to be of any value. For it is clear that the Church’s Tradition identifies the convert, the Bishop of Athens, and the writer at least, and the endless debates over authorship are in the end merely sophisticated speculation based on slim evidence. For these reasons, it seems to me that as Orthodox Christians we should accept the Corpus as in some sense the work of St Dionysius, whether it represents a much later record of teachings passed down orally—Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna points out that ‘many Fathers have understood that, perhaps being part of oral tradition, they were written and composed after his repose’ (‘Questions and Answer about the Orthodox Faith’, Orthodox Tradition, IV (2), p. 60)—or at the very least a later (holy) author’s understanding of what a ‘Dionysian’ tradition might be. The latter view has been expressed by Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin) in his important study, 'Et introibo ad altare Dei': The Mystagogy of Dionysius Areopagita, with Special Reference to its Predecessors in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Thessaloniki: Patriarchikon Idryma Paterikon Meleton, 1994), pp. 416-7, and a similar view articulated by Olivier Clément when he observes, ‘if the real Dionysius was a Greek thinker converted to Christianity, the texts ascribed to his authorship may be said truly to convey his spirit’ (The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Text and Commentary, trans. Theodore Berkeley, OCSO, rev. Jeremy Hummerstone [London: New City, 1995], p. 326). I should note that the blogging traditionalist, John Sanidopoulos, has posted defences of the traditional attribution of the Corpus to the 1st-c. convert of St Paul by, first, the Rev. John Parker, whose arguments I read several years ago, and second, by Fr Dumitru Stăniloae, who I had no idea supported the traditional authorship. Although I'm afraid the whole issue requires a better patristics scholar than I to sort out, I personally welcome any arguments in favour of tradition.

Certainly, I am convinced that Orthodox Christians ought not to speak of a ‘Pseudo-Dionysius’, and that we should always use the conventional English title of ‘Saint’, or some equivalent to speak of the author of the Corpus, for this is how the other Fathers have referred to him. St Gregory Palamas calls him ‘Saint Dionysius’ (The Triads, trans. Nicholas Gendle [NY: Paulist, 1983], p. 63), and St Maximus the Confessor refers to him as ‘the great divine preacher’ and ‘the revealer of God’ (Fr Andrew Louth, Maximus the Confessor [London: Routledge, 1999], pp. 166, 188). But our bowing to Tradition must go beyond nomenclature and titles. We must also read the Corpus itself as a part of the Orthodox Tradition. Although Western scholars—among them C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge U, 2002), pp. 70-5, and Dame Frances Yates in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: U of Chicago, 1991), pp. 117-29—have shown how the Corpus has, in Vladimir Lossky’s words, ‘often become the vehicle for neo-Platonic influences’ in Western theology, Lossky also argues forcefully and persuasively that this is because St Dionysius has been ‘poorly assimilated’ in the West, and that from an Orthodox perspective ‘the tradition of Dionysius marks a definite triumph over Platonic Hellenism’ (The Vision of God, 2nd ed., trans. Ashleigh Moorhouse [Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1983], p. 128). In addition to pp. 121-8 of The Vision of God, Lossky has also done much to promote an Orthodox interpretation of the Corpus in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, trans. Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s, 1998), pp. 23-43, and his efforts have been followed by those of Fr Andrew Louth (see, for instance, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition [Oxford: Oxford U, 1981], pp. 159-78, and this post by Sr Macrina on Fr Louth’s comments in the Afterword to the new edition of Origins, which I unfortunately still lack!), Fr Alexander Golitzin (see 'Et introibo', cited above, as well as articles here and here), and, in Greek, Fr Nicholas Loudovikos (Η Αποφατική Εκκλησιολογία του Ομοουσίου: Η αρχέγονη Εκκλησία σήμερα [The Apophatic Ecclesiology of the Same Substance: The Primitive Church Today] [Athens: Armos, 2002], pp. 54-68), as well as the Orthodox blogger known as Felix Culpa, in a series of posts responding mainly to the gross misunderstanding of St Dionysius by Fr John Meyendorff here, here, here, here, and here. Although such brilliant readings of St Dionysius as Fr Alexander’s were actually prompted by what he somewhere calls ‘the [later Syriac] monastic Sitz-im-leben’ of the Corpus, I see no reason why teaching that was articulated or made explicit only in later Tradition cannot be used to interpret an earlier expression of Christian theology, if we follow arguments like those of Parker or Stăniloae defending the traditional attribution to the 1st-c. convert of St Paul.

I will cite one example of the sort of reading these scholars have produced. Although in the works above, Lossky, Fr Alexander, and others deal with such weighty matters as St Dionysius’s Christology, his understanding of the divine energies, his angelic hierarchy, etc., one of the most interesting points of correction of the various misunderstandings of his teaching among scholars is a passage in Fr Louth’s Origins on St Dionysius’s teaching about the Mysteries:

Denys also makes use of the [‘Neoplatonic] distinction between theoria (contemplation) and theourgia (theurgy). The ecclesiastical hierarchy fulfils its functions by ‘intellectual contemplations and by diverse sensible symbols, and through these it is raised in a sacred manner to the divine’ (EH V.i.2:501 C). These sensible symbols—the sacraments (in a broad sense)—are sometimes referred to by the word theourgia and its derivatives. The oil of confirmation is called theourgikotatos—literally, ‘most theurgical’. The use of the word is interesting, for it indicates that Denys thinks of the sacraments as Christian theurgy—Christian magic, if you like—or, using less loaded words, a Christian use of material things to effect man’s relationship with the divine. Here we see the ‘Christian Proclus’ using neo-Platonic language to express his understanding of the Christian sacraments. But, though he uses similar language, his meaning is basically different. For a neo-Platonist, theurgy—magic—worked because of some occult sympathy between the material elements used and the constitution of the divine. Theurgy, to a neo-Platonist, is natural—even if rather odd. The use of material elements in the sacraments, however, is a matter of institution, not of occult fitness: they are vehicless of grace not because of what they are materially, but because of their use in a certain symbolic context. (pp. 163-4)

This is a point worth keeping in mind when reading of the rôle of the Corpus in the Western hermetic tradition as described by Yates (cited above).

As an aside, despite the consistent misunderstanding of St Dionysius in the West, his enormous prestige there (Thomas Aquinas quotes in 1,700 times, second only to the Scriptures) earned him a place in one of the great works of world literature. Dante, in Paradiso XXVIII.130-135, grants the Areopagite a greater authority than the Latin St Gregory the Great when, having given the Dionysian version of the angelic hierarchy rather than the latter’s, he writes (The Divine Comedy 3: Paradise, trans. Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds [NY: Penguin, 1962], p. 304):

When Dionysius with ardent zest
Pondered these orders of angelic bliss,
He named them in this way, the true and best;

But Gregory then differed over this,
And when his eyes were opened on this scene
He smiled to see how he had gone amiss.

It is unfortunate that so much space has had to be taken up treating these issues. But in order to make some small contribution to the appreciation and commemoration of the Saint himself on his feast, I offer a small selection from the Corpus: ‘The Celestial Hierarchy’ I.1.3 (Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid and Paul Rorem [NY: Paulist, 1987], pp. 146-7). As Dom Guéranger writes, quoting St Benedict, ‘To-day the incomparable teacher Dionysius presides over the assembly of the faithful. With East and West let us keep silence; for it behoveth the master to speak and teach, and it beseemeth the disciple to hold his peace and listen [RB 6:6]’ (p. 377):

All this accounts for the fact that the sacred institution and source of perfection established our most pious hierarchy. He modeled it on the hierarchies of heaven, and clothed these immaterial hierarchies in numerous material figures and forms so that, in a way appropriate to our nature, we might be uplifted from these most venerable images to interpretations and assimilations which are simple and inexpressible. For it is quite impossible that we humans should, in any immaterial way, rise up to imitate and to contemplate the heavenly hierarchies without the aid of those material means capable of guiding us as our nature requires. Hence, any thinking person realizes that the appearances of beauty are signs of an invisible loveliness. The beautiful odors which strike the senses are representations of a conceptual diffusion. Material lights are images of the outpouring of an immaterial gift of light. The thoroughness of sacred discipleship indicates the immense contemplative capacity of the mind. Order and rank here below are a sign of the harmonious ordering toward the divine realm. The reception of the most divine Eucharist is a symbol of participation in Jesus. And so it goes for all the gifts transcendently received by the beings of heaven, gifts which are granted to us in a symbolic mode.

The source of spiritual perfection provided us with perceptible images of these heavenly minds. He did so out of concern for us and because he wanted us to be made godlike. He made the heavenly hierarchies known to us. He made our own hierarchy a ministerial colleague of these divine hierarchies by an assimilation, to the extent that is humanly feasible, to their godlike priesthood. He revealed all this to us in the sacred pictures of the scriptures so that he might lift us in spirit up through the perceptible to the conceptual, from sacred shapes and symbols to the simple peaks of the hierarchies of heaven.

Although he does not quote this passage in particular, Dom Guéranger is obviously inspired by such words when goes on to praise St Dionysius ever more elabourately:

Honour to thee on this day of thy triumph! Honour to the Apostle of the Gentiles, who comes to meet thee, as his noble conquest, on the threshold of eternity. From early youth how thy soul yearned for that unknown God, whom the Apostle at length revealed to the longing aspirations of thy grand, upright nature! To the darkness of polytheism, to the doubts of philosophy, to the vague glimmers of confused traditions, suddenly succeeded the light of truth; and its triumph was complete. Thou, O Christian Plato, didst enlarge the horizon of philosophy, and didst so rectify its formulas that in them truth could be fittingly clothed. Thou, in thy turn, didst become an apostle; the distinction of Greek and Barbarian, that law of the ancient world, was lost in the common origin assigned by St Paul to all peoples; to the eyes of thy faith, slaves and freemen were equal in that nobility which makes the human race the race of God; while the charity, which overflowed in thy heart, filled it with the immense pity of God himself for the long ages of ignorance in which mankind had been plunged. (p. 383)

In conclusion, I offer, first, the ‘Hymn of Praise’ for St Dionysius from the Prologue, and second, the Kontakion of the Hieromartyr in Tone 8 (The Great Horologion, trans. HTM [Boston: HTM, 1997], p. 268):

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’.

Kontakion, Plagal of Fourth Tone
To thee, the Champion Leader

In spirit, thou didst pass through Heaven’s gates, instructed by * the great Apostle who attained to the third Heaven’s heights, * and wast made rich in all knowledge of things beyond speech; * and then thou, O Dionysius, didst illuminate * them that slumbered in the darkness of their ignorance. * Hence, we all cry out: * Rejoice, O universal Father.

33 comments:

John Sanidopoulos said...

Good post Aaron. Anyone that exposes the gross errors of Fr. Meyendorff has my support. Since I follow the New Calendar, I've been trying to bring a bit of awareness for the past 13 days on my weblog to the Patristic defense of the Dionysian corpus as being an authentic expression of the theology of the Areopagite handed down to him through the Apostles. Among those I present are John Parker, Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae and Fr. John Romanides. You can check them out here and here.

aaronandbrighid said...

I'm sorry I missed those, John. Thanks for posting the links in your comment. I'll have to take a look as soon as I have a moment!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I'm glad John wrote and told you about those posts, especially Fr Parker's. I was about to mention them, when I saw you'd noted them already.

We have to wonder too, what possible damage is done in believing these writings are truly from the hand of Saint Dionysius (as I have believed for years)? It didn't harm St Maximus, St Symeon, or St Gregory Palamas at all, nor did it detract one bit from anyone who has loved him and quoted from his writings through the ages. It can't hurt anyone!

Part of the problem with Western incorporation of the Areopagitica is the execrable translations that were available until the second half of the last century. The initial investigations of the Greek text had already swallowed the bitter pill of the lie that they were neo-Platonist, and things progressed from there. They can now be better appreciated, with Lossky, Louth, and good editions appearing of Sts Maximus, Symeon and Gregory.

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> Thanks for the support. It's true, the dismissals of the Areopagite's authorship often seem to assume that acceptance of the attribution, and consequently, it is believed, of the theology of the Areopagitica, has had some sort of deleterious effect on theology, piety, liturgy, etc. One of the things that shocks me so much about Fr Meyendorff's comments on the subject is that I don't understand how an Orthodox theologian can possibly think that our Tradition has been somehow 'corrupted'. The trust that this can never happen seems to me to be one of the primary differences between Orthodox and Protestants.

The translation problem is one that I hadn't thought about, although I had indeed noticed long ago the importance of resorting to St Dionysius's Greek. To facilitate this, I got the St Dionysius volume in Panagiotes Chrestou's 'Philokalia' series, featuring an edition of the original text with a Modern Greek translation on the facing page and an introduction by Chrestou. Cheap and highly useful!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

I remember looking at an old Latin translation a while ago. It was awful. It's surprising anyone got anything of value out of it at all. Likely there were several different ones, some perhaps better, some worse. But then you've got the whole issue of vastly different ecclesiologies involved East and West and that makes proper comprehension the Areopagitica out of an Eastern/Christian/Church context simply impossible. Apophasis is diametrically opposed to Scholasticism, but Aquinas was not content to leave the Areopagitica alone, managing to pull what he could out of them and the other Church Fathers. It's rather despicable what he did with it all, turning everything into a series of petty syllogisms. Some people enjoy that sort of thing, though....

protov said...

Yes, Fr. Staniloae was a supporter of the traditional authorship of the Areopagitica. I the Vlad Protopopescu who translated the parts of the Introduction that John so kindly posted on his blogg. I knew personally Fr. Staniloae and he always was critical of the "neoplatonic" attribution. He was always pointing to the all pervasive Christian content of the writings. And he was also critical of Meyendorff. It happened to be with him at a presentation of a paper by Fr. Meyendorff at a Congress of Byzantine Studies in Bucharest (in the '70s). He made then some not very favorable comments about the "Life of Palamas" of Meyendorff. As it is known, Fr. Staniloae was a pioneer in the palamite studies, but his "Life and works of St. Gregory Palamas" was published only in Romnian in 1938. The same happened with his opinions about St. Dionysius, exposed in the Introduction to his translation of the entire Corpus, published postumously. Otherwise allusions are scattered in all his immense works, almost entirely dedicated to the restoration of a patristic approach to theological education.
The "patrologists" formed in western universities relish the "Pseudo", and speak about "fraud" albeit pious, because in the bottom of their soul consider the Church itself a "fraud". The Da Vinci Code is only the caricature of already centuries of "Biblical criticism", of "Neo Testamentary criticism", of "patristic criticism" and so on. Stirr away from them.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Vlad is right! Several years ago as a birthday present I got the Kannengieser Handbook of Patrology. What a waste! According to the latest and greatest in so-called Patristic scholarship, nearly nothing is written by anyone but a bunch of Pseudos!

Of course, these fields of study originated in and are driven by Protestantistic concerns, which lies at the root of the Western mindset. Contrarianism and transgressiveness are key to the modern Western concept of identity, as inane as that is. It's pathetic.

protov said...

Kevin, you are right. Fr.Staniloae was ridiculed for his opinions by the young "patrologists", great admirers of Kannengieser! They launched now a "new", "cultural" and "ecumenical" translation of the Septuagint and the New Testament, of course based on "the best" manuscript traditions which happened to be anything but the "byzantine" one.

aaronandbrighid said...

Vlad & Kevin> Having just finished Discerning the Mystery I am in acute agreement with you! 'Patrology', schmology!

By the way, Vlad, thank you very much for your translation of Fr Staniloae. This is a helpful contribution to clearing the confusion about St Dionysius among English-speaking Orthodox Christians.

leitourgeia said...

I'll toss out the idea the whole issue of "Pseudo-Dionysius" vs. St. Dionysius can perhaps be seen as an anachronistic imposition of a modern category and thus trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist from the Orthodox perspective. There are some who might feel compelled to refer to the former to make it clear what they're talking about in certain circles, but otherwise I'm not really sure it's anything with which we need to concern ourselves.

Richard

aaronandbrighid said...

Richard> I quite agree that this issue is of no concern to us per se (hence my reluctance to bring it up in this post!), but the fact is that many of the faithful are confused about this matter (I used to be one of them), and the response given to a question about it on the 'Ask a Priest' page at the OCA website is not going to allay that confusion in the least. It is not only in closed scholarly circles that one finds the constant references to 'Pseudo-Dionysius' and 'Neoplatonism', but all over the internet as well. For this reason, I brought it up in spite of my extreme reluctance in the hope of actually clarifying things somewhat. In the face of so much confusion, it is not enough merely to repeat the truth or to repost what the Prologue says without comment, someone must also address the confusion directly and explicitly. The authorship and the Orthodoxy of the Corpus Dionysiacum is not a real problem from the Orthodox perspective, but the confusion of the faithful is.

leitourgeia said...

Oh, I don't disagree that it can be, and has been, a stumbling block. I'm personally aware of a situation where less than a year after baptism, an individual left the faith over a series of issues that apparently began with seeing the issue of St. Dionysius as evidence that Orthodox Christianity lies about the authority of Tradition, or at least is willfully not entirely up front about particular points. That's obviously a conclusion with which I disagree.

There's a broader point here -- perhaps we can say that, just because we can't give an answer that secular scholarship is going to find convincing or meaningful, doesn't automatically make them right and us wrong, no matter how much secular scholarship might want to portray it that way. Some might think that means we just stay out of the discussion altogether; some might think that means we participate, but we have to figure out how to negotiate the terms so that we're at least nominally speaking the same language. What I've found to be the most satisfying idea is to find a way of subversively using the secular discourse with the aim of reclaiming it, but that takes somebody who really knows what they're doing.

Richard

John Sanidopoulos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
protov said...

I agree with Aaron and John. The problem is much deeper. It raised the problem of the whole Tradition and our faithfulness to it. The papists corrupted it, the protestants did away with it altogether. We cannot do that. We must uphold it and show its detractors that we are not intimidated by their pretensions to be its judges.
Vlad

leitourgeia said...

Not to get all Clinton-esque, but it really does boil down to a question of what we say the word "by" means. Do we mean it in a modern "cult of the author" sense, where St. Dionysius' hand itself produced the first manuscript? That's the question modern secular scholarship asks, but as I suggested, that's an anachronism from our point of view.

The methodologies of different disciplines, that is to say, different questions, often produce different results. We have to make sure we understand what our questions and methodologies actually are, and how they are, or are not, the same questions that others are asking. If we're nominally asking the same questions but really meaning something else, this is an issue where people will continue to talk past each other and reach troubling conclusions as a result.

Richard

aaronandbrighid said...

Sorry Richard, you kind of lost me in that second paragraph!

leitourgeia said...

I'm not sure where it is you're getting lost, and my attempts to restate the point have wound up looking remarkably like the second point, so I'll just have to leave it there for now. Maybe I'll make it later in a different context and it will be clearer to all concerned.

Richard

Anonymous said...

Aaron,

Can the Chrestou translation of Dionysios be purchased in America, or did you buy yours abroad?

aaronandbrighid said...

Richard> Fair enough! Sorry, I think I understand the paragraph as a whole, but I don't quite get how it fits onto this situation. On the subject of the different disciplines, have you read Discerning the Mystery? Awesome book!

Anonymous> Sorry to break it to you, but I bought my copy in Greece. It seems like Kevin Edgecomb was talking about a site he found for ordering Greek books though. And if you're really determined, I know people in Greece who could pick up a copy and mail it to you.

protov said...

Richard,
I will ask you more bluntly: what is your position in the question of Dionysius authorship? What methodology you favor and therefore what answers do you favor? Are the writings attributed to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the disciple of St. Paul the Apostle, in any way related to him, or are they an elaborate hoax which expose the Church as a fraud? This is the question.

aaronandbrighid said...

Vlad> Oh, I certainly took Richard to be saying that the writings were very much related to St Dionysius and not any kind of hoax.

leitourgeia said...

Vlad:

It's difficult to take the tone of your question as anything but hostile, and I'm not at all certain why that's warranted. Nonetheless, my general assumption is that the Church knows what She is doing. I don't have any reason to doubt, therefore, that the writings attributed to St. Dionysius are related to him. It seems to me that if they just appeared out of nowhere in the 5th century and had nothing to do with anything associated with him, somebody would have said something. Innovation didn't exactly win a lot of friends in those days.

My point is that we have to be prepared to acknowledge that on this matter, the Church is formulating, and answering, a different question than what modern secular scholars mean by "authorship". Of course this does not invalidate what we mean by authorship, but if we're not prepared to make the distinction, then maybe we should just stay out of the discussion altogether, if our scholars are just going to be talking past their secular counterparts, and getting increasingly upset as they do so.

Richard

aaronandbrighid said...

Thank you, Richard. I thought this a much clearer statement of your point, and I'd be surprised to find John, Kevin, or Vlad disagreeing with you.

Keep in mind with Vlad that he's not a native speaker, so his interpretation of your comments as well as his ability to be attentive to 'tone' in English will be effected accordingly.

leitourgeia said...

Glad it's clearer. Call it the difference between posting at 7:30am and 11:00am!

+Bishop SAVAS of Troas said...

I have nothing to add to this exchange other than my admiration. (I also wanted to round the comments up to 25, which is, I think, a record for this blog.)

aaronandbrighid said...

Despota> Admiration is always welcome here! I think you may be right about the comments...

protov said...

Richard,
I am sorry that you might have discerned hostility in my comment. It was not directed at you personally. It is my contention that it is not the Church that formulates a different question than what modern scholarship mean by "authorship", but the modern scholarship formulates a different question than the Church, following an agenda that is all to clear. The Church has no need to "demonstrate" the authorship of Dionysius, as She has no need to "demonstrate" the "authorship" of the Gospels. The onus of demonstration is on the challengers of the Tradition. So far their "demonstrations" are far from convincing.
Vlad

leitourgeia said...

Vlad: no problem, and I can't really say I disagree with you, even if I put it differently. I might suggest that the "clear agenda" part can be unfair, at least as a generalization. I'm familiar enough at a personal level with secular scholars for whom it can fairly be said that it's not they have an agenda, it's just that they weren't trained to have a clue otherwise, and neither were their teachers.

Richard

protov said...

Richard,
Of course that there are scholars that have no clue otherwise, neither their teachers. The agenda was set long ago, is the entire "criticism". Now they work on automatic pilot. The real trouble is when the Orthodox adopt their methods. They adopt their doubts as well.

aaronandbrighid said...

Vlad> Yes, this is most evident with Fr Meyendorff. Some of the things he said in Christ in Eastern Christian Thought were just ridiculous.

protov said...

Aaron, Don't forget Schmemann!

Anonymous said...

Doing a quick search I see that the Rev. John Parker translation of the "On the Heavenly Hierarchy" is here ( http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/dio/dio43.htm )and of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy is here ( http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/dio/dio59.htm )and includes the first essay that John posted. The Index can be viewed here ( http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/dio/index.htm )One, of course, should disregard the intro on the index page.

Matthew

aaronandbrighid said...

Matthew> Thank you for posting those URLs. You're quite right about the intro!