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St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Hieromartyr - Feast Day October 3rd

An icon of St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Hieromartyr.

The well publicized Acropolis of Athens attracts many thousands of tourists, only a few of whom, in approaching this marvel of antiquity, realize that facing this symbol of the glory that was Greece is Mars Hill, on which there is a sacred spot where the magnificent St. Paul stood as a symbol of the glory of Jesus Christ. One of Paul's listeners, the philosopher and thinker, Dionysios, achieved the greatness that was to mark him as the "Areopagite," which translates into Chief Justice of Mars Hill, a colossal figure in the first years of the New Faith of Christianity

At the time St. Paul arrived in Athens, Mars Hill was already steeped in tradition and Dionysios was a part of that great heritage. Four centuries before the birth of Christ democracy had been introduced to the world by the ancient Greeks in whose mythological Ares, the "God of War," had been condemned on the hill which had, by the time of Dionysios, acquired the name Of Mars, the Latin equivalent of Ares, the god of war. The most sacred institution of democracy, the tribunal of nine men comprising the supreme court, sat in judgment here, and it was as Chief Justice of this court that Dionysios. came face to face with the reality of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Some years before, while visiting in Heliopolis, Egypt, Dionysios had witnessed a phenomenon. Which puzzled him, an enigma which was solved when he learned the truth about the Savior. On this bright day in the land of the Pharaohs, the sun was blotted out and the earth plunged into darkness, although there was no eclipse of the moon nor any sudden storm clouds overhead. All this erudition and reasoning could not explain the strange darkness, and from time to time he would brood about it.

When Paul learned of the great respect the Athenians held for Dionysios, he made it a point to single him out, and Paul graciously accepted an invitation to visit with Dionysios in his home. It was then, after hearing the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus, that Dionysios realized that the sudden darkness occurred on the day Christ died to save the world.

The conversion of Dionysios to Christianity came about before the evening was over, and this eminently qualified lawgiver and Philosopher now turned his full talents to spreading the word of Jesus Christ. After a period of indoctrination he assumed the role of spokesman for the Christian cause, not only with complete dedication but with all the intellectual Power with which he had been blessed. His journey took him into regions he had never before even dreamed of visiting and his triumphant crusade for Christ culminated in a visit to the holy city of Jerusalem where he had the great privilege to meet the Mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, before whom he must have felt a solemn pride. Returning to Athens, Dionysios now turned to writing some of the greatest religious chronicles in the Greek language. His influence was considerable and his presence was in demand in the great halls of learning in this ancient bastion of culture and democracy, which Dionysios helped shape into a fortress for Christianity. In the midst of his unceasing toil for the Savior, he had a dream in which the Virgin Mary appeared to ask him to return to Jerusalem because her days were numbered and she was soon to join her Son in the Kingdom of Heaven. Dionysios arrived in Jerusalem on 15 August 55, there to join the apostles of Christ to witness the death of the Mother of the Savior.

Thereafter Dionysios found that the outer reaches of Europe, particularly the regions of Gaul, were in sore need of missionaries because the faltering few Christians were being put to death and the spark of Christianity would be extinguished for lack of the kind of forceful leadership Dionysios could provide. He summoned the hardiest of his followers and together they trekked across Europe to bring the light of Christianity to a spiritually darkened land now known as France. He met the forces of evil and ignorance with all the eloquence he could summon. It was in their largest city, now Paris, that the pagans finally seized him. He was beheaded in AD. 95, a martyr whose memory is most sacred, particularly in the city of Athens.

Taken from Orthodox Saints by George Poulos.

For a description of this icon and the troparion and kontakion for this saint please click here