Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Areopagite in 20th Century Orthodoxy

By Fr. Felix Culpa

On Wednesday, March 10, 1982, Fr Alexander Schmemann made the following entry into his diary:

Yesterday I read the Church Hierarchy of Psuedo-Dionysius the Areopagite. What can it mean in our contemporary world? What could it have meant in a world where it was written? What does the success of this corpus mean in Byzantium? If one would apply the Gospel's basic principle, "for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33), to the history of the Church, one would see that what happened was the reduction of the Church to a mysterious piety, the dying of its eschatological essence and mission, and, finally, the de-Christianization of this world and its secularization. But, it seems that there is an impulse precisely to return to this very legacy. (1)

This is a very harsh judgment, yet one that is by no means unrepresentative of Dionysius' reception by Orthodox scholars in the twentieth century. The goal of this essay is to analyze the basis for such a reading of the Dionysian corpus. I will attempt to realize this goal by analyzing the work of one of Dionysius' harshest critic's, Fr John Meyendorff, and then reviewing the work of two other Orthodox scholars who have responded to him, the late Fr John Romanides and Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin). Following a summary consideration of the conversation among these three outstanding scholars, I will offer my own critique of the work of each and conclude with a consideration of the nature of patristic scholarship within the contemporary Orthodox Church and Dionysius' place within it.

Before turning to a review of the works of Meyendorff, Romanides, and Golitizin on Dionysius, I should explain what I mean by the term "problematization" and how this applies to the Corpus Dionysiacum. I submit that at least until modern times the works of St Dionysius the Areopagite – whatever the historical identity of the author – enjoyed full reception within the Orthodox Church. The Dionysian corpus was accepted largely uncritically by Fathers of such unquestionable Orthodoxy as St Maximus the Confessor, St John of Damascus, St Photius the Great, St Germanus of Constantinople, St Gregory Palamas, and St Symeon of Thessaloniki (though, as we shall see, Meyendorff argues that some applied "correctives" to his theology). His scheme of the angelic hierarchies has become, largely thanks to their use by St John of Damascus, standard Orthodox doctrine. St Dionysius the Areopagite has an annual liturgical commemoration in the Orthodox calendar. (2) In the early and middle half of the twentieth century the two most outstanding theologians of the Russian diaspora, Vladimir Lossky and Fr Georges Florovsky, both endorsed the Orthodoxy of the Dionysian corpus. (3)

This traditional reading, however, has been sharply challenged in the Orthodox world by Fr John Meyendorff and those who have followed his reading. Meyendorff's Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, with its highly negative assessment of Dionysius, has found a wide readership and is considered an authoritative treatment of Eastern Christology. Fr Kenneth Paul Wesche, for instance, refers directly to Meyendorff's work when stating that "the center of Dionysius' 'theoria' is not the christological confession of the Church, but 'gnosis' " (4) and, later, that "gnosis, which is the content of salvation and communion, is mediated by Christ through the hierarchies so that the hierarchies stand between God and the individual." (5) Wesche goes so far as to write that 'Dionysius' vision finally renders superfluous the Incarnation of Christ. Most certainly, the necessity of the Cross becomes difficult to explain. If gnosis is the chief function and goal of the Church, then why must Jesus become fully man and die on the Cross?" (6) If this were indeed the case, not only the Orthodoxy but the very Christianity of Dionysius would be up for question.

With such criticism in mind, the average educated reader will approach the Dionysian corpus with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Why the pseudonym? Who was the author, really? Was he a Christian impersonating a Neo-Platonist or a Neo-Platonist impersonating a Christian? Was he a Chalcedonian or a non-Chalcedonian? Is he in fact responsible for magical clericalism, rigid hierarchalism, and ultimately the de-Christianization of the world? This problem becomes even more acute with an exposure to the strangeness of the Dionysian writings themselves, which come from a theological landscape vastly different from our own. Approaching the texts with such problems in mind naturally results in a reading quite different from that of previous generations, who accepted the Corpus Dionysiacum as an integral element of the patristic corpus. In short, the works of Dionysius have been "problematized," and it is the intention of this essay to explore why and how this is.

My reading of Fr John Meyendorff's treatment of St Dionysius is based primarily on two works: his Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (7), which contains his most prolonged engagement with Dionysius, and A Study of Gregory Palamas (8), in which we first find his theory of "Christological correctives" allegedly applied to Dionysius by subsequent authors. (9)

In his chapter on Pseudo-Dionysius in Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, Fr Meyendorff views Dionysius as essentially an apologist, his preoccupation being "to integrate within a Christian system the hierarchical world of neo-Platonism," believing (mistakenly) that he had "safeguarded the essentials of Christian revelation in brining the neo-Platonic system which he had adopted the correctives of the doctrine of God's absolute transcendence." (10) Fr Meyendorff's interest in this work is to place Dionysius "in the context of the Byzantine doctrine of salvation," giving special attention to two aspects of Dionysius' thought: "the Dionysian conception of God, 'theology' properly so-called" on the one hand and "the doctrine of the hierarchies," which has to do with ecclesiology and liturgical piety, on the other. (11) Fr Meyendorff considers Dionysius to be within the Greek Patristic tradition in the former aspect (theology) while being largely neo-Platonic in the latter (the hierarchies). "On the level of theology in the strict sense," writes Fr Meyendorff, "Pseudo-Dionysius continues and develops this patristic thought. While he adopts the language and the conceptual system of the neo-Platonists, he separates himself from them very clearly when he speaks of transcendence as belonging properly to the divine essence." (12) If, however, he was "successful" in theology proper, "his success was much more questionable in the realms of cosmology and ecclesiology, in which the absence of common Christological references makes illusory his efforts to bridge completely the gap between the Gospel and neo-Platonsim." (13)

Meyendorff considers it impossible within the realm of ecclesiology "to maintain rigorously, in the order prescribed by Dionysius, the relationship of initiator to initiated between the various degrees of the ecclesiastical hierarchy." (14) This is the case particularly when the original role of each ranks within the hierarchy is "isolated from their original context and serve merely as an artificial form for a pre-conceived hierarchical system." (15) The episcopate within such a hierarchy, Meyendorff argues, "is defined not as an element of the inner structure of the church-community, a function of the Body of Christ, but as a personal state." (16). Indeed, the very conception of a church-community with the bishop at its head "is absent from the Dionysian perspective." (17) Within this rigid hierarchy the role of the sacraments is reduced "to the transmission from one individual to another of special illumination" and even the Eucharist, in Fr Meyendorff's reading, "has only a symbolic and moral significance." (18)

Meyendorff argues that the hierarchies in two ways: dynamically and concretely. Concretely they function as a "scale of intermediaries, destined above all to incorporate into the system the Neo-Platonist triads." (19) This concrete conception of hierarchies presents salvation and the sacraments in "complete separation from the central mystery of Christianity, the incarnation." (20) Fr Meyendorff asserts that: "Undoubtedly Dionysius, who probably belonged to the Severian Monophysite party (hence the mono-energetic formula he used once), mentions the name of Jesus Christ and professes his belief in the incarnation, but the structure of his system is perfectly independent of his profession of faith." (21) That is, Fr Meyendorff sees the idea of the Head of the hierarchy descending to become man and unite Himself to us as being irreconcilable with the idea of the concrete and immovable nature of the hierarchies. While on the dynamic level of the hierarchies, related to God, there is room for personal encounter and personal holiness, on the level of the concrete or individual level, the sacraments are "reduced to the role of initiating symbols." (22) The result, on an ecclesiological level, can lead to a "sort of magical clericalism." (23)

Granted the problems Fr Meyendorff sees in the Dionysian texts, it is his burden to explain why and how it was that subsequent Fathers considered them authoritative and quoted them positively. Fr Meyendorff's solution is to argue that, although Saints Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus, and Gregory Palamas obviously drew heavily from Dionysius, they did so by "integrating him into a system of thoughts fundamentally independent of him." (24) These later Fathers, chief among them St Gregory Palamas, applied "correctives" to Dionysius in the realm of pure theology. In the realm of liturgical piety, however, Meyendorff claims that Dionysius' influence was entirely negative, and stood uncorrected:

Only by ascending the steps of the hierarchy by way of initiation does one reach the mystery that remains always essentially hidden. In the absence of an initiation, one possesses only an indirect knowledge through hierarchical intermediaries and symbols. For Dionysius, this was essentially the role of the liturgy and of the sacraments, whose corporate, Christological, and eschatological sense was left obscure. The necessary correctives to Dionysius were fairly rapidly incorporated in the realm of pure theology, but his symbolic and hierarchical conception of the liturgy marked forever Byzantine piety: hence the conception of a symbolic drama that the assembly attend as spectators, the mystery of which can only be penetrated by initiated individuals.

With these sweeping words, Fr Meyendorff makes essentially the same claim as Fr Schmemann in the diary entry with which this essay began: Dionysius is responsible for the reduction of the Church to a mysterious piety; the liturgical crises that both men saw is laid largely at the feet of St Dionysius.

Fr Meyendorff's theory of Christological correctives added to the Dionysian corpus by subsequent Fathers was developed at much greater length in his first major work, A Study of Gregory Palamas. He contends that "the problem of the exegesis of Dionysius was at the centre of the argument in the Byzantine controversies of the fourteenth century," (26) and presents Barlaam and Palamas as dueling exegetes of Dionysius, both trying to redeem his work by correcting properly. Palamas' opponents, according to Fr Meyendorff, employed Dionysius' negative theology to "justify their negation of real deification; it allowed them to give a nominal or symbolical meaning to Scriptural or Patristic passages – especially those of Dionysius himself – which speak of the participation of men in the 'divine nature.'" (27) The result of Barlaam's use of Dionysius was that "the system of the Areopagite neutralized itself, and at the same time neutralized Revelation." (28)

St Gregory Palamas, on the other hand, following St Maximus' lead, salvaged Dionysius' authority by applying Christological correctives to the Dionysian hierarchies. St Gregory "himself made constant use of the Areopagite, applying, as St Maximus had done, a Christocentric corrective to his thought; nonetheless he came into such clear opposition to Dionysius that he had to resort to a forced and artificial exegesis of his thought, in order to avoid a direct attack on so venerable an authority: actually Palamas' Christological corrective completely changes the structure of Dionysius' thought." (29) This complete change can be seen in Palamas' relegation of Dionysius' hierarchical universe to the "field of 'natural' cosmology' anterior to the Incarnation." (30) St Gregory, significantly, did this "without being fully conscious of the Neo-Platonic character of Dionysius' system." (31) In St Gregory's revision of Dionysius' system, the hierarchies belong to the domain of nature, a domain which "was utterly overthrown by the intervention of a historical and essentially new fact, the Incarnation of the Word." (32) As such, although in the natural order angels are superior to men, following the Incarnation man is higher than the angels.

Thus we see, in summary, that Barlaam, according to Meyendorff, used Dionysius to insist on God's imparticipability, the impossibility of real deification, and to ascribe a nominal or symbolic meaning to Scriptural and Patristic passages, all the while neutralizing both the Dionysian corpus itself and even Divine Revelation. St Gregory Palamas, on the other hand, applied Christological correctives to Dionysius, making the hierarchies part of the fallen order overcome by the Incarnation.

Fr John Meyendorff's interpretation of St Dionysius the Areopagite in A Study of Gregory Palamas was sharply challenged by the late Fr John Romanides in a two-part review essay. (33) Fr Romanides took issue with Fr Meyendorff's entire portrayal of St Gregory's thought, criticizing his "imaginative theories concerning Palamite monisitc prayer and anthropology, and Incarnational and sacramental heart mysticism." (34) Fr Meyendorff, according to Fr Romanides, was engaged in an "obsessed struggle to depict Palamas as an heroic Biblical theologian putting to the sword of Christological Correctives the last remnants of Greek Patristic Platonic Aphophaticism and its supposed linear descendants, the Byzantine Platonic-nominalistic humanists." (35) Romanides continues, in typically polemic fashion:

Since Dionysius the Areopagite is supposed to be the big bad boy of Patristic Platonism which produced Barlaamite nominalism, Father John is forced into a peculiar position by Palamas' obvious and, one may say, even unconditional acceptance of Pseudo-Dionysian authority. To counteract this difficulty, Meyendorff presents Palamas as constantly (whether consciously or unconsciously is not always clear) applying to the theology of St Dionysius Christological correctives, some of which we have already dealt with. In contrast to this, Meyendorff, strangely enough, does not point out those csaes in which Barlaam misinterprets the Areopagite. Nor does he even point out those instances in which Palamas interprets St Dionysius more accurately than Barlaam. For that matter, he never once demonstrates a single case in which Barlaam's interpretation of Dionysius is more accurate than that of Palamas. He merely presents us with an untested theory. (36)

Romanides further argues that, if Meyendorff is correct, he has provided the necessary presuppositions to conclude that if the Church had remained faithful to the thought of Dionysius, "Barlaam and not Palamas would now be a saint and Father of the Church. That this did not happen was apparently due to Meyendorff's fancy that St Gregory Palamas fooled everyone into thinking that this interpretation of Pseudo-Dionysius was the correct one." (37) Finally, Romanides concludes that in the dueling interpretations of Dionysius, Barlaam could not claim any single instance in which his interpretation was decisive, whereas Palamas demonstrates Barlaam's misinterpretation of Dionysius. (38)

Fr John Romanides offers a positive reading of the Dionysian corpus, criticizing Meyendorff for having "overlooked some of the most important features of a Greek Patristic approach to Dionysius and allowed himself to accept some of the usual opinions concerning the Areopagite common to the Latinized mind of the modern West," (39) a criticism later echoed by Fr Alexander Golitzin, though in much more irenic terms. Romanides insists that Dionysius and Palamas belong to one and the same spiritual and theological tradition, one that believes that one can be initiated into union with God by means of spiritual fathers who know by experience the ways of purification and themselves stand at higher levels of perfection and union with God. At all levels of spiritual progress toward union "there is real and immediate communion with God, so that in this sense there are no intermediaries between God and man, as Meyendorff thinks." (40) Rather, at every stage there are those that help those at lower stages ascend. There is nothing static, Romanides writes, in the hierarchy:

The Dionysian celestial and ecclesiastical hierarchy is not a closed system, as Fr Meyendorff thinks. The most amazing thing about it is the fact that perfection is an eternal process which never comes to an end, even for the highest orders, since there can be no expulsion of motion and change and history by the actualizing of every potentiality as happens with Neo-Platonic and Latin beatific visions. Had Meyendorff paid attention to these principles of Greek Patristic thought, he would have hit upon a real vindication of the eternal dimensions of history and motion. (41)

Several of Fr John Romanides' criticisms of Fr John Meyendorff were taken up and developed, albeit in dramatically less polemical fashion, by Hieromonk Alexander (Golitzin) in many of his works, beginning with his doctoral dissertation. (42) I will consider only two from Fr Alexander's many works of St Dionysius: first, echoing the passage cited above by Romanides, how Dionysius fits into the fabric of the Orthodox spiritual life; and, second, what would have led Fr John Meyendorff who, besides being one of the leading representatives of Orthodox scholarship in the twentieth century – and was also a teacher and mentor of Fr Alexander – to such a negative appreciation of the Dionysian writings.

Fr Alexander, in the introduction to the published version of his thesis, writes that, when beginning his study of the Dionysian corpus in Oxford (following his studies at St Vladimir's Seminary under Fr Meyendorff), he "came to it quite convinced that its critics were correct" and "looked forward to joining the process of unmasking the fraud in order to expose the dangers that it still posed to, in particular, the Orthodox Church, and also the harm that it had wrought over the centuries." (43) Two thoughts, however, nagged at him. First, when read from the reigning academic perspective, the Dionysian corpus simply did not make sense, did not have any internal coherence. Second, following on this, how could someone the stature of St Maximus the Confessor have accepted these works as authoritative? Fr Alexander found the answer to his difficulty not through further academic work or through the guidance of an adviser, but rather through spending two years in Greece and in particular a year at the Simonas Petras monastery on Mt Athos.

Two features of Fr Alexander's experience figured in the resolution of his crisis and the discovery of what he believes to be at the core of the Dionysian corpus and the reason for its swift reception: first, the "as it were 'architecture' of the monastic life of personal and corporate prayer" and, second, "the phenomenon the ascetic holy man." (44) The first feature of his experience, the "architecture" of the monastic life, refers both to the "round of monastic prayer in the public worship of the katholikon and the private liturgy of the cell" and to the physical architecture of the monastery, in which everything is focused on the altar, where "the icon of the heavenly liturgy is daily enacted, and the same icon serves simultaneously as the image of the hallowed human being." (45) That is, the second aspect, the ascetic holy man or Elder, is the intended goal of the monastic life and "has been at the center of Eastern Christian piety and popular devotion since at least the fourth century." (46) Taken together, Fr Alexander arrived at what he believes to be "the proper reading of the Corpus Dionysiacum and certainly the way in which it was read and received by the tradition." (47) It is this reading, which he argues is grounded in the practice of Eastern monastic life, that informs his subsequent studies of Dionysius.

Fr Alexander responds to the question of "Christological correctives" most directly in his article "Dionysius the Areopagite in the Works of Gregory Palamas: On the Question of a 'Christological Corrective' and Related Matters." Posing the questions "First, was Gregory a faithful and accurate interpreter of Dionysius; and, second, what does this answer to that question say about either Dionysius, or Gregory, or both?" (48), Fr Golitzin finds three general responses to these questions: the first sees St Gregory Palamas as a faithful disciple of Dionysius, and therefore guilty of neo-Platonism; the second sees St Gregory clumsily distorting Dionysius; and the third sees Dionysius as the "anomaly, the lonely meteorite in the night of the patristic thought, yet whose authority, based on the apostolic pseudonym and specifically invoked by Barlaam, compelled Gregory to assault and alter the Areopagite's system under the guise of interpreting it." (49) It is this last current that is of interest, inasmuch as Fr Alexander's "own beloved teacher and patron, Fr John Meyendorff of blessed memory, was the origin of this third current." (50)

Fr Alexander argues that this "corrective" is an academic invention. The origins of this theological phantom lie in the "practically universal misapprehension of the meaning and function of the Dionysian hierarchies as the unfortunate result of dependence of late pagan Neoplatonism" (51) on the part of the scholarly mainstream, going as far back as Martin Luther and the nineteenth century scholars Joseph Stiglmayr and Hugo Koch. St Gregory Palamas, however, was not part of this mainstream and was instead "one (and not the only) fourteenth-century instance of a continuous, primarily monastic reading of the Areopagite which correctly understood the latter as himself drawing on prior currents is the ascetico-mystical, liturgical literature of the Christian East." (52) It is only within the Eastern Church, more specifically withing Eastern monasticism, that Dionysius should be read: "Dionysius, in short, is properly understood as bracketed by the tradition out of which he came and within which he continued to be read. The Eastern monks have always known this." (53)

In Fr Alexander's view, the genesis of the Dionysian "problem" arose in the West in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the Dionysian corpus was rediscovered. What occurred was the "recasting or re-shaping of Dionysius to conform to the already established lines of Latin theology, spiritually and ecclesiologically." (54) In this process of recasting "the unitary quality of Dionysian thought is broken up, fractured in fact, with different pieces of it then incorporated into whatever subject the particular medieval thinker is considering – e.g., the speculative theology of the Summa, the mysticism of Eckhart, the architectural plans of Abbot Sugar of Denys, or the ecclesiology of the papal apologists and canonists" (55). Only against this larger and strictly Western debate does the question of Christological corrective arise: it is an artificial problem, one projected onto both Dionysius and Palamas. The fundamental problem, writes Golitizin, is not so much the scholars who view Dionysius in this way, but the lens through which they read him. Yet the "problematization" of Dionysius should be a non-issue: "Given that patristic scholarship in its modern form is a Western invention, and that it is the West which set its agenda, it is all too easy for Orthodox scholars taking part in the conversation – and take part in it I believe they must – to be fooled by the non-issues. This is clearly what happened both to my own dear Fr John Meyendorff and, to a less degree, even to Fr Georges Florovsky, as well as to many of our contemporaries." (56)

Modern Orthodox theological scholarship has not developed in a confessional vacuum; it has borrowed the language, methods, and problems of western scholarship from its very inception. The field of Patristics as we know it today is itself a discipline borrowed from the modern Christian West and even the much celebrated "Patristic Revivial" has its origins more in Catholic France than in the Orthodox East, whatever its later adoption first by Russian emigre theologians and then by the rest of the Orthodox world. Any study of the Fathers today requires both close attention to the primary sources and a critical appraisal of the accompanying secondary literature in order to understand the lens through which particular Fathers are viewed and the key in which their theology is presented. It should come as no surprise and cause no particular scandal if a given Father has been "problematized." Even if Fr John Meyendorff went rather too far outside the boundaries of a traditional Orthodox reading of St Dionysius, his legacy may, in fact, be found in the very correction of his works by such scholars as Fathers John Romanides, Alexander Golitzin, and Andrew Louth (57), who have labored to reassert the Orthodoxy of the Dionysian corpus. Such is the way scholarship naturally advances.

Be that as it may, I would agree that it is unfair to blame Dionysius for all the ills of the later development of Orthodox theology and liturgical piety for at least three reasons (58). First, because, as Frs Romanides and Golitzin both argue, this represents a misunderstanding of St Dionysius' works, dramatically underestimating its Christological dimensions. Second, St Dionysius is blamed for the manner in which later generations chose to read his works, while ignoring his traditional reception within the Orthodox Church. Finally, it assumes that his influence is due to the pseudonym, as if those Fathers who accepted his authority did so only because they believed that the author was St Paul's convert mentioned in the Book of Acts. Once his sub-apostolic identity was disproved, he could be exposed as a cheat.

Fr John Meyendorff's analysis of St Dionysius remains problematic. His division between Dionysius' theology properly so-called and his system of hierarchies fractures the integrity of Dionysius' theological vision. Dionysius' transcendent theology and his hierarchy should not be separated: his very concern, I would argue, is to maintain God's transcendence while allowing His revelation to be mediated through hierarchy; the two are inseparable in Dionysius' vision. Fr Meyendorff's division between the static aspect (theology) and the dynamic (theugia) aspect of hierarchy likewise shatters Dionysius' soteriology. St Dionysius himself makes no such distinction: he writes that "The divine works (theurgia) are the consummation of the divine words (theologias) (59). Nor, as Fr Meyendorff contends, is Dionysius' structure devoid of the communal. The hierarchies, by their very nature, are communal: it is the members of the hierarchy who perfect and are perfected; to respond to God's love is to depend upon others. Finally, Fr Meyendorff overlooks the explicitly scriptural and exegetical nature of Dionysius' writings and dismisses both the Christological axis of the hierarchies and the incarnational basis of sacramental life.

Fr John Romanides, for all his polemical bombast, correctly points out the difficulties in maintaining Fr Meyendorff's theory of Christological correctives. St Gregory Palamas himself was not aware of applying correctives to the Dionysian corpus and, more often than not, interpreted Dionysius more faithfully than did Barlaam. Fr Meyendorff's motivation in his reading of St Dionysius does indeed stem from his desire to rid Greek Patristic theology of the influence of Platonism while asserting the centrality of incarnational mysticism. In fact, if Romanides is right, Palamas was correcting Barlaam's neo-Platonic reading of Dionysius rather than correcting Dionysius himself. It follows that Fr Meyendorff should have singled out Barlaams reading of Dionysius rather than Dionysius himself for evidence of Platonism.

Hieromonk Alexander (Golitizin) has done much to rehabilitated St Dionysius in the world of Orthodox scholarship. His reconstruction of the scholarly controversies concerning St Dionysius and their importation to the Orthodox East is certainly convincing. One wonders, however, if his reading of Dionysius – one which he claims is that of the unbroken tradition of Eastern monasticism – is in fact the only one. Fr Alexander would certainly admit that no discreet "monastic theology" exists in the Orthodox Church. It is therefore troubling that he would insist that only a "monastic reading" of Dionysius is accurate: certainly a "correct" reading of Dionysius would be that of the Church as a whole, not that of exclusively monastic circles. Such a reading takes little account of St Dionysius very peculiarity.

My own suggestion would be to adopt a reading of St Dionysius which takes into consideration his very real peculiarity, complexity, and difficulty, viewing him neither as a neo-Platonism impersonating a Christian, as would Fr Meyendorff, nor as a Christian impersonating a neo-Platonist, as would Vladimir Lossky, but rather as a Christian exegete writing works of liturgical mystagogy. The strangeness of his writings should not be exaggerated by pointing out its similarity with neo-Platonism, minimized by forcing it into a given scholar's projection or reconstruction of the patristic consensus, or confined to an esoteric realm of monastic wisdom. In any case, the lens through which St Dionysius is read needs to be periodically examined and, if necessary, cleansed or even changed.


(1) The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann 1973-1983 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000), 316-317.

(2) The Church's hymnody for this feast clearly equates the first-century Hieromartyr Dionysius of Athens with the author of the Corpus Dionysiacum. Even if we separate the two for historical reasons, the liturgical "canonization" of the author of the corpus remains.

(3) In The Vision of God, tr. Asheleigh Moorhouse (Bedfordshire, 1963), Lossky writes (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the "orthodoxy of the Areopagite writings will never be questioned" (p. 99). Lossky characterizes Dionysius as "a Christian thinker disguised as a neo-Platonist, a theologian very much aware of his task, which was to conquer the ground held by neo-Platonism by becoming a master of its philosophical method" (pp. 99-100). Florovsky is somewhat more reserved, characterizing Dionysius as "not so much a theologian as a contemplative observer and a liturgist" in The Byzantine Ascetic and Spiritual Fathers (Belmont, MA, 1974), 210).

(4) "Christological Doctrine and Liturgical Interpretation in Pseudo-Dionysius," St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Quarterly, 33:1, p. 54.

(5) Ibid., 64.

(6) Ibid., 63-4.

(7) John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975).

(8) John Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Palamas, tr. George Lawrence, (London: The Faith Press, 1964).

(9) A succinct example of Fr Meyendorff's view of Dionysius can also be found in Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 1979), esp. pp. 27-29.

(10) Meyendorff, Christ, 92.

(11) Ibid., 92-93.

(12) Ibid., 93.

(13) Ibid., 100.

(14) Ibid., 104.

(15) Ibid., 104.

(16) Ibid., 104.

(17) Ibid., 105.

(18) Ibid., 105.

(19) Ibid., 107.

(20) Ibid., 108.

(21) Ibid., 108.

(22) Ibid., 109.

(23) Ibid., 109.

(24) Ibid., 110.

(25) Ibid., 111.

(26) Meyendorff, Study, 204.

(27) Ibid., 205.

(28) Ibid., 205.

(29) Ibid., 189.

(30) Ibid., 191.

(31) Ibid., 191.

(32) Ibid., 191.

(31) Meyendorff, Study, 191.

(32) Ibid., 191.

(33) "Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 6.2, (Winter 1960-61); "Notes on the Palamite Controversy and Related Topics – II," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 9.2 (Winter 1963-64): 225-270.

(34) Romanides, "Notes II", 249-250.

(35) Ibid., 250.

(36) Ibid., 250.

(37) Ibid., 253.

(38) Ibid., 254.

(39) Ibid., 256.

(40) Ibid., 257.

(35) Ibid., 257.

(42) Et introibo ad altare dei: The Mystagogy of Dionysius Areopagita, with Special Reference to its Predecessors in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Thessalonica, 1994); "'On the Other Hand': A Response to Father Paul Wesche's Recent Article on Dionysius...." St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Quarterly 34 (1990): 305-323; "'A Contemplative and a Liturgist': Father Georges Florovsky on the Corpus Dionysiacum," St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Quarterly, 43.2 (1999); "Dionysius the Areopagite in the Works of Gregory Palamas: On the Question of a 'Christological Corrective' and Related Matters," St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Quarterly, 46.2 (2002): 163-190; "'Suddenly,' Christ: The Place of Negative Theology in the Mystagogy of Dionysius Areopagites," ; "The Body of Christ: Saint Symeon the New Theologian on Spiritual Life and the Hierarchical Church," .

(43) Golitzin, Et introibo, 8.

(44) Ibid., 9.

(45) Ibid., 9.

(46) Ibid., 9.

(47) Ibid., 8.

(48) Golitizin, "Dionysius," 166.

(49) Ibid., 166.

(50) Ibid., 166.

(51) Ibid., 167.

(52) Ibid., 167.

(53) Ibid., 167-168.

(54) Ibid., 185.

(55) Ibid., 185.

(56) Ibid., 187.

(56) Golitizin, "Dionysius," 187.

(57) The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys (Oxford: Clarendon Paperbacks, 1981), 159-178; Denys the Areopagite (London and New York: Continuum, 1989).

(58) I am indebted to Fr John Behr's lectures of St Dionysius for this paragraph.

(59) Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 3.3.5.

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