October 3, 2015

Saint Damaris of Athens

St. Damaris of Athens (Feast Day - October 3)

Saint Damaris is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (17:34) as the first woman of Athens who, along with Dionysius the Areopagite and others, came to believe in the Gospel preached by the Apostle Paul in 52 A.D.

The fact that she is named could mean she had a high social status or was an educated woman among the philosophical men of Athens, or at least she was later well known in the early Church. Contrary to popular belief, Acts does not state Damaris was converted while listening to the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill, with Dionysius, but that she converted while Paul preached in Athens. This means she could have been converted on Mars Hill, but she may have also been a simple woman of Jewish lineage who heard Paul preach in the synagogue of Athens.

However, the Church since ancient times has almost universally associated Damaris with being the wife of Dionysius, based on the rendering of the word γυνη in Acts 17:34. This was specifically mentioned by John Chrysostom and Ambrose of Milan. Modern scholars tend to reject Damaris as being the wife of Dionysius, since the text does not necessitate such an interpretation (γυνη could be rendered either as "wife" or "woman"), though it can be interpreted that way.

Tradition states that Damaris remained in Athens and served the needs of the Church there, along with Dionysius who was made Bishop of Athens.

A Service was composed in her honor by the hymnographer Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanites. Though she is commonly commemorated on October 3rd with St. Dionysius the Areopagite, some synaxaria list her name under October 2nd.

In modern Athens, Saint Damaris is also honored by having a street named after her — Odos Damareos — siding the Profitis Ilias Square, which is one of the main urban open spaces in the Pagkrati neighborhood.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having heard Paul addressing the assembly of the wise, you accepted his message, believing in the Lord with fervent reverence. Wherefore the Church of Athens honors you, blessed Damaris, as a divine handmaid, entreating Christ for those who bless you.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Illumined by the words of the Apostle Paul, you fled to Christ and His goodness, and with a blameless life you glorified Athens, divinely-wise Damaris.

Accepting the faith of that of Christ, Holy Damaris, you were made brilliant with divine light, and you showed yourself to be an associate of the divine Paul, together with whom you were made worthy of incorruption.