The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, , at sacred-texts.com
LETTER XI. Dionysius to Apollophanes, Philosopher.
At length I send a word to thee, O Love of my heart, and recall to thy memory the many anxieties and solicitudes, which I have formerly undergone on thy account." For thou rememberest with what a mild and benevolent disposition I have been accustomed to rebuke thy obstinacy in error, although with scant reason, in order that I might uproot those vain opinions with which thou wast deceived. But now, adoring the supreme toleration of the Divine long-suffering towards thee, I offer thee my congratulations, O part of my soul, now that you are turning your eyes to your soul’s health. For, even the very things which formerly you delighted to spurn, you now delight to affirm; and the things that you used to reject with scorn, you now delight to enforce. For, often have I set before you, and that with great precision, what even Moses committed to writing, that man was first made by God, from mud, and the sins of the world were punished p. 181 by the flood, and in process of time, that the same Moses, united in friendship with God, - performed many wonders, both in Egypt and the exodus from Egypt, by the power and action of the same God. Nor Moses only, but other divine prophets subsequently, published similar things, not infrequently, who long before foretold that God should take the nature of man from a Virgin. To which statement of mine, not once, but often, you replied, that you did not know whether these things were true, and that you were entirely ignorant, even who that Moses was, and whether he was white or black. Further, that you rejected with scorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who is God of all Majesty--which you used to call mine. Further, that Paul, the globe trotter, and a scatterer of words, who was calling people from things terrestrial to things celestial, you were unwilling to receive. Lastly, you reproach me, as a turncoat, who had left the customs of my country’s religion, and was leading people to iniquitous sacrilege, and urged me to unlearn the things in which I was placing my trust; or, at least, that I should put away other people’s things, and deem it sufficient to keep what was my own, lest I should be found to detract from the honour due to divine deities, and the institutions of my fathers. But, after the supernal light of the paternal glory of His own will sent the rays of His own splendour upon the darkness of your mind, at once He put into my inmost heart, that I should recall to your mind the whole counsel of God. How, for instance, p. 182 when we were staying in Heliopolis (I was then about twenty-five, and your age was nearly the same as mine), on a certain sixth day, and about the sixth hour, the sun, to our great surprise, became obscured, through the moon passing over it, not because it is a god, but because a creature of God, when its very true light was setting, could not bear to shine. Then I earnestly asked thee, what thou, O man most wise, thought of it. Thou, then, gave such an answer as remained fixed in my mind, and that no oblivion, not even that of the image of death, ever allowed to escape. For, when the whole orb had been throughout darkened, by a black mist of darkness, and the sun’s disk had begun again to be purged and to shine anew, then taking the table of Philip Aridaeus, and contemplating the orbs of heaven, we learned, what was otherwise well known, that an eclipse of the sun could not, at that time, occur. Next, we observed that the moon approached the sun from the east, and intercepted its rays, until it covered the whole; whereas, at other times, it used to approach from the west. Further also, we noted that when it had reached the extreme edge of the sun, and had covered the whole orb, that it then went back towards the east, although that was a time which called neither for the presence of the moon, nor for the conjunction of the sun. I therefore, O treasury of manifold learning, since I was incapable of understanding so great a mystery, thus addressed thee--"What thinkest thou of this thing, O Apollophanes, mirror of p. 183 learning?" "Of what mysteries do these unaccustomed portents appear to you to be indications?" Thou then, with inspired lips, rather than with speech of human voice, "These are, O excellent Dionysius," thou saidst, "changes of things divine." At last, when I had taken note of the day and year, and had perceived that, that time, by its testifying signs, agreed with that which Paul announced to me, once when I was hanging upon his lips, then I gave my hand to the truth, and extricated my feet from the meshes of error. Which truth, henceforth, I, with admiration, both preach and urge upon thee--which is life and way, and true light,--which lighteth every man coming into this world,--to which even thou at last, as truly wise, hast yielded. For thou yieldedst to life when thou renounced death. And surely thou hast, at length, acted in the best possible manner, if thou shalt adhere henceforth to the same truth, so as to associate with us more closely. For those lips will henceforth be on our side, by the splendour of whose words, as blunting the edge of my mind, thou hast been accustomed by pretexts brought from various quarters, and by a gorgeous glow of eloquence, to vex the innermost recesses of our breast;--yea, even sometimes to probe us sharply by occasional stings of malice. Wherefore as formerly, as thou thyself used to say, the knowledge of Christian doctrine, although savoury, was not savoury to thee, but when you had brought yourself to it, merely to taste, it shrank from your mental palate, and as it were, disdained to find p. 184 a resting-place in your stomach; so now, after you have acquired a heart, intelligent and provident, elevate thyself to things supernal, and do not surrender, for things that are not, things which really are. Therefore in future, be so much more obstinate against those who have urged you to the false, as you showed yourself perverse towards us, when we invited you, with all our force, to the truth. For thus, I, in the Lord Jesus, Whose Presence is my being and my life, will henceforth die joyful, since thou also livest in Him.
End of Dionysius the Areopagite. May his prayer be with us!