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The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, tr. by John Parker, [1897], at


I. Concerning the Ranks of the Initiated.

Section I.

These, then, are the sacerdotal Ranks and elections, their powers, and operations, and consecrations. We must next explain the triad of the Ranks being initiated under them. We affirm then that the multitudes, of whom we have already made mention, who are dismissed from the ministrations and consecrations, are Ranks under purification; since one is being yet moulded and fashioned by the Leitourgoi through the obstetric Oracles to a living birth; and another is yet to be called back to the holy life, from which it had departed, by the hortatory teaching of the good Oracles; and another, as being yet terrorized, through want of manliness, by opposing fears, and being fortified by the strengthening Oracles; and another, as being yet led back from the worse to holy efforts; and another as having been led back, indeed, but not yet having a chaste fixedness in more Godlike and tranquil habits. For these are the Orders under purification, by the nursing and purifying power of the Leitourgoi. These, the Leitourgoi perfect, by their sacred powers, for the purpose of their being brought, after their complete cleansing, to the enlightening contemplation and participation in the most luminous ministrations. p. 139

Section II.

And a middle rank is the contemplative, which participates in certain Divine Offices in all purity, according to its capacity, which is assigned to the Priests for its enlightenment.

For it is evident, in my opinion, that, that having been cleansed from all unholy impurity, and having acquired the pure and unmoved steadfastness of its own mind, is led back, ministerially, to the contemplative habit and power, and communicates the most Divine symbols, according to its capability, filled with every holy joy in their contemplations and communions, mounting gradually to the Divine love of their science, through their elevating powers. This, I affirm, is the rank of the holy people, as having passed through complete purification, and deemed worthy, as far as is lawful, both of the reverent vision, and participation of the most luminous Mystic Rites.

Section III.

Now the rank, higher than all the initiated, is the sacred Order of the Monks, which, by reason of an entirely purified purification, through complete power and perfect chastity of its own operations, has attained to intellectual contemplation and communion in every ministration which it is lawful for it to contemplate, and is conducted by the most perfecting powers of the Hierarchs, and taught by their inspired illuminations and hierarchical traditions the ministrations of the Mystic Rites, contemplated, p. 140 according to its capacity, and elevated by their sacred science, to the most perfecting perfection of which it is capable. Hence our Divine leaders have deemed them worthy of sacred appellations, some, indeed, calling them "Therapeutae," and others "Monks," from the pure service and fervid devotion to the true God, and from the undivided and single life, as it were unifying them, in the sacred enfoldings of things divided, into a God-like Monad, and God-loving perfection. Wherefore the Divine institution accorded them a consecrating grace, and deemed them worthy of a certain hallowing invocation--not hierarchical--for that is confined to the sacerdotal orders alone, but ministrative, as being ministered, by the pious Priests, by the hierarchial consecration in the second degree.

II. Mysterion on Monastic Consecration.

The Priest then stands before the Divine Altar, religiously pronouncing the invocation for Monks. The ordinand stands behind the Priest, neither bending both knees, nor one of them, nor having upon his head the Divinely-transmitted Oracles, but only standing near the Priest, who pronounces over him the mystical invocation. When the Priest has finished this, he approaches the ordinand, and asks him first, if he bids farewell to all the distracted--not lives only, but also imaginations. Then he sets before him the most perfect life, testifying that it is his bounden duty to surpass the ordinary life. When p. 141 the ordinand has promised steadfastly all these things, the Priest, after he has sealed him with the sign of the Cross, crops his hair, after an invocation to the threefold Subsistence of the Divine Beatitude, and when he has stripped off all his clothing, he covers him with different, and when, with all the holy men present, he has saluted him, he finishes by making him partaker of the supremely Divine Mysteries.

III. Contemplation.

Section I.

The fact that he bends neither knee, nor has upon his head the Divinely-transmitted Oracles, but stands by the Priest, who pronounces the invocation, signifies, that the monastic Rank is not for leading others, but stands by itself, in a monastic and holy state, following the sacerdotal Ranks, and readily conducted by them, as a follower, to the Divine science of sacred things, according to its capacity.

Section II.

And the renunciation of the divided, not only lives, but even imaginations, shews the most perfect love of wisdom in the Monks, which exercises itself in science of the unifying commandments. For it is, as I said, not of the middle Rank of the initiated, but of the higher than all.

Section III.

Therefore many of the things, which are done without reproach by the middle Rank, are forbidden p. 142 in every way to the single Monks,--inasmuch as they are under obligation to be unified to the One, and to be collected to a sacred Monad, and to be transformed to the sacerdotal life, as far as lawful, as possessing an affinity to it in many things, and as being nearer to it than the other Ranks of the initiated. Now the sealing with the sign of the Cross, as we have already said, denotes the inaction of almost all the desires of the flesh. And the cropping of the hair shews the pure and unpretentious life, which does not beautify the darkness within the mind, by overlarding it with smeared pretence, but that it by itself is being led, not by human attractions but by single and monastic, to the highest likeness of God.

Section IV.

The casting aside of the former clothing, and the taking a different, is intended to shew the transition from a middle religious life to the more perfect; just as, during the holy Birth from God, the exchange of the clothing denoted the elevation of a thoroughly purified life, to a contemplative and enlightened condition. And even if now also the Priest, and all the religious present, salute the man ordained, understand from this the holy fellowship of the Godlike, who lovingly congratulate each other in a Divine rejoicing.

Section V.

Last of all, the Priest calls the ordained to the supremely Divine Communion, shewing religiously p. 143 that the ordained, if he would really attain to the monastic and single elevation, will not merely contemplate the sacred mysteries within them, nor come to the communion of the most holy symbols, after the fashion of the middle Rank, but, with a Divine knowledge of the holy things received by him, will come to the reception of the supremely Divine Communion, in a manner different from that of the holy people. Wherefore, the Communion of the most holy Eucharist is also given to the sacerdotal Orders, in their consecrating dedications, by the Hierarch who consecrated them, at the end of their most holy sanctifications, not only because the reception of the supremely Divine Mysteries is the consummation of each Hierarchical reception, but because all the sacred Orders, according to their capacity, partake of the self-same common and most godly gifts, for their own elevation and perfection in deification. We conclude, then, that the holy Mystic Rites are, purification, and illumination, and consecration. The Leitourgoi are a purifying rank, the Priests an illuminating, and the Godlike Hierarchs a consecrating. But the holy people is a contemplative Order. That which does not participate in the sacred contemplation and communion, is a Rank being purified, as still under course of purification. The holy people is a contemplative Rank, and that of the single Monks is a perfected Rank. For thus our Hierarchy, reverently arranged in Ranks fixed by God, is like the Heavenly Hierarchies, preserving, so far as man can do, its God-imitated and Godlike characteristics. p. 144

Section VI.

But thou wilt say that the Ranks undergoing purification utterly fall short of the Heavenly Hierarchies (for it is neither permitted nor true to say that any heavenly Ordering is defiled), yea, I would altogether affirm myself, that they are entirely without blemish, and possess a perfect purity above this world, unless I had completely fallen away from a religious mind. For if any of them should have become captive to evil, and have fallen from the heavenly and undefiled harmony of the divine Minds, he would be brought to the gloomy fall of the rebellious multitudes. But one may reverently say with regard to the Heavenly Hierarchy, that the illuminating from God in things hitherto unknown is a purification to the subordinate Beings, leading them to a more perfect science of the supremely Divine kinds of knowledge, and purifying them as far as possible from the ignorance of those things of which they had not hitherto the science, conducted, as they are, by the first and more Divine Beings to the higher and more luminous splendours of the visions of God: and so there are Ranks being illuminated and perfected, and purifying and illuminating and perfecting, after the example of the Heavenly Hierarchy; since the highest and more Divine Beings purify the subordinate, holy, and reverent Orders, from all ignorance (in ranks and proportions of the Heavenly Hierarchies), and filling them with the most Divine illuminatings, and perfecting in the most pure science of the supremely Divine conceptions. For we have already said, and p. 145 the Oracles divinely demonstrate, that all the heavenly Orders are not the same, in all the sacred sciences of the God-contemplating visions; but the first, from G.od immediately, and, through these, again from God, the subordinate are illuminated, in proportion to their powers, with the most luminous glories of the supremely Divine ray.

Next: Caput VII.