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The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

On The Heavenly Hierarchy
Caput I

translated by Rev. John Parker, M.A.


The works of Dionysius the Areopagite



The works of Dionysius the Areopagite

On The Heavenly Hierarchy
Caput I


To my Fellow Presbyter Timothy.151 Dionysius the Presbyter.

That every divine illumination, whilst going forth lovingly to the objects of its forethought under various forms, remains simplex. Nor is this all. It also unifies the things illuminated.

Section I.

"Every good gift152 and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights."

Further also, every procession of illuminating light, proceeding from the Father, whilst visiting us as a gift of goodness, restores us again gradually as an unifying power, and turns us to the oneness of our conducting Father, and to a deifying simplicity. For153 all things are from Him, and to Him, as said the Sacred Word.

Section II.

Invoking then Jesus, the Paternal Light, the Real, the True, "which lighteth154 every man coming into

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the world," "through155 Whom we have access to the Father," Source of Light, let us aspire, as far as is attainable, to the illuminations handed down by our fathers in the most sacred Oracles, and let us gaze, as we may, upon the Hierarchies of the Heavenly Minds manifested by them symbolically for our instruction. And when we have received, with immaterial and unflinching mental156 eyes, the gift of Light, primal and super-primal, of the supremely Divine Father, which manifests to us the most blessed Hierarchies of the Angels in types and symbols, let us then, from it, be elevated to its simple splendour157. For it never loses its own unique inwardness, but multiplied and going forth, as becomes its goodness, for an elevating and unifying blending of the objects of its care, remains firmly and solitarily centred within itself in its unmoved sameness; and raises, according to their capacity, those who lawfully aspire to it, and makes them one, after the example of its own unifying Oneness. For it is not possible that the supremely Divine Ray should otherwise illuminate us, except so far as it is enveloped, for the purpose of instruction, in variegated sacred veils, and arranged naturally and appropriately, for such as we are, by paternal forethought.

Section III.

Wherefore, the Divine Institution of sacred Rites, having deemed it worthy of the supermundane

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imitation of the Heavenly Hierarchies, and having depicted the aforesaid immaterial Hierarchies in material figures and bodily compositions, in order that we might be borne, as far as our capacity permits, from the most sacred pictures to the instructions and similitudes without symbol and without type, transmitted to us our most Holy Hierarchy. For it is not possible for our mind to be raised to that immaterial representation and contemplation of the Heavenly Hierarchies, without using the material guidance suitable to itself, accounting the visiblePs. xix. beauties as reflections of the invisible comeliness;and the sweet158 odours of the senses as emblems of the spiritual distribution; and the material159 lights as a likeness of the gift of the immaterial enlightenment; and the detailed sacred instructions160, of the feast of contemplation within the mind; and the ranks161 of the orders here, of the harmonious and regulated habit, with regard to Divine things; and the reception of the most Divine Eucharist, of the partaking162 of Jesus, and whatever other things were transmitted to Heavenly Beings supermundanely, but to us symbolically.

For the sake, then, of this our proportioned deification, the philanthropic Source of sacred mysteries, by manifesting the Heavenly Hierarchies to us, and constituting our Hierarchy as fellow-ministers with them, through our imitation of their Godlike

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priestliness163, so far as in us lies, described under sensible likeness the supercelestial Minds, in the inspired compositions of the Oracles, in order that It might lead us through the sensible to the intelligible164, and from inspired symbols to the simple sublimities of the Heavenly Hierarchies.


151    1 Pet. v. 1.

152    James i. 17.

153    Rom. xi. 36.

154    John i. 9.

155    Rom. v. 2.

156    Syr. Doc. p. 61, Clark.

157    Plato Rep. 6, 7-11, 121-126. Read Allegory of Cave.

158    Num. xv. 3.

159    Luke 11. 9.

160    John vii. 14.

161    Rom. xiii. 1, 2.

162    1 Cor. x. 16.

163    1 Pet ii. 9.

164    νόητα.


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