The Theotokos and St. Dionysius the Aeropagite

As today is the Leaving-taking of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on the Old Calendar I would like to present here the account of St. Dionysius the Aeropagite’s encounter with her. This is in a letter of his preserved in the Great Collection of the Lives of Saints of the Orthodox Church on the feast of the Dormition. So then, after meeting with her, thus did St. Dionysius write to his “great leader”, the holy Apostle Paul:

I tell you as if I were standing in front of God, for me, our great leader, it was beyond any doubt, that aside from the Most High God, there could be nothing, which is so filled with heavenly power and marvelous grace [as Mary], and still it is impossible for a human mind to perceive what I saw with my own eyes. It was not with the eyes of my soul only but with my bodily eyes – I, with my own eyes, saw the most beautiful, the most holy Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ who exceeds all the heavenly hosts in her holiness. This gift was granted to me by the grace of God, as an honor by the company of the apostles, and also as an unspeakable kindness and compassion of the merciful Virgin herself. And again I testify in front of the omnipotence of God, in front of the grace of the Savior, and in front of the great glory of the Virgin, His Mother. When I, with John—the first among the evangelists and the prophets, who, while living in the flesh, shines like the sun in the sky—was led inside to the beautiful and the most pure Virgin, then a great heavenly radiance that enlightened my soul, poured over me, at the same time I sensed such wonderful fragrance that my spirit and body were hardly able to bear this manifestation of glory and foretaste of eternal bliss. My heart and my spirit were enervated from Her heavenly grace. Let God, who abode in the most pure womb, be my witness, that I would have recognized her for the true God and venerated Her with worship appropriate only to God if the newly illumined soul of mine would not have preserved inside you heavenly instructions and laws. No honor and glory of men who were glorified by God can be compared with the bliss that I, the unworthy one experienced and was honored with at the time. This time was a time of the greatest bliss for me. I thank my most high and most blessed God, the heavenly Virgin, John, who is great among the Apostles, and you as well who is the adornment of the church and the invincible leader, who all so mercifully showed me such a great favor.

Through the prayers of His most pure Mother, St. Dionysius the Aeropagite, and all the saints, may our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us and save us. Amen! ( O Full of Grace, Glory to Thee pp. 84, 86)

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