Dionysius the Areopagite (485? – 535?)
Beauty Reflects an Invisible Harmony
For anyone who reflects, the appearances of beauty become the themes of an invisible harmony. Perfumes as they strike our senses represent spiritual illumination. Material lights point to that immaterial light of which they are the images.
~ Celestial Hierarchy I:3 (PG 3:121) In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. By Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p.221.
Matter Participates in the Good
During the time of the Manichaeans a false but persistent understanding emerged which said that matter was evil, but spirit was good. Dionysius the Areopagite bluntly refutes this perverse and heretical notion.
It is just as false to repeat the commonplace [notion] that it is in matter as such that evil resides. For to speak truly, matter itself also participates in the order, the beauty, and the form [of Good]… How, if it were not so, could Good be produced from something evil? How could that thing be evil when it is impregnated with good? … If matter is evil, how can one explain its ability to engender and nourish nature? Evil as such engenders and nourishes nothing. It does not produce or preserve anything. If it be objected that matter… leads souls toward evil, how could that be true when many material creatures turn their gaze toward the Good?
~ Divine Names IV:28 (PG 3:792), as quoted in Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, New City Press, New York, NY, 1995, p. 218.
The Mysteries are Hidden in the Secret Silence
The simple, absolute and unchangeable mysteries of heavenly Truth lie hidden in the dazzling obscurity of the secret Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness.
~ On the Divine Names 4. SPCK London, 1973, p. 100.
Under this name, an unknown writer, claiming the name and authority of the first bishop of Athens, published a series of enormously influential treatises and public letters early in the sixth century. The unknown author brilliantly integrates an orthodox dogmatic theology, a Christological cosmology and a profound spirituality into a depiction of creation that is entirely grounded in tradition and Holy Scripture. His writing was important for Christianizing the ancient pagan world because it was couched in the language of platonic philosophy which he transformed into a vehicle for expressing a vision of God, man and creation that was Trinitarian, Christocentric and Biblical. He believed that every created thing was an expression of the Divine will, and that all nature fulfills its purpose by praising God and revealing His presence, each creature in its own way. In this vision of the universe, which was not merely his individualistic interpretation, but the vision of the ancient Church, Scripture and cosmos are two aspects of God’s revelation. Just as every word and event of Scripture reveal something about God, so too every being and activity is also a revelation of God, worthy of respect and care. The awe-inspiring beauty, wisdom, power, life and being of nature reflect the incomparable Beauty, Wisdom, Power, Life and Being of God, which are the Names and cosmic and uncreated energies of God.
God’s Beauty Infuses Creation
God is beauty. This beauty is the source of friendship and all mutual understanding.
It is this Beauty… which moves all living things and preserves them while filling them with love and desire for their own particular sort of beauty. … for it is by its likeness to beauty that everything is defined. Thus true Beauty and Goodness are mixed together because, whatever the force may be that moves living things, it tends always towards Beauty-and-Goodness, and there is nothing that does not have a share in Beauty-and-Goodness. …
By virtue of this reality, all creatures subsist, united and separate, identical and opposite, alike and unlike, contraries are united and the united elements are not confused.
By virtue of Beauty-and-Goodness, everything is in communion with everything else, each in its own way; creatures love one another without losing themselves in one another, everything is in harmony, parts snugly fit into the whole… one generation succeeds another; spirits, souls and bodies remain at the same time steady and mobile; because for all of them, Beauty-and-Goodness is at once repose and movement, being itself beyond both.
~ Divine Names IV:7 (PG 3:701) In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. By Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995. p. 21.