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Saint Denys and Companions


Two blessed Martyrs, each named Denys, (or, according to its Greek form, Dionysus,) have during the Christian centuries been held in great reverence, and at the same time have by many been mistaken each for the other. The first in time was Dionysius the Areopagite; that is, one of the Judges of the Court which was held on the Areopagus, which is to say, the Hill of Mars, in Athens. There is a story concerning him that on the day when the Lord Christ was nailed to the cross, and the unnatural eclipse of the sun took place, he said: Either the God of nature is suffering, or the framework of the world is breaking up. According to the Scriptures [Acts of the Apostles 17:16-34], when the Apostle Paul came to Athens, he was taken and brought unto the Court of Mars' Hill; and there he gave an account of the Gospel, affirming that Christ had risen from the dead, and that all the dead likewise are to live again. Whereat some mocked, and others said: We will hear thee again of this matter. Howbeit, certain men clave unto him, among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite. The historian Eusebius saith that this Areopagite was baptized by Paul, and that he became the first Bishop of Athens. And the Menology of Basil saith that he was burnt alive under Domitian. Thus, with his Companions, he founded the Church in Athens and gave his own blood for it.

The other Dionysius (or Denys, as he is more like to be called,) with his Companions, founded the Church in Paris, and likewise gave his blood for what he had founded. Saint Gregory of Tours wrote of this Denys that he was born in Italy, and that about the year 250 he was sent into Gaul as a missionary bishop. And that, with one Rusticus a priest, and Eleutherius a deacon, he penetrated amongst the heathen as far as Paris, where he remained to preach Christ. For whose sake he was more than once tortured, even with fire, and when he persisted, he and his priest and deacon were beheaded. He is venerated as the Saint Protector of France, and as such was invoked in the hour of battle. He is also counted as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, that is, Saints quick to pray for us in time of need. Of old time he was invoked by those who suffered pain in their heads, from the fable told of him; namely, that after his head was cut off, he took it in his hands, and walked four miles toward Paris, carrying it the while.

There was once ascribed to the Areopagite the authorship of certain treatises, such as that called: On the Names of God: and another: Concerning the Orders in heaven and in the Church: and another: On Mystical Theology: and divers others. These all were greatly valued in olden times, and had much to do with shaping theology. And even now, that they are no longer accepted as the work of Dionysius the Areopagite, but are referred to as the work of the Pseudo-Dionysius, they are valued for their intrinsic worth, as a fifth century writing. Holy Dionysius of Athens and blessed Denys of Paris, being in name and example alike, each to the other, are thus fittingly (in accordance with a very ancient custom of commemorating Saints of like name on the same date) remembered together on this day, along with those who faithfully laboured with them, and established the Church in their own blood.


O GOD, who as on this day didst endow thy blessed Martyr and Bishop Saint Denys with strength to suffer stedfastly for thy sake, (after the example of holy Dionysius the Areopagite,) and didst join unto him Rusticus and Eleutherius for the preaching of thy glory to the Gentiles: grant us, we beseech thee, so to follow their good example; that for the love of thee we may despise all worldly prosperity, and be afraid of no manner of worldly adversity. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1487-1488

Additional Information:

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