A reading detour

by Andrea Elizabeth

Inspired by a recent Facebook conversation, I have picked St. Dionysius the Areopagite back up again. Since there was a link to an ebook of his Celestial Hierachy, I have begun there. It is a little hard for me to grasp how we are to see the Divine as above all matter and understanding, and yet like things on earth as is explained by metaphors and similes. St. Dionysius says that at the same time, created things, even inanimate objects participate in the heavenly beauties, so they cannot be cast aside as non-divine. But the Divine Spirit Himself is above light, and thus dwells in darkness to us. This can seem lonely and remote, but I think I’ve heard someone besides C.S. Lewis in his space trilogy, maybe it was Dr. David Bradshaw, say that it is a most full darkness. But I can’t dwell on that for more than a second because at my stage in life I need to sense God’s presence in actual sunlight and candle light. And St. Dennys hasn’t explained the consecrated physical gifts in the Eucharist yet. He is not separate from them. They, like Christ, possess a unique unity of created and uncreated. I have heard of several people seeing the gifts actually glow. And it seems that the uncreated light is visible to us, so it’s not exactly darkness. I just don’t think we are to let go of this sensible earth completely, as it seems a necessary part of union with God. Detaching ourselves from a passionate dependence on it is another matter that St. Dionysius, as well as St. Maximus, talks quite a lot about. Since St. Dionysius precedes and influences St. Maximus, I am reading this ahead of A Eucharistic Ontology for the time being. And I’m also getting a lot out of The Arena, speaking of detachment, which we are reading in a class at Church. And Dostoyevsky’s Idiot is still calling me.