Saint of the Day – 8 April – Saint Dionysius of Alexandria “The Great” (c 190-265) Archbishop of Alexandria from 248 until his death in 265, Confessor, outstanding Administrator, Writer, Theologian. Born on c 190 in Alexandria, Egypt and died in 265 of natural causes. Called “the Great” by St Eusebius, St.Basil and others, was undoubtedly, after St Cyprian, the most eminent Bishop of the third century. Like St Cyprian, he was less a great theologian, than a great administrator. Like St Cyprian, his writings usually took the form of letters. Both saints were converts from paganism, both were engaged in the controversies as to the restoration of those who had lapsed in the Decian persecution, about Novatian and with regard to the iteration of heretical baptism, both corresponded with the Popes of their day. Yet, it is curious, that neither mentions the name of the other. A single letter of Dionysius has been preserved in Greek Canon law. For the rest, we are dependent on the many citations by Eusebius and, to the works of his great successor St Athanasius.
He is said to have been of distinguished parentage. He became a Christian when still young and discussed his conversion experience with Philemon, a Priest of Pope Sixtus II. Dionysius converted to Christianity when he received a vision sent from God; in it he was commanded to vigorously study the heresies facing the Christian Church, so that he could refute them through doctrinal study. After his conversion, he joined the Catechetical School of Alexandria and was a student of Origen and St Heraclas. He eventually became leader of the School and a Priest. He became Archbishop of Alexandria in 248, succeeding st Heraclas.
Dionysius favoured readmitting penitent apostates to the Church in opposition to those, who wanted to exclude them permanently. Engaged in the bitter controversy over baptism performed by heretics, Dionysius did not insist on rebaptising converts who had received heretical baptism but he recognised the right ,of communities, to rebaptise if they preferred.
Dionysius was especially noted for his attacks on the Sabellians, who accused him of separating the persons of the Trinity (tritheism) and other heresies.
He also wrote a treatise on nature against the atomism of the Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Though highly esteemed and often cited by the leading Byzantine theologians, his works are known only from quotations, many of them extensive, preserved mainly by Bishop St Eusebius of Caesarea.
In 252 an outbreak of plague ravaged Alexandria and Dionysius, along with other Priests and Deacons, took it upon themselves, to assist the sick and dying.
Dionysius was imprisoned and then exiled. during the persecutions but when Gallienus, took over the empire he released all the believers who were in prison and brought back those in exile. Gallienus wrote to Dionysius and the Bishops, a letter to assure their safety in opening the Churches.
Dionysius died in 265 and his relics were buried in the Church of the Cave, Alexandria.