On a beautiful Tuesday evening, November 17th, His Grace, the Right Reverend Alexander of Toledo, Bishop of the Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America, traveled to Ithaca, NY to give a lecture on the writings of St Dionysius the Areopagite. The talk was hosted by Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission of Lansing, NY and the Orthodox Christian Fellowship of Cornell University. The lecture was given in conjunction with Holy Apostles Church’s ongoing adult education class, the Know Your Faith Series. “Bishop Alexander beautifully recollected his life changing experiences on Mount Athos and his personal growth through coming to understand the work of St Dionysius” noted Christina Forties, one of the attendees.
More than 20 faithful, friends and spiritually curious people gathered in the prestigious Founders Room of Anabel Taylor Hall to hear about His Grace’s spiritual journey to Mount Athos where he gained a deep love for the writings of St Dionysius, and how they have guided him to an ever deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity.
Bp Alexander, who studied the writings of the Areopagite during his doctoral studies at Oxford University, gave a captivating lecture. While highlighting the historical context of the writings, he took the time to show how the thoughts conveyed bring the pious Christian to an understanding of God grounded in the mystical experience of the ascetic life. Radu Parvalescu, one of the OCF students, was touched by the talk. He said that "It was very useful for me to see how a scholar and an intellectual maks his business become more Orthodox; and makes his output be both scholarly and intellectual and Orthodox at the same time."
Following the talk, those who were gathered partook of refreshments while continuing the conversation among themselves and with Bp Alexander. During that time, Micah Brown relayed how he felt compelled to continue his studies on the matter. “I enjoyed the lecture. Although my knowledge of St Dionysius is limited, my interest was sparked and I now plan on engaging in at least a cursory examination of his life and writings.”
In summing up the personal theological reflection from His Grace, Fr Tom Parthenakis of St Catherine's Greek Orthodox Church in Ithaca observed that "the idea that there are other perspectives found in his personal experience. This is like an ascetic who struggles to understand St Dionysius the Areopagite. All the barriers that he faced and how he dealt with them [in his spiritual pursuits] was infatuating for me.”
His Grace’s trip to Lansing was topped off with the celebration of Matins on the following day. As part of the weekly cycle of services, several of the faithful of the parish gathered with His Grace to sing praises to God in thanksgiving for such an enlightening and spiritually beneficial visit.