The Story of

Abba Dionysius

14th Pope of Alexandria

The parents of Abba Dionysius, the fourteenth Pope of Alexandria, were star worshippers of the Sun (Sabians) and they put emphasis on teaching him all the knowledge of that sect.

One day, a Christian old woman passed by him and offered to sell him some pages of a book containing an Epistle of St. Paul the apostle. When he read it, he was fascinated by the strange sayings and the unusual knowledge in it. He asked her: "For how much will you sell it?" She said: "For one dinar of gold." He gave her three dinars and asked her to find the rest of the pages of the book, and he was willing to pay her double. She went and brought him more pages. Having read them through, he found the book to be still incomplete. He asked her to search for the rest of the book. She told him: "I found these pages among my father's books. If you want to acquire the complete book, go to the church and there you can find it."

He went and asked one of the priests to show him what is called the Epistles of Paul. He gave it to him, read it, and memorized it. Then he went to St. Demetrius, the twelfth Pope, who taught and instructed him in the facts of the Christian faith and baptized him. He became well rehearsed in the doctrine and knowledge of the church, and Anba Demetrius appointed him a teacher for the people.

When Anba Demetrius departed and Anba Heraclas (Yaroklas) was enthroned, he appointed him as a deputy to judge among the believers. He entrusted him to administer the affairs of the Patriarchate. When St. Heraclas departed, all the people agreed to appoint this father Patriarch. He was enthroned on the first of Tubah (December 28th, 246 A.D.), during the reign of Emperor Philip, who was a lover of the Christians. He shepherded his flock with the best of care. Nevertheless, he suffered much tribulations. When Decius rose up against Philip and killed him, he reigned in his place, and incited perse-cution against the Christians. Decius slew many of the patriarchs, bish-ops, and believers. This father endured much suffering during that time. Decius died and Gallus reigned after him, and persecution quieted down during his reign.

When Gallus died and Valerian reigned in his place, he renewed the persecution severely against the Christians, and his men seized Abba Dionysius and imprisoned him. They asked him to worship the idols but he refused saying: "We worship God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit the One God." They threatened him, killed few men in front of him to terrify him, but he was not afraid.

They banished him and shortly after, they brought him back and told him: "We have been informed that you consecrate the offering secretly by yourself." He replied: "We do not forsake our prayers day or night," then he turned to the people present around him and told them: "Go and pray and if I am away from you in the body, I shall be with you in spir-it." The governor became raged and returned him to exile. When Sapor king of Persia overcame Emperor Valerian and seized him, his son Gallienus, who was wise and gentle, took over the empire. He released all the believers who were in prison and brought back those. who were in exile. He wrote to the Patriarch and the bishops a letter to assure their safety in opening the churches.

In the days of this father, certain people arose in the Arabian coun-tries saying: "That the soul dies with the body, and on the day of Resurrection, it shall be raised up with it." He gathered against them a council and anathematized them. When Paul of Samosam denied the Son, a Council assembled against him in Antioch. This Saint was not able to attend for his age. He wrote a letter to the council, rich with wisdom, explained in it the corruptive opinion of this heretic, and stated the true Orthodox belief. He finished his good strife and departed in a good old age on (March 8th, 264 A.D.), having sat on the Apostolic Throne seventeen years, two month and ten days.

May his prayers be with us. Amen.

 

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