On a beautiful Tuesday evening, 17 November 2015, Bishop Alexander of Toledo (Bulgarian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America) traveled to Ithaca NY to present a lecture on the writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. The event was hosted by Holy Apostles Orthodox Mission Parish in Lansing NY (Father James Worthington, rector) and the Orthodox Christian Fellowship of Cornell University. The lecture was given in conjunction with the mission parish’s ongoing adult education class: “Know Your Faith Series.” 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 Saint Dionysius, and how they have guided him to an ever deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity.
“Bishop Alexander beautifully recollected his life changing experiences on Mount Athos and his personal growth through coming to understand the work of Saint Dionysius,” noted Christina Forties, one of the attendees.
Bishop 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: "It was very useful for me ... his output [is] scholarly, intellectual, and Orthodox at the same time."
Following the talk, those gathered partook of refreshments while continuing the conversation among themselves and with Bishop 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 Saint 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 by His Grace, Father Tom Parthenakis of Saint Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Ithaca observed that "there are other perspectives found in [Bishop Alexander’s] personal experience. This is like an ascetic who struggles to understand Saint 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 Bishop Alexander to sing praises to God in thanksgiving for such an enlightening and spiritually beneficial visit.
The lecture can be seen at the website of Holy Apostles Church.