Dionysius “the Great” was the first to be called “the Great,” an honorific that gives us a picture into why his prayers remain part of prayer books to this day (plus this prayer is so beautiful of course we’d pass it on to the next generations). Dionysus came from a family of high social position, and it seems when he converted to Christianity (after reading Paul’s letters), he suffered “loss of dignities,” something akin to rejection from his community and family. He quickly rose to positions of prominence in Christian community, first as a student, then a director of sacred studies, and finally as Bishop of Alexandria. While there were seasons during his leadership of peace between the Roman Empire and Christians, several Roman leaders made it their business to persecute, torture and kill many, and at one point Dionysius fled to the Libyan Desert for safety.
I can only imagine that that phrase, “in you is calmness, peace and concord,” was a prayer rooted in real experience of fear, unrest and sorrow. Our lives impact the way we pray, but in this case, Dionysius’ prayer language is broad enough for us to feel comforted centuries later.
Let us pray:
God, good beyond all that is good,
Fair beyond all that is fair,
In you is calmness, peace, and concord.
Heal the dissensions that divide us from one another
And bring us back to a unity of love
Bearing some likeness to your divine nature.
Through the embrace of love
And the bonds of godly affection,
Make us one in the Spirit
By your peace which makes all things peaceful.
We ask this through the grace, mercy, and tenderness
Of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Dionysius of Alexandria, d. 264
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