Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Filip Ivanovic - Dionysius the Areopagite on Justice

As one of the names attributed to God, justice is defined by Dionysius as something which “orders everything, setting boundaries, keeping things distinct and unconfused, giving each thing what it inherently deserves” (Divine Names, 896A). It, therefore, assigns to everything what is appropriate to it, and preserves the nature of each being in its due order. In this way, it is through divine justice’s definitions that every being is assigned its own proper essence.
The same role of justice is applied to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which, in its conformity to God, is an image of divine justice, and “gives to each as he deserves and grants an appropriate share of the divine things to all for their salvation” (The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, 432C). 
In practical, i.e., ethical sense, this concept of justice points to the way of life of each individual – the divine justice ensures that each one receives a return for whatever good or bad he did during his life. That is why the hierarch, as the interpreter of the divine justice, will conform himself to the wishes of God during the funeral rites – he will not offer prayers to those who led their lives in disaccord with the divine justice.
In the dimension of the hierarchical order, justice means obedience to the Law, and to the rules of the hierarchy. In the letter to monk Demophilus, Dionysius says “Justice is pursued when each wishes to give every one his dues” (Ep. VIII, 1092D), but this cannot happen beyond their order. It is, therefore, unjust to disobey the hierarchical arrangement and correct or reproach those of higher ranks, as Demophilus did.
This paper will aim to explore the notion of justice in Dionysius’s writings in different contexts – philosophical-theological, ecclesiological, and ethical, and will also touch upon the relationship between Dionysian justice and the Platonic one.

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