Dionysius of Alexandria: Move Toward Disease

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“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:44-46

“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…

The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen, winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom…

The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.”

Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 260 at Eastertide) in Festival Letters, quoted by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History 7.22) as recounted by Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) 82.

How should followers of Christ respond to Covid-19? The early disciples provide us with inspiration that reflects obedience to the command of Christ. In short, they moved toward disease with deep faith rather than running from it in fear. They did not retreat in self-preservation

This vivid picture from Eastertide in the year 260 celebrates the courage of the first Christians. In moving toward disease, they caused the gospel to spread across the ancient world So what would it look like for you and me to move toward Covid-19 rather than away from it?