December 18, 2009

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (2)

Church of St. Dionysios on Zakynthos

Part One - The Life of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos

                                        The Miracles of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (1)

The Excommunicated Woman

Once, when St. Dionysios was serving in the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Zakynthos, they were about to bury a corpse. The woman had died excommunicated and her body, in spite of the fact she had been dead a considerable number of years, had not decomposed. The relatives of the dead woman, with tears in their eyes, begged the Saint to say the prayer of forgiveness over her, so that the body could decompose. St. Dionysios took pity on them and determined to help them. He donned his stole and pallium and asked them to place the incorrupt body on a seat in the church. He then prayed fervently to God for the dead woman, beseeching God that she be released from the excommunication which held her in this state.

Before long the miracle took place. At the moment when he was reading the prayer of forgiveness the body fell into a heap onto the floor of the church and dissolved into what it had been composed of - into dust and bones. The parish priest and the deacon swore to the Saint not to talk about this happening.

A similar miracle was performed by the Saint at the village of Katastario. A few days later the Saint returned to the Monastery of the Aanaphonitria, where, apart from his other duties, he was occupied in providing for the poor children of the area, so that they could acquire an education and have a Christian upbringing.

St. Dionysios' relics transferring to Zakynthos

The Saint Becomes Patron of Zakynthos

In the war of 1716 between the Turks and the Venetians, the Turkish admiral Hotza Pasha threatened to destroy Zakynthos if it did not submit to the Sultan. The Turks, however, suffered a defeat and began to withdraw. In the course of their retreat, a squadron of a hundred ships came to the Strofades Monastery [where the relics of St. Dionysios were kept prior to their transfer to Zakynthos] to rob it of the treasures which the monks, meanwhile, had hidden in a cave, together with the body of the Saint. The treasures were stolen, but the body of the Saint was left alone - with the exception of his hands, which were divided up into four parts by four Christian members of the crew. Their leader, who had witnessed the scene, took the pieces of the hands from the Christians, since he thought that they might have some value. In fact, he sold them to the Bishop of Chios, Agathangelos, and the monk Akakios. The left hand is preserved today in the Panachrantos Monastery of Andros. The monks who tried to resist the pillaging of the treasures were put to death by the Turks and their bodies burned.

After the looting, five monks took the body of the Saint and brought it to Zakynthos on 22 August 1717. Subsequently, the Community of Zakynthos proclaimed St. Dionysios patron of the island, in the place of St. John the Baptist. It also designated August 24 as the anniversary of the translation of the relics of the Saint. The procession which takes place today was established as a custom later, in 1901, when Dionysios Plessas was Archbishop of Zakynthos.

The larnax of St. Dionysios

The Possessed

Once a person possessed by a devil, who was greatly tormented by it, was brought to the Monastery of St. Dionysios. The fathers, seeing the pitiful condition he was in, took him to the tomb of the Saint. The read over him the exorcism prayers of St. Basil the Great and anointed him with oil from the sanctuary lamp. The possessed person was restored to health and gave glory to God and thanks to the Saint.

Monastery of Panagia Anaphonitria

The Saint Appears to the Abbot

At one period the monk Daniel was Abbot of the Monastery of St. Dionysios. He was a good and devout man, conscientious in the execution of his duties. He was, however, troubled by doubts about the sanctity of St. Dionysios.

"Is Dionysios, to whom so much honor is paid," he asked himself, "really in the company of the saints in heaven or not?"

One night he had a dream in which he saw the sacristan seeking his blessing to ring the bell for Matins. In a little while he awoke and believed that he really had given his permission for the monks to be summoned to Matins. He got up quickly, dressed, and went down to the church. Entering, he saw the Saint standing between two white-clad priests and two deacons. The Saint was resting his hands on their shoulders while they were robing him in his episcopal vestments. Then one of the priests addressed the Abbot, saying:

"Are you convinced now, or do you still doubt?"

The Abbot was deeply troubled by the vision and left the church in fear. Immediately afterwards, however, he repented of his hasty action and wished to look again to see if what he had seen was real. This time, going in through the door, he saw the Saint moving unaided and climbing back into his coffin.

Filled with awe, the Abbot returned to his cell, summoned the fathers of the Monastery and narrated these events to them. They all with one accord glorified God. From that day on the Abbot became a fervent preacher of the sanctity and miracles of St. Dionysios.

Procession on December 17, 2009 with the relics of the Saint

The Resurrection of the Child

For ten whole years a family in the Peloponnese were unable to have children. They begged the Saint, with tears, to grant them the blessing of a child, promising him that the child would be baptized in his church on Zakynthos. Thus it came about that the wife, after the Saint had appeared to her in a dream, gave birth to a delightful baby boy. Five months later, the happy relatives and their relatives took the child to Zakynthos, to be baptized in fulfillment of their promise. Alas, on the way the child fell sick and, three miles from Zakynthos, died. The parents, inconsolable, after the ship had anchored, took the child, weeping, to the church, to offer him to the Saint, even though dead. When they arrived at the church, they put the body down near the shrine and prayed to the Saint, dedicating the child to him, even though dead. Then it was that the miracle occurred. The child started to cry. In their delight, the parents and relatives took their child, glorifying God and giving thanks to the Saint. A little later, in an atmosphere of intense devotion, the baptism took place. The child was baptized Dionysios and throughout his life he would annually attend the festival of the Saint, in thanksgiving for the great benefit accorded to him.

Part Three - The Miracles of Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (3)