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October 21, 2016

Saint Philotheos the Hagiorite (+ 1610)

Saint Philotheos of Dionysiou (Feast Day - October 21)


Philotheos lived as a friend of God,
Finding endless life with the friends of God.

Saint Philotheos was born in 1526 in Chrysopolis (near modern Kavala in northern Greece). His parents came from Elateia in Asia Minor, and emigrated to Chrysopolis out of fear of the Hagarenes, where they bore two sons, one of whom was named Theophilos. When they were very young, their father died, leaving them to the care of their mother Eudokia. One day, however, her two children were captured by the Turks to be raised as Turks, leaving Eudokia in great pain. After some time, having heard nothing of the fate of her sons, to bring herself some comfort and hope, she enclosed herself in a nearby convent and dedicated her life to the Lord.

Meanwhile, Theophilos and his brother remained steadfast in their Orthodox Christian faith, and taking pity on their tears and the tears of their mother, the Panagia appeared to them and miraculously delivered them from bondage. In return she instructed the two brothers to become monks at a monastery in Neapolis that was dedicated to her. The two brothers made haste to fulfill the will of the Mother of God, and with great zeal worked to acquire all the virtues, which earned them the angelic habit. At his tonsure Theophilos took the name of Philotheos.

On a great feast day, when the nuns of the convent had gone to celebrate at the monastery of their neighboring monks, Eudokia was among them, and she heard a monk call for Philotheos, and as soon as he responded, his mother recognized his voice. After a tearful and joyful reunion with thanksgiving to the Theotokos, all three devoted themselves with greater zeal to ascesis and prayer, to be found worthy of their angelic habit. The devil would not allow himself to be defeated, however, so he concentrated his attacks on Philotheos. He did this by trying to corrupt his virginity by means of a nun who was possessed by a demon of lust. But Philotheos, like another chaste Patriarch Joseph, escaped the traps of the evil one.

In around 1551, at the age of 25, Philotheos set off for Mount Athos, where he settled at Dionysiou Monastery. There his ascetic feats won the admiration of all the fathers, especially his humility and zeal in serving Christ. After some years spent in obedience, Philotheos pretended that he was sick and lost his hearing, in order to receive a blessing to withdraw into solitude, in a cave near the monastery. There he dedicated himself to pure prayer and withstood the assaults of the demons. When it was uncovered that he was not ill, but feigned it to enter greater spiritual struggles, he withdrew to another location, in order to escape the praises of the fathers. At his new location, he acquired three disciples. It was during this time that he became known for his miracles and gift of foresight.

At the age of 84, the Saint understood the time for his departure was at hand, so he instructed his disciples to not have his body buried, but to throw it without ceremony in the depths of the forest where the wild animals would devour it. Therefore, having reposed in peace in 1610, his disciples did as they were bidden, though they were sick at heart to do so. But God did not allow his honorable relic to be mistreated. Some time later, a monk of Dionysiou, who was fishing on the shore, saw a great light, which he thought was a great fire in the forest. He hurried to the place and discovered the skull of the Saint, and forthwith brought it back to the disciples of the Saint, where it was given due solemnity and was venerated by all.

The skull of Saint Philotheos is preserved till this day at Petra Monastery in Thessaly, where it is enclosed in a silver case and venerated by all the visitors. In 1972, Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis brought a portion of the relic of the Saint from the monastery in Koroni to Dionysiou Monastery.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
By divine grace, the Theotokos, redeemed you, from the hands of unbelievers, and you lived venerably as a monastic in Neapolis, and as an ascetic at Athos O Philotheos, becoming a friend of God. Venerable father, entreat Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You became a stranger to friendships in the world, becoming an inhabitant of divine inspiration, and God magnified you O God-bearer. But as a genuine friend of the Savior, redeem from inferior friendships, those who cry out to you: Rejoice, Father Philotheos.

Rejoice, offspring of Chrysopolis, and revered flower of the Athonite Monastery of the Forerunner; rejoice, you who served the Lord as an ascetic, thrice-blessed Philotheos, you who dwell with Angels.