Saint Dionysius of Zakynthos, the Bishop of Aegina was born in 1547 on the island of Zakynthos. Though born into a noble family, he was determined to flee the world and set his mind upon heavenly things. He entered the monastery of Strophada, and after the prescribed time, he was clothed in the angelic schema by the abbot. Though young in years, he surpassed many of his elders in virtue, and was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.
Although he protested his unworthiness, St Dionysius was consecrated Bishop of Aegina. In that office he never ceased to teach and admonish his flock, and many were drawn to him in order to profit from his wisdom. He feared the praise of men, lest he should fall into the sin of vainglory, so he resigned his See and returned to Zakynthos.
In 1579 the diocese of Zakynthos was widowed (when a bishop dies, his diocese is described as “widowed”), and Dionysius agreed to care for it until a new bishop could be elected. Then he fled from the worldly life which gave him no peace, and went to the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos Anaphonitria, twenty miles from the main village.
Having passed his life in holiness, St Dionysius reached a great age, then departed to the Lord on December 17, 1624.
Not only are the saint’s relics incorrupt, but he is also one of Greece’s “walking saints” (St Gerasimus and St Spyridon are the others). He is said to leave his reliquary and walk about performing miracles for those who seek his aid. In fact, the soles of his slippers wear out and must be replaced with a new pair from time to time. The old slippers are cut up, and the pieces are distributed to pilgims. On August 24, we celebrate the Transfer of his Holy Relics.
THE SIGNIFICANT FESTIVALS OF SAINT DIONYSUS OF ZAKYNTHOS
“Twice a year the Zakynthians honor their Protector Saint Dionysus. All devoted Orthodox Christians arrive at the church where their concentration is drawn to the Holy Body untouched by deterioration.
The first of the two festivals is held on the 24th of August in memory of the transportation of the Holy Body from the islands of Strofadia to Zakynthos, which happened in 1717. The second festival, which is held on the 17th of December, honors the memory of the place where Our Saint went to sleep in 1622. Both of these ceremonials receive unique glory every year and they last three days each, (23rd – 26th August and 16th – 19th of December).
The magnificence of the church rituals are always carried out in a characteristic musical church idiom of Zakynthos with the participation of the Archpriests, all the holy Clergy and thousands of people, leading to the remarkably exciting hours of processional chanting in town (evening on the 24th of August and morning of the 17th of December), where the hearts of the faithful shiver, their eyes fill with tears and they kneel in supplication in front of the Elder of Ammou, Father and Comforter of all who are in pain.”