Saint Philotheos of Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos was a native of Elateia, and was born in 1526. Fearing the Turks, his parents moved away to Chrysoupolis in Macedonia, where his father soon died. The child Philotheos and his brother were seized by the Turks and then thrown into prison.
They were delivered in a miraculous manner by the Mother of God. She appeared to the children in the likeness of their mother and led them to the monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos in the city of Neapolis in Asia Minor. At this monastery the brothers received the monastic tonsure. By progressing through all the obediences assigned by the Igoumen they attained the position of ecclesiarchs.
Meanwhile, Eudokia, the mother of Saint Philotheos, had also settled into a women’s monastery in this same city, through the mysterious guidance of Divine Providence. For many years she knew absolutely nothing of the fate of her children. Visiting a men’s monastery with several other nuns for the Feast Day of its church, Eudokia recognized her sons. In answer to her question about how they chanced to be there they replied, “You ought to know, for you yourself freed us from the Turks and led us from the prison.” Thus Eudokia became convinced of the intercession of the Mother of God, for it had only been in praying to the Theotokos that she had found any consolation. When the brethren learned of the joyous reunion of the mother and her sons, as well as their miraculous deliverance, they gathered around them and glorified the Lord.
In 1551, after his mother’s repose, Saint Philotheos went to the Holy Mountain at the age of 25. He joined the brethren of Dionysiou Monastery, where his ascetic struggles were an example to many. Later, seeking greater quietude, he pretended to have suffered from an illness and become deaf, and then he retired to a cave outside the monastery. There he emerged as an admirable ascetic and a conqueror of demons. When his feigned illness was revealed, he was forced to change his place of residence, so that people would not honor him. In his new home he acquired three disciples. Devoting himself to deeds of prayer, Saint Philotheos attained high spiritual perfection and was granted the gift of clairvoyance.
In 1610 the venerable one peacefully fell asleep in the Lord at the age of eighty-four. Before his death he bade his disciples not to bury his body, but rather to cast it dishonorably into the forest to be eaten by beasts and birds. His disciples fulfilled the wish of their Elder, but the All-Good God glorified the saint’s relics with a wondrous radiance. A monk took his skull and gave it to the saint’s disciples.
The skull is still preserved in the monastery of Petra, Thessaly, in a silver case, and receives great honor from the faithful. In 1972, the late Archimandrite Gabriel transferred a portion of the venerable one’s precious relic from the monastery of Koroni to the monastery of Dionysiou.
The life of the venerable one was written by the monk Daniel of Dionysiou, copying an older codex, which was compiled by the monk Agapios Lantos in 1802, which was later published in Venice in 1872.