Monday, October 16, 2017

Saint Domna of Tomsk, the Fool for Christ (+ 1872)

St. Domna of Tomsk (Feast Day - October 16)

The holy fool Saint Domna (Karpovna) was born into a noble family in the central Ukraine around the beginning of the nineteenth century. Orphaned at an early age, Domna grew up in her aunt’s house. She received an excellent education, and was able to speak several languages. She was a beautiful girl, and therefore she had many suitors who hoped to marry her. The righteous one, however, desired to preserve her virginity for the Lord’s sake. When she discovered that her relatives wished to force her to be married, she left the house in secret, dressed in plain clothing, and she went on pilgrimage to the holy places. Since she had no documents to prove her identity, she was arrested under the name of Maria Slepchenko and exiled to Siberia, where she settled in the city of Tomsk. There she undertook the exploit of foolishness for the sake of Christ.

Saint Domna had no permanent home, and she often spent her days and nights in the open air. Her clothes consisted of various items in different sizes, which hung from her almost naked body. Domna often counted them instead of the knots on a prayer rope, thereby concealing her unceasing prayer from human sight. When compassionate people gave her coats during the severe winters, she accepted them with gratitude, but a few hours later she would give them to some other beggar, while she continued to suffer from the cold. Knowing about the difficult stay of the prisoners in the Tomsk police station, Domna began to walk among them and sing spiritual songs, for which she herself was detained. Upon learning of this, the Tomsk merchants, who revered Domna, carried loads of her cakes, bliny, tea and sugar, which she meted out to the distressed prisoners.

Remembering the words of Holy Scripture: “A righteous man pities the lives of his animals” (Proverbs 12:10, LXX), the Saint also took care of stray animals and watchdogs. She often fed them, and she was fond of the dogs, about whom the owners did not care, turning them loose at will. Animals also loved the righteous one and by night a multitude of them surrounded her. But even among dumb animals Domna Karpovna did not forget about God. The residents of Tomsk, amid the howling of dogs, often heard her prayer in the darkness: “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”

The Eldress began to dress in rags and assumed the ascetical life of holy foolishness. Bags of all sorts hung from her body, filled with bits of glass, incense, bread, sugar, shoes, ropes, stones, and other things. The local people loved her. She loved animals and they loved her in return, following her as she walked.


The blessed one prayed intensely and fervently in the temple, but only when there were just a few people present. One eyewitness described her prayer: “Once I glanced into the side chapel of the church, and there I saw Domna Karpovna, kneeling, and praying. Oh, how she prayed! And the tears, the tears! They flowed from her eyes in two streams.” But as soon as she noticed someone was looking at her, she began to behave like a fool again, moving from place to place, talking, and extinguishing candles.

Through her exploit of foolishness Saint Domna preserved her virginity, voluntarily enduring poverty, suffering from the heat and cold, and putting the sinful passions to death. At the end of her life she received the gift of clairvoyance from the Lord, which served for the spiritual benefit of others. She surrendered her soul to God on October 16, 1872, and she was buried in the Convent of Saint John the Baptist in Tomsk. In 1927, the convent was closed and three years later, its cemetery was liquidated on the site of which the student campus of the Tomsk Technological Institute was later built.

The Church of Russia glorified Saint Domna in 1984. She is also commemorated on June 10, the Synaxis of All Saints of Siberia. Some sources give December 16 as the day of her repose. Today, not far from Saint Domna’s burial place, a chapel was built in 1996 over her alleged burial place and dedicated to her. The main source about the life of Saint Domna is the data collected by the Tomsk priest N. Mitropolsky and published by him in 1883. In Tomsk, Saint Domna is venerated as "the Siberian Xenia of Petersburg".


Apolytikion in the First Tone
Hearing the voice of Thine Apostle Paul say “We are fools for Christ;” Thy handmaiden Mother Domna, O Christ God, was a fool on earth for Thy sake; therefore, honoring her memory, we entreat Thee: O Lord, save our souls.


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