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January 24, 2010

Saint Xenia the Fool for Christ of St. Petersburg

St. Xenia the Fool of St. Petersburg (Feast Day - January 24)

On the twenty-fourth of this month we commemorate our venerable Mother, Blessed Xenia, the Fool for Christ’s sake and Wonderworker of Saint Petersburg.


They that are at a loss invoke Blessed Xenia, 
Who having lost all things, won Christ as her bridegroom. 
On the twenty-fourth Xenia was in Heaven.

Our righteous Mother Xenia of St. Petersburg was born about the year 1730. She was married to a Colonel named Andrew; when she was twenty-six years old her husband died suddenly, having been drinking with his friends. Left a childless widow, Xenia gave away all that she had and vanished from St.Petersburg for eight years; it is believed that she spent this time in a hermitage, learning the spiritual life. When she returned to Saint Petersburg, she wore her husband’s military clothing, and would answer only to the name Andrew, that is, the name of her late husband. She took up the life of a homeless wanderer, and was abused by many as insane; she bore this with great patience, crucifying the carnal mind through the mockery she endured, and praying for her husband’s soul. She was given great gifts of prayer and prophecy, and often foretold things to come; in 1796 she foretold the death of Empress Catherine II. Having lived forty-five years after her husband’s death, she reposed in peace at the age of seventy one, about the year 1800. Her grave became such a source of miracles, and so many came to take soil from it as a blessing, that it was often necessary to replace the soil; when a stone slab was placed over her grave, this too disappeared over time, piece by piece. Saint Xenia is especially invoked for help in finding employment, lodging, or a spouse.

The Gravestone of St. Xenia

The only record of "vital statistics" that has been left to us concerning Blessed Xenia is the epitaph on her gravestone:

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Here rests the body of the servant of God, Xenia Grigorievna,
Wife of the imperial chorister, Colonel Andrei Theodorovich Petrov.
Widowed at the age of 26, a pilgrim for 45 years,
She lived a total of 71 years.
She was known by the name Andrei Theodorovich.
May whoever knew me pray for my soul that his own may be saved. Amen.

Blessed St. Xenia was a "fool-for-Christ," who, for 45 years, wandered around the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia. For the first 26 years of her life, Xenia had lived quite comfortably. However, after her husband suddenly died, the Holy Spirit led her to give away all her possessions to the poor. She put on her dead husband’s clothes and called herself by his name, saying that Xenia had died. Homeless, she lived in the streets all year round for 45 years, owning only the ragged clothes on her back. The Holy Spirit also led her to give away her mind and her heart to God. By giving everything away, she became rich in humility, simplicity, self-denial, kindness, and deep and profound love for all. By pretending to be insane, she showed how insane the world and its values are. By denying herself the comforts of a home, a bed, decent clothes, food, and the appearance of being "normal," she helps us to examine what really is important in life, and what really is "normal." By her self-denial, Blessed St. Xenia daily died to her old self and daily lived only for God. She trusted totally that God would provide for her, as He provides for the birds.

During the day she wandered the streets, dressed in rags, enduring heat and cold, snow and rain, mocked by people. At night she went out into the fields and prayed all night, and at other times she spent the night at the Smolensk Cemetery. It was at this cemetery that she helped the workmen build the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God (photo below), by secretly carrying bricks up the scaffold during the night.

One night the workmen hid to find out who was helping them, and discovered that it was "Crazy Xenia." Whenever someone gave her alms, she immediately gave it to the poor. As the years passed, the Holy Spirit filled Xenia with greater riches, and she became increasingly blessed. After a while, some people started to notice that "crazy Xenia" wasn’t so crazy after all, but was an instrument of divine grace, to whom had been given deep spiritual powers: she could see into people’s hearts and into the past and future, and appeared to people in visions. Anyone whom she touched was blessed. Because she gave up living for herself, she was able to live for others, helping those in need. She especially helped families, children and marriages, as she continues to do today.

After she fell asleep in the Lord, around 1803, she continued to help those who asked for her assistance. Throughout the 19th century, tens of thousands of people came every year to her grave, and countless miracles occurred. In 1902 a chapel was built over her grave in the Smolensk Cemetery, located on the western end of Vasiliev Island in St. Petersburg. This chapel has now been reconstructed (photo below), again welcoming the pilgrims who come there every day, and the miracles continue to occur.

For 200 years people have been turning to the Blessed one, and she has been helping them. Her great spiritual power and her deep love for people transcend the grave and are manifested daily. One of the most popular of God’s "chosen ones," her canonization in 1988 was official recognition of what the faithful had long witnessed and experienced.

This is the actual icon of Blessed St. Xenia that is in the chapel over her tomb. In the background is depicted the Smolensk Orthodox Cemetery in northwestern St. Petersburg, where she spent much time, and where she is buried. The blue church and bell tower immediately behind the Blessed One is the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, which she helped the workmen build, as mentioned above. To the left of the Blessed One is a representation of the chapel over her tomb.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having renounced the vanity of the earthly world, thou didst take up the cross of a homeless life of wandering; thou didst not fear grief, privation, nor the mockery of men, and didst know the love of Christ. Now taking sweet delight of this love in heaven, O Xenia, the blessed and divinely wise, pray for the salvation of our souls.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In you, O mother, was carefully preserved what is according to the image. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh for it passes away, but to care instead for the soul since it is immortal. Therefore, O Blessed Xenia, your spirit rejoices with the Angels.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Third Tone
Having loved the poverty of Christ, you are now being satisfied at the Immortal Banquet. By the humility of the Cross, you received the power of God. Having acquired the gift of miraculous help, O Blessed Xenia, beseech Christ God, that by repentance we may be delivered from every evil thing.

The Glorification of St. Xenia in 1978 by Metropolitan Philaret in New York City