On February 6th the Belarussian Orthodox Church (and all the other Orthodox churches that use the Julian calendar) will celebrate the feast day of a well-known and loved Russian saint - Xenia of Petersburg, or Saint Xenia Fool-for-Christ. This article will tell you about the life of St Xenia, explain the term “fool-for-Christ'' and let you know why this saint is so important for us.
St Xenia was born around 1719 in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, we do not know much about her, even though she lived her earthly life not so long ago.
What we do know is that Xenia married Andrey Petrov - an army officer when she was in her early twenties. They didn’t have any children and lived a happy life in Christ. They were both Orthodox Christians - St Xenia’s husband even sang in the church choir.
When St Xenia was 26 years old her husband Andrey died very suddenly. She was struck by grief and decided to stop looking for happiness here on Earth and follow Christ to achieve Eternal life and joy.
After the death of her husband, Saint Xenia followed the difficult path of foolishness for the sake of Christ. But what does that mean?
Foolishness for Christ is a form of Christian asceticism. A fool-for-Christ is a saint who looks and acts as if they are insane. By living such a peculiar lifestyle, they battle the root of all sin - their own pride.
In the New Testament there is a verse that explains how foolishness can be holy:
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18)
Saint Xenia gave away her possessions and started to wander around the city, wearing her late husband’s officer uniform and insisting that people call her by his name. She had relatives who were ready to help her and give her a place to sleep, but she did not accept any help.
At some point in her life, saint Xenia went on a pilgrimage and visited some elders, including St Theodore of Sanaxar. She got spiritual advice and came back to Saint Petersburg.
The uniform of her husband got worn out, so St Xenia clothed herself in old pieces of fabric. People started to make fun of her for the way she looked and behaved. But prayer strengthened the saint, so she was able to continue her difficult ascetic path to holiness.
Saint Xenia Fool-for-Christ lived this lifestyle for about 45 years after the passing of her husband. She departed to the Lord at the age of 71. After her death, people started to experience miracles after coming to her grave and praying to her.
Those who turn to Saint Xenia in prayer receive healing from illness and deliverance from their afflictions.
Saint Xenia means a lot to us. Back in 1998, our Convent established a small chapel in honor of the saint on the territory of the Boarding Home for mentally challenged adults. Our sisters of mercy have been visiting its patients for many years, providing them with spiritual assistance, as well as simply keeping them company.
Boarding home patients love their patron saint and pray to St Xenia regularly.
Because of Covid restrictions, we can’t visit them right now. Our sisters miss them dearly and cannot wait to finally talk to them, bring them presents, pray with them and attend the Divine Liturgy at the St Xenia chapel together. We enjoy spending time with them and they teach us a lot about love and humility. This is why we call them God’s people.
Every Thursday our sisters and clergy organise a big procession around the boarding homes for children and adults. We sing hymns, read akathists to our Convent’s patron saints, including Saint Xenia, and pray to God that we may be able to visit all of our beloved friends again soon!
If you have any prayer intentions, click on this link to send them to us. Our sisters will be happy to pray for you and your loved ones on the feast day of Saint Xenia of Saint Petersburg.
On the feast of the Elevation of the Cross – celebrated on 27 (14) September – we commemorate the miraculous finding of the true cross of Jesus Christ on which He was martyred for our salvation.