The Russian Orthodox calendar of Saints is little known to many Western Christians, as we are most familiar with Catholicism’s Saints. We miss many instructive and inspirational lives such as St. Zenia of St. Petersburg.
The reaction of her relatives to St. Zenia’s actions can be found in court cases brought in any large American city. Such actions are universal, and highlight what it meant for St. Zenia to be a fool for Christ.
January 24th is the feast day of St Xenia (pronounced “Kseniya”) of St Petersburg in the new calendar. Most Orthodox Christians (in Russia) will commemorate her on the old calendar date, which will be 6 February in the new calendar.
Chapel in Smolensk Cemetery in St Petersburg, Russia
Someone posted this picture of a chapel in the Smolensk Cemetery in St Petersburg on Facebook. The story is told of St Xenia that when a chapel was being built there she secretly brought bricks to the site, during the night. I’m not sure whether this picture is of that chapel, or if it is one that was later built over her grave (she was buried in the same cemetery).
St Xenia of St Petersburg, Fool for Christ
She was married to an army officer, and they had not been married long before he suddenly dropped dead at a party. She then sold all their possessions, gave the money to the poor, and wandered through the St Petersburg slums, dressed in er husband’s old uniform. When it wore out she dressed in any old rags she could find. If people gave her money, she gave most of it away.
Her relatives thought she was mad, and applied to the courts to have her declared incapable of managing her own affairs, but the court found that she was sane and free to dispose of her (and her late husband’s) property as she wished.
At first many people mocked her, and thought she was mad, but later they came to see that she did not belong to this world, but belonged to God. She became known as one of those saints known as Fools-for-Christ (see Blessed are the foolish — foolish are the blessed | Notes from underground.
There is more about St Xenia here Life Of St. Blessed Xenia of Petersburg, here Xenia of St. Petersburg – OrthodoxWiki and here MYSTAGOGY: A Miracle of Saint Xenia the Fool In France.
Troparion – Tone 5
Having lived as a stranger in the world,
you outwitted the deviser of evil
by your pretended foolishness, O Xenia.
You received the grace from God
to foresee and foretell things to come.
Now, as you have been translated from earth to heaven,
you are numbered with the choirs of the angels.
Kontakion – Tone 4
You gave your wealth to the poor, O Xenia,
and accepted poverty out of love for Christ;
having lived a life rivaling the angels, you were accounted worthy of glory on high.