The Life of Blessed Xenia of Saint Petersburg, Russia

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint Nektarios the Wonderworker)

O Theotokos, Virgin Mary, it is indeed a dread and ineffable mystery, what has been done in you. For you, indeed, gave birth to the Logos (Word) Who is the cause of all things, and Who was Incarnated by the Holy Spirit, beyond any cause or reason. For from you, Who remained unchangeable, he received flesh of his own Divine, immutable and unaltered nature. Since in Him coexisted the Two Natures, the Divine and human, in One Hypostasis, He was dual in nature, a whole man and a God as well, showing the perfect wholeness and having all the energies of the characteristics of both. As a mortal he was crucified in flesh voluntarily but as God during His Passion, He overcame His Passion. As a mortal he died, but as God He was Risen. As a mortal He was laid in a tomb, but as God He was in Hades, defeating the power of death and saving men. Him, O Virgin Mary, Most-Pure Theotokos, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, entreat unceasingly for us, your servants, that He may send down from heaven to us joy and peace. From you, O Holy Virgin, Christ was born, Who was God Eternally, but appeared as a man recently. He kept for Himself, in a Divine and un-confusable union, the properties of both natures; He showed the Divine with glorious wonders, while He proved the human nature with His sufferings. Therefore, although He was One in One Godly-human Hypostasis, He dies in the flesh as man, yet He Rises from the dead as God. Him, O Virgin Mary, Most-Pure Theotokos, as one who has boldness entreat that He may be compassionate and save from the condemnation those who praise you unceasingly. Amen.



The only record of "vital statistics" which has been left 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 prayer for my soul that his own may be saved. Amen.

Who wrote it, no one knows, but this is all we know about the early life of Blessed Xenia: only that she lived during the reigns of the Empresses Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine II and that she was married to the imperial chorister, Col. Andrei Theodorovich Petrov. For this latter fact we may assume that she was of the lesser nobility.

Presumably, in her early years, she led an ordinary, though comfortable life, performing no services that merited recording or recognition. It would seem that she was happily married and completely devoted to her husband who was, perhaps, a bit worldly. He was still young and in good health when he died suddenly one night at a drinking party.

The unexpected death of her beloved husband completely shattered Xenia Grigorievna and her personal world. She was twenty-six years old, childless and her husband to whom she was passionately devoted had suddenly died without the benefit of the Holy Mysteries. The distraught widow looked around herself, at all her possessions, at her inane little world and suddenly began to realize the vanity and transitory nature of all earthly joys and treasures. She came to realize that there is true value only in heavenly treasures and real joy in Christ.

To the utter amazement of her friends and relatives, Xenia Grigorievna began to give away literally all that she possessed. Her money and personal belongings she gave to the poor and she even gave away her house to her dear friend Paraskeva Antonova.

People preoccupied with worldly matters would naturally assume that anyone who gave away his wealth must be insane. They were incapable of seeing that Xenia had undergone a complete rebirth; she was changed from worldly woman into a spiritual being. Having realized that there can be no true happiness on earth and that worldly possessions are only a hindrance to the attaining of true joy in God.

Having, therefore, relieved herself of all such hindrances, Xenia suddenly vanished from St. Petersburg for eight years. It is said that during these years she lived at some hermitage with a sisterhood of holy ascetics, learning about prayer and the spiritual life from an elder. It was during this time that she was called to the highest feat of spiritual perfection, that of being a fool-for-Christ's sake. To this end, she returned to St. Petersburg, clothed herself in one of her late husband's old uniforms and linens and thereafter refused to respond the name of Xenia Grigorievna, answering instead only to the name of her late husband, Andrei Feodorovich. Sorrrowing for her own sins she left her home and began her long pilgrimage of wandering through the streets of the poorer district of St. Petersburg known as the Petersburg Borough. She was most often to be found in the vicinity of the parish of Saint Matthias where the poorest people lived and in shabby huts.

At first, the people of the Borough thought that this strangely dressed, scarcely shod woman was merely a simple minded beggar, and evil people, especially the street urchins, would often persecute and laugh at her. With complete meekness, however, she kept before her the image of the guiltless Great Sufferer, Christ Jesus, Who, without a murmur, heard all accusations, bore all persecutions, suffered terrible torture and Crucifixion. Because of His example, the Blessed One strove to bear her hardships meekly and in silence, forgiving offenses in accordance with the last earthly prayer of Jesus, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Gradually, people began to realize that Xenia was no mere beggar but someone much more. They began to invite her into their homes and offer her warm clothing for the severe Petersburg winters as well as alms. She would never accept the clothing and took only the small copper pennies, which were called the "the king on horseback" because there was a horseman (actually, St. George) struck on them.

She would distribute these copper pennies to the poor, at times, apparently, with the some prophecy. On one such occasion St. Xenia met a devout woman on the street. Handing her a five kopeck coin, she said, "Take this five piece, here is the king on horseback; it will be extinguished." The woman accepted the copper five piece and went on her way pondering the meaning of the Blessed One's words. No sooner had she entered the street where she lived than she saw that her house was on fire. Running toward her home, she arrived just as the flames were being extinguished. Then she realized that the Blessed One had been foretelling this with her strange words.

On one occasion Paraskeva Antonova was sitting in the home which the Blessed One had given her, when St. Xenia arrived for a visit. Entering the house, she looked irritably at Antonova and said, "Here you are sitting and sewing buttons and you don't know that God has given you a son! Go at once to the Smolensk Cemetery!" Antonova knowing Xenia to be truly saintly and knowing that no idle word came from her lips, did not even question this strange command but believed at once that something extraordinary was about to happen and she immediately hurried to the Smolensk Cemetery.

On one of the streets of Vasiliev Island near the cemetery, Antonova saw a large crowd of people. Being curious, she approached the crowd to see what was taking place. It seems that a coachman had knocked down a pregnant woman who then gave birth to a child right there on the street and died immediately afterwards. Filled with compassion for the child, Antonova took it to her own home. All the efforts of the St. Petersburg police to discover the identity of the mother or locate the father or relatives of the tiny orphan proved in vain and so the child remained with Paraskeva Anonova.

Mothers found that if the Blessed One fondled or rocked an ill child in its cradle, the child would always become well. So parents would hurry to Blessed Xenia with their children whenever she approached, convinced that if she blessed them, or even patted them on the head, they would remain healthy.

Occasionally, St. Xenia would stop in to visit some friends or acquaintance, converse for a while, and then suddenly fall silent, as if listening to something or someone. All at once, she would leap up and leave quickly. If the hostess asked why she was leaving and where she was going, the Blessed One would only wave her stick in the air and say, "I must hurry, I am needed there."

She possessed absolutely nothing except the rags on her back and often, upon arriving at the home of a friend, she would cheerfully announce, "Here is all of me." For a long time no one knew where the Blessed One spent her nights. The residents of the Borough were not the only ones to wonder about this, for the local police were also curious about the matter. Upon investigating they discovered that the elderly little woman spent her nights in an open field, praying and making prostrations in all four directions, and she did this no matter what the season or weather. It was a miracle of God that the Blessed One survived the severe St. Petersburg winters in this way. It happened at times that her nights would be spent in some other task. On one occasion in 1794, toward the end of St. Xenia's long life, a new church was being built in the Smolensk Cemetery. Workers began to notice that, during the night, someone would haul mounds of brick to the top of the building where they were needed. The workers were amazed by this and resolved to find out who this tireless worker could be. By posting a watchman they were able to discover that it was the Servant of God, Xenia.

"It was necessary,--says one writer,--for her to possess either some super human power or to carry within herself such a strong spiritual fire, such a deep, undoubting faith with which the impossible becomes possible. When one considers God's great Saints, however, who performed such wondrous miracles by their faith, wonders incomprehensible to the human mind, we cannot consider the Blessed One's ascetic feats as unprecedented or impossible for a person in the flesh. Saint Xenia truly bore that faith with which all things are possible. While still living in her body, her soul always soared above this world, dwelling in a living, direct communion with God."

The Blessed One was always ready to help anyone in any way possible. During the day she would wander about the streets, her face reflecting her internal spirit of meekness, humility and kindness by its warm, friendly glow. At night, in all seasons, she would go into a field and enter into conversation with God Himself. Finally the time came when St. Xenia was no longer to be found in the streets of the St. Petersburg Borough nor in the field; her radiant face shone no more amidst the rude shacks of the St. Matthias parish. God called His servant to rest from all her struggles and took her to Himself. Saint Xenia was one of those candles which God lights on earth from time to time in order to light up the path of salvation for the faithful, as the Savior Himself had said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven" and "if, therefore, your entire body is full of light, nor part of it being in darkness, then the whole of it shall be full of radiance as when the bright shining of a candle gives off its light."

May we learn from the example of Blessed Xenia how important it is for us not to be attached to the things of the world, but to keep our minds and hearts turned towards heaven, our true home, that we too, like Saint Xenia, may, after our earthly wandering, "come to dwell in the Father's house."

Kontakion of the Saint. Tone Three

A wandering stranger on a foreign earth ever sighing for the heavenly homeland thou was known as a fool by the senseless and unbelieving but as most wise and holy by the faithful and wast crowned by God with glory and honor, O Xenia, manly in mind and divinely wise.

Wherefore, we cry to thee. Rejoice, for after earthly wandering thou hast come to dwell in the Father's house.

"Whoever has known me, may he remember my soul for the salvation of his own soul."


Holy Epistle Lesson: Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 6:22-33

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George