Our Holy Mother Xenia of Petersburg, fool for Christ (ca. 1800)
She was born about 1730, and as a young woman married an army colonel named Andrei, a handsome and dashing man fond of worldly living. When she was twenty-six years old, her husband died suddenly after drinking with his friends, leaving Xenia a childless widow. Soon afterward, she gave away all her possessions and disappeared from St Petersburg for eight years; it is believed that she spent the time in a hermitage, or even a monastery, learning the ways of the spiritual life. When she returned to St Petersburg, she appeared to have lost her reason: she dressed in her husband’s army overcoat, and would only answer to his name. She lived without a home, wandering the streets of the city, mocked and abused by many. She accepted alms from charitable people, but immediately gave them away to the poor: her only food came from meals that she sometimes accepted from those she knew. At night she withdrew to a field outside the city where she knelt in prayer until morning.
Slowly, the people of the city noticed signs of a holiness that underlay her seemingly deranged life: she showed a gift of prophecy, and her very presence almost always proved to be a blessing. The Synaxarion says “The blessing of God seemed to accompany her wherever she went: when she entered a shop the day’s takings would be noticeably greater; when a cabman gave her a lift he would get plenty of custom; when she embraced a sick child it would soon get better. So compassion, before long, gave way to veneration, and people generally came to regard her as the true guardian angel of the city.”
Forty-five years after her husband’s death, St Xenia reposed in peace at the age of seventy-one, sometime around 1800. Her tomb immediately became a place of pilgrimage: so many people took soil from the gravesite as a blessing that new soil had to be supplied regularly; finally a stone slab was placed over the grave, but this too was gradually chipped away by the faithful. Miracles, healings and appearances of St Xenia occur to this day, to those who visit her tomb or who simply ask her intercessions. Her prayers are invoked especially for help in finding employment, a home, or a spouse (all of which she renounced in her own life). A pious custom is to offer a Panachida / Trisagion Service for the repose of her husband Andrei, for whom she prayed fervently throughout her life.
Saint Xenia was first officially glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in 1978; then by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1988.
Our Venerable Mother Xenia of Rome, with her two maidservants (5th c.)
She was the daughter of a noble Christian family in Rome, and was named Eusebia in Baptism. Though she desired to offer up her virginity to Christ, her parents arranged a marriage for her against her wishes. On her wedding night, she secretly fled the city, accompanied by two slaves, and took ship for Alexandria. When she reached the island of Kos, she changed her name to Xenia (‘Stranger’), and prayed to God that, as he had sent the Apostle Paul to St Thecla (see September 24), he would send her a true guide on the path to salvation. Soon a holy Elder named Paul found her and made her his spiritual child. He took her and her two companions to Mylassa in Caria (where he later became Bishop), and established them in a monastery there. For many years they lived the ‘angelic life’ very fully, and Xenia reposed in peace at an advanced age. At her funeral, a luminous cross appeared in the sky over the procession, following the burial party and disappearing only when the Saint’s body was buried.
Our Holy Father Macedonian (ca. 430)
He lived in asceticism in the wild hills outside Antioch. For forty-five years he had no tent or house of any kind, but wandered from place to place, living in caves or in clefts. In his old age, his disciples finally prevailed on him to build a small hut. Altogether he spent seventy years living in solitary ascesis.
Once a hunter met the recluse and asked him what he did in the mountains. The Saint answered ‘Like you, I have come to the mountain to hunt. I am hunting for God, whom I long to see. I ardently desire to catch Him and will never tire of so excellent a chase!’
Once the people of Antioch rioted and tore down a pair of statues of the Emperor Theodosius and his wife. Two generals came from Constantinople, planning to inflict a bloody punishment on the people. Saint Macedonian, learning of this, came to the city and sought out the generals, asking them to take a message to the Emperor: that he, being human and subject to weakness like all men, should not be immoderately angry with other men; and that he should not, in return for the destruction of lifeless images, destroy those who are the very image of God.
During his lifetime Saint Macedonian was granted the gifts of spiritual insight and wonderworking, by which he worked many miracles of healing for the people of Antioch and its surroundings. He reposed in peace around 430, and was buried with honor in Antioch.