We know almost nothing about the early years of Blessed Xenia’s life. She was happily married to a colonel who was a court singer in St. Petersburg, Russia’s capital city at that time, and we can assume that her’ own family was among the well-to-do. She was only 26 years old when her husband suddenly died at a drinking party. Xenia loved her husband very much and his unexpected death came as a great shock, It completely changed her way of looking at life. Knowing that her husband had not prepared himself for death and that he had died without the prayers of the Church, she began to be very concerned about the eternal state of his soul. It was as though she were given new eyes; she thought no more about parties, about having fun with friends; she gave away her possessions to the poor. In fact, she broke all ties with the world–to such an extent that even her relatives thought she must be crazy. Xenia dressed in her husband’s clothes and insisted on being called by her husband’s name, Andrew, as if to say that she had died, not he. And indeed, she died to the world in order to be closer to God.
At night she would go into a field outside the city and stand for hours in prayer, even in the snow. Or she would secretly help in the building of the Smolensk cemetery church carrying to the top bricks which would be waiting for the workmen in the morning. Often. as she walked the streets in the city’s poorer neighborhoods, people made fun of her, children would throw dirt at her and laugh. The blessed one only prayed for their souls, bearing patiently their taunts for the sake of Christ.
Gradually, however, people began to see that behind her seemingly odd behavior was someone who was very special in the eyes of God. They noticed that when she would hold a crying baby in her arms, the baby would at once quiet down and remain calm and content for the rest of the day. Those stores which she entered would have good business that day. People began to realize that her often strange words held a deeper meaning, sometimes warning them of approaching disasters, or of what was to happen in their life. Once, for example, she went to visit her friends the Golubevs as they were preparing to sit down for a cup of coffee. “Oh my beauty,” she said to the daughter, “here you are making coffee, while your husband is burying his wife at Ochta. Run quickly!” The young girl and her mother were most puzzled by these words, but knowing Xenia’ s gift of being able to see the future, they obeyed at once. There they came upon the funeral procession of the wife of a young doctor who was so overcome by grief that he fainted.
The Golubevs brought him back to his senses, became acquainted, and a year later the daughter became his wife, just as the blessed one had foretold.
Another time some merchants were selling some particularly delicious honey out of a barrel. People had already begun to buy it at a high price when suddenly Blessed Xenia appeared. “Don’t take it, don’t take it,” she cried. “This honey can’t be eaten; it stinks of a corpse.” She leaned with all her strength against the barrel which overturned on the sidewalk, spilling the honey to the merchants’ great dismay. To everyone’s horror, there at the bottom of the barrel was a huge dead rat. Even those who had already bought some of the honey had to throw it out.
St. Xenia lived in this way for for years after the death of her husband. Exactly when she died is not known, but it was probably in the last years of the 18th century. She was buried in the Smolensk cemetery, not far from the church which she had helped to build. Later a chapel was built over her grave, and to this very day many people come there to pray to St. Xenia who, even after death continues to work many miracles, helping people out of all kinds of misfortunes. Through her prayers, people have been healed of serious illnesses; she is especially quick in helping to find jobs or places to live. Just this year a woman in England was looking for a place to live near the church where she had recently been received into the Orthodox Faith, so as to be able to attend the daily services. She and her priest prayed to St. Xenia and within a few days she had an apartment in the house next door to the Parish House! Wondrous is God in His saints.
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 St. Xenia, may, after our earthly wandering, “come to dwell in the Father’s house.”1