(Originally posted in 2012) Today is the feast day of St. Xenia (Xeni, in Greek) of Rome, and St. Xenia the fool-for-Christ of St. Petersburg. I went to Osia Xeni of Rome’s church here in Thessaloniki last night because there was a vigil. (In Greek St. Xenia of Rome is called Osia – which literally means holy – because that is the most common title given to ascetics, and Xeni because it is the female form of the Greek word foreigner). The vigil began at 8:00PM, and was to end at 1:30AM. Vigil in the Greek typicon consists of Vespers, (in this case also the service for Artoclasia), Hours, Matins, and Divine Liturgy.
I didn’t stay for the full five and a half hour vigil, but I really enjoyed the service for the time I was there. They had a piece of St. Xenia’s holy relics which I was blessed to venerate. And I always love hearing the wonderful sound of Byzantine chant. The church was very dark, only illuminated by the candles at the back and the oil lamps hung in front of the holy icons on the iconostas. I love when services are done in the dark. It makes the whole atmosphere more silent, more focused.
The two Sts. Xenias are both very wonderful for their own reasons, but the following poem is written about St. Xenia of Rome. It’s taken from St. Nikolai’s Prologue:
The virgin Xenia, as well as Agnes
Or the all-glorious Thecla or Anastasia,
Did not want to be tied to a physical man
But found a Bridegroom in the Immortal Christ.
With all her soul, she loved His beauty
And mercy and tenderness and radiant purity.
And even the senator’s house and wealth, she left
When the Sun of Righteousness shown in her soul.
Soul! Soul ! Soul! is the true bride;
And the body is miserable like the transient grass.
And the bride [her soul] Xenia began to adorn
And by many prayers to wash and nourish it
That the bride [her soul], to be a heavenly apparition,
Pleasant and worthy of the Heavenly Bridegroom.
The labors of Holy Xenia were pleasing to the Bridegroom,
And many wondrous gifts, upon her, He bestowed.
When her pure soul, the flesh, overcame,
Peaceful as a king over a vanquished city,
With the wreath of immortality, the Lord crowned her,
Into the mansion of eternal joy, led her.
There, where the angels hymn the Creator in song,
There, the Lord receives His bride.