Augustine Sokolovski

According to her life, Saint Xenia (1730–1802) lost her husband early. His sudden death forced Ksenia to completely change her lifestyle. She began to call herself by his name, Andrei Petrov. At the same time, she constantly explained that “he did not die, but was alive, but Ksenia died.” Dressing in clothes that were ridiculous from the point of view of others, not having property, which she refused, and not entering dialogue with others, Ksenia became a “fool in Christ.” This is how, in the language of church holiness, the conscious assumption of the guise of madness is called.

The ascetic who became a holy fool visibly abandoned rational behavior in society in order to, having undermined his reputation in the eyes of people, preserve his good name in Christ (cf. James 2:7). Foolishness has always been a very risky feat. It is evident that very few people have been able, by the power of grace, to live a life, or part of it, in apparent madness without plunging into it.

The more time separates us from the era of Saint Xenia, the more the uniqueness of her life is revealed to us. It was as if, as she continued to live among us, she grew older and ceased to be just a “fool in Christ.” The way of life of Saint Xenia became an expression of dogma. “God became man in Christ Jesus in order to know Himself as man,” St. Augustine once wrote. Ksenia, having dressed herself in the clothes of her husband, tried in a unique, bold and loving way to live for him.

Ksenia took on the image of her deceased husband. She literally lived for another, for someone who died, that is, in the language of Andrei Platonov, no longer had the opportunity to live himself. Thus, her biography became a visible personification of the commandment: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In Ksenia’s biography, everyday life, difficult and sorrowful, became the visibility of Christ’s main words.