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24th January 2013

Xenia, Deaconess of Rome (24th January)

Xenia was born with the name Eusebia, in Rome in the fifth century.


Eusebia was the only daughter born to a distinguished and wealthy family. Her father was a Roman senator.


Eusebia’s marriage had been arranged and in order to avoid this, she fled with two handmaids to Mylassa on the island of Kos in Asia Minor. Upon her arrival she was given the name Xenia, which means ‘stranger’ in Greek, as she was a newcomer.

Xenai established a community for virgins and remained there until here death. She was ordained a deaconess by her spiritual father Paul, who became the Bishop of Mylassa.

Xenia was widely known as a healer and turned no one away, she helped the grief stricken, the destitute and sinners, amongst which she counted herself. Among her listed traits are those of virtuousness, charity, and humility. Xenia was dedicated to her faith and would often spend nights standing in prayer and also fasting.


It is said that Xenia had forseen her death, which took place in c.450. There are numerous references in writings about Xenia which speak of ‘a brilliant cross brighter than the sun’ appearing over her monastery ‘wreathed in a circle of stars.’

The handmaids, who had fled with Xenia and followed her example, asked to be buried at her feet when they died. Many people are said to have been cured when touching the relics of Xenia, in faith.

Xenia is remembered in the Orthodox Church on the 24th of January.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the fourth Tone:

In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Xenia, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.

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6th January 2012


TheophanyToday’s feast celebrates the baptism of Christ, a time when God himself stepped into the waters of the Earth. I remember with joy when my priest explained that while it is true that Christ did fulfill the scriptures and demonstrate the value of baptism in this act, since he was God, he didn’t really need to be baptized. A deeper meaning to his immersion was the baptism of the entire creation.

Among three items pinned to the wall near my monitor is an icon of the creation of the animals. The icon shows Christ blessing a number of sea and air creatures in what looks like an oasis in the desert. How beautiful to consider that he would eventually become flesh and physically step into those waters he so long before created.

Parishes around the world will bless their local waterways today, a gift and blessing for the entire cosmos. St. John of San Fransisco said in his “Sermon on the Day of Theophany”:

Through water all of nature is cleansed, for out of water the world was made, and moisture penetrates everywhere, giving life to everything else in nature . . .  The waters are sanctified and through them the whole world, in preparation for renewal and regeneration for God’s eternal Kingdom which is to come.

It is with sadness that I am unable to attend Theophany services this year. In lieu of this, I would like to offer up the following prayer:

CreationThe one who made the waters is now enshrouded by water. So have hope all waters of the earth, and rain hope on all things. Have hope all cattle who mourn. Have hope all pigs who suffer. Have hope all chickens who cannot feel the wind. Have hope all turkeys who never feel the soil. Have hope all monkeys in laboratories. Have hope all rabbits who will never see the sun. Have hope all dolphins and whales who are slaughtered. Have hope all rhinos and elephants who are poached. Have hope racoons who are smashed under tires. Have hope all passenger pigeons and Irish elk and dodos. Have hope all humans who despair alone. Have hope all mountains blasted for coal. Have hope all forests bulldozed. Have hope all clouds filled with toxins. Have hope all waters poisoned. For today is the Theophany of Christ. Today is your joyful embrace.


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