Debra Dean has written a fictional account of the little saint of the homeless, Xenia of St. Petersburg, in her latest work, "The Mirrored World." (HarperCollins Publisher, 245 pages)
Written through the eyes of her close friend and cousin, Dasha, the story is a touching tribute to the woman whose life is shrouded in mystery.
She was married to Andrei Feodorovich, a singer in the Imperial choir of Catherine the Great.
The marriage was a love match, but was marred by the loss of their only child which sent Xenia into a profound depression.
In a freak accident, her beloved Andrei was killed.
In her journey of grief and the pain, the young widow emerged transformed by the sufferings of Christ, she donned her beloved husband's clothing, took on his name, and was thereafter known as her beloved Andrei Feodorovich.
This surrendering of one's identity to that of the beloved is captured in this quotation from St. Symeon the Theologian in the foreword to the book:
"For if we genuinely love Him
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body."
From the depths of her suffering, Xenia committed acts of such extreme charity that she and her cousin were nearly destitute. Deliverance came in the form a most unconventional marriage between her cousin, Dasha, and Gaspari, a musico or castrato, who had been made into a eunuch for the sake of preserving his fine soprano voice.
This most unconventional man proves to be a most selfless spouse.
Debra Dean's story of Xenia, the homeless saint of St. Petersburg, reveals the self-sacrificial nature of love in a work which is much more of a romance novel than a stuffy hagiography.