Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate Sts. Xanthippe and Polyxene, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saint Xanthippe and Polyxene
The name Xanthippe is synonymous with the shrew who railed at her husband Socrates. He was born five centuries before Christ, but was a monotheist considered to be the wisest man of all time. There was another Xanthippe who was born in the first century and whose character was quite the opposite of the wife of the ancient sage who taught Plato and other philosophers. Had the great Socrates been born after the Savior and been married to the first-century Xanthippe, there is no doubt that they would have formed a team in the work of the Lord second to none.
The first-century Xanthippe, who has come down to us as a saint, was not married to a wise old Greek, but was the wife of a Spanish nobleman by the name of Pro-vus. It has been assumed that she was converted to Christianity by no less a figure than St. Paul himself, whose extensive travels are known to have taken him to Spain and beyond in his missionary work. This is indicated in his Epistle to the Romans which reads, “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:28).
According to church historians, the magnificent St. Paul did visit Spain and in the course of his mission was a guest of Provus and his wife Xanthippe. In a remarkable coincidence, while Xanthippe was learning about Jesus Christ from the greatest apostle of them all, her sister Polyxene was becoming a Christian hundreds of miles away through listening to the first-called to Jesus Christ, the eminent disciple Andrew. The circumstance of each sister’s encounter with Christianity was quite different, but happily the end results were the same.
While Xanthippe lived in comfort, her sister suffered a fate that seemed to hold in store nothing but misery and degradation. Abducted by a pair of terrorists, the hapless Polyxene was sold into slavery and was spirited away to Greece to serve as handmaiden to an aristocratic family. Whether by divine design or by sheer fortuity, the captive was never to know debasement or ignominious slave labor. Except for the traumatic experience of having been snatched from her home to find herself far from her native land and in the house of strangers, Polyxene suffered no ill effects. It is not known how she managed it, but she regained her freedom and eventually became a Christian some weeks later after hearing the words of St. Andrew and she made her way back to Spain. The reunion was one of double rejoicing, for not only had the family been reunited, but they were as one in their commitment to Jesus Christ. The two sisters became apostles of the Christian faith with the dedication and zeal that made them as respected and recognized servants of the Lord as any of their male counterparts.
Serving with St. Paul until he left Spain for other territories, the two sisters carried on the mission for Christ into every corner of the Iberian peninsula, received warmly wherever they went not only for their family roots, but for their earnestness as well. The affinity they were able to establish with their fellow countrymen was augmented with a knowledge of the customs and basic language of what was to become one of the staunchest of European Christian nations.
Polyxene won the hearts of her listeners in recounting the trying times she had experienced at the hands of kidnappers, only to find Christ in the ancient land of Greece. The discovery of Christ could have come at home, much as it had come to her sister, but there was an added meaning to the trials she was put through, and her dedication was in no small way attributable to her deliverance through Jesus Christ.
Xanthippe, meanwhile, had diverted much of her share of the estate of her husband to the various charities for the poor, and on his death she gave the balance to the church. The two sisters lived in piety and poverty, serv-ing the Lord all of their days. Their feastday is observed on September 23 in the Orthodox Church.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GOArch.org.