Written by Monica Mikhail~Saint Xene, formerly Irene of Hungary and Empress of Constantinople, was the daughter of King Ladislas of Hungary. Her abundant virtues at a young age showed that she would be an exceptional person in the future. There came a time when Emperor Alexios I Comnenos and his wife, Irene Doukaina, were looking for a wife for their son, John II, so they sought out Irene of Hungary. They got married and had eight children, four boys and four girls.
After some time had passed, Irene became troubled with the fleetingness of this world, desiring something more. She prayed with the Psalmist David, “What profit is there in my blood when I go down in corruption?” (Psalm 29:9). From then on, her life was no longer her own; she sacrificed for the poor and needy day and night. She became an intermediary, defending the afflicted and making known their requests to the emperor. Any money that came to her, she distributed among those who had need of it. She became the patroness of the widows, orphans, and those in the monasteries. Even after she became empress, she ignored the splendor that came with the crown and continued to live a humbled lifestyle, eating plain foods and maintaining a strict rule.
Empress Irene built the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople and went on to complete many other building projects consisting of monastery-churches, hostels, and homes. However, all her projects required much financial assistance. One day, she entered into the Monastery of the Pantocrator and fell to the ground, refusing to get up until her petitions were fulfilled. She wept, saying, “Accept, O Master, the God-built temple by Thy grace.” Because of his deep devotion to his wife, Emperor John promised Irene all that she needed; he was even willing to give up heirlooms and property for the benefit of the Church and other building projects. She was exceedingly thankful for the alleviation of this burden that had been wearing on her. Her spirit rejoiced.
Not before long, Irene became a nun, taking up the name Xene. Saint Xene spent the last of her years in Bithynia, a province surrounded by the Black Sea, the Bosporos, and the Sea of Marmara. She reposed at an early age, but her husband kept her alive in his memory by fulfilling the promise he made to her. However, soon after her death, Emperor John passed away due to an injury he suffered while hunting. Both their relics lay in the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople. There stands a mosaic of the Emperor and Empress in the Aghia Sophia, commemorating them for their charitable deeds to the Church. The Church remembers Saint Xene on the 13th of August.
May the Lord grant us the capability to love one another with such meaning that we may gather together in unity, as Saints John and Xene did, with the ultimate goal of serving Him.
The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers. Holy Apostles Convent, 1991