Wednesday, December 13, 2017

St Lucy's Day

Festa di S. Lucia

Today the Church honours St Lucy. She was a young virgin martyr in Syracuse, Sicily, born in 283 A.D. and put to death in 304, during the  Diocletian  persecution.  She was, according to legend, tortured by eye-gouging and so is the patron saint of all those who suffer with eye trouble or blindness. Excavation in Syracuse revealed a tomb dating to the 4th century with an inscription that it belonged to St Lucy. (Her relics were removed hundreds of years after her death and are believed now to be in Venice). 

Beyond this, little factual information is known about St Lucy. Her name, “Lucia” in Italian, is seems to be derived from the Latin “Lux”, or “light.” The earliest known written information about her story is from the late 400s Acts of the Martyrs, which indicates that St Lucy was already venerated by that time. By the 6th century, legends about her had spread throughout Italy and other parts of Europe. Although the stories vary, their common theme is that St Lucy dedicated herself to Christ and to serving the poor, which angered the non-Christian man to whom she was betrothed. He denounced her as a Christian to the authorities, who then attempted first to drag her to a brothel and then, when they could not physically move her, to burn her – which was also a failure. Ultimately, they ended St Lucy’s life with a dagger or sword to her throat.

It is also said that St Lucy, in the darkness of night, gave wheat and bread to the poor and house-bound, even to Christians staying in the catacombs. She would carry a lamp or wear a crown of candles to light her way. Hence the lamp and wreath of candles among the her symbols. 

One thing is certain. St Lucy gave her life to the Lord and and his people. Her courage and devotion were acclaimed in the early Church, and she is one of the women saints in the old Roman Canon of the Mass.

Here is Thomas Merton’s poem for St Lucy’s Day:

Lucy, whose day is in our darkest season,
(Although your name is full of light,)
We walkers in the murk and rain and flesh and sense,
Lost in the midnight of our dead world’s winter solstice
Look for the fogs to open on your friendly star.

We have long since cut down the summer of our history;
Our cheerful towns have all gone out like fireflies in October.
The fields are flooded and the vines are bare:
How have our long days dwindled, and now the world is frozen!

Locked in the cold jails of our stubborn will,
Oh, hear the shovels growling in the gravel.
This is the way they’ll make our beds forever,
Ours, whose Decembers have put out the sun:
Doors of whose souls are shut against the summertime!

Martyr, whose short day sees our winter and our Calvary,
Show us some light, who seem forsaken by the sky;
We have so dwelt in darkness that our eyes are screened
and dim,
And all but blinded by the weakest ray.

Hallow the vespers and December of our life, O
martyred Lucy:
Console our solstice with your friendly day.


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