Saint Lucy Day
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.— Isaiah 60:1-3
Lucy died during the persecutions of Diocletian at Catania in Sicily, being beheaded by the sword. Her body now rests in the church of Santa Lucia, Venice. Because her name means “light,” she very early became the great patron saint for the “light of the body” – the eyes. All over Christianity her help was invoked against diseases of the eyes, especially the danger of blindness. The lighters of street lamps in past centuries had her as patron saint and made a special ceremony of their task on the eve of December 13.
Saint Lucy attained immense popularity in medieval times because, before the calendar reform, her feast happened to fall on the shortest day of the year. Again because of her name, many of the ancient light and fire customs of the Yuletide became associated with her day. Thus we find “Lucy candles” and “Lucy fires” burned in the open. In Scandinavia before the Reformation, Saint Lucy Day was one of unusual celebration and festivity because, for the people of Sweden and Norway, she was the great “light saint” who turned the tides of their long winter and brought the light of day to renewed victory.
A popular custom in Scandinavia on the eve of December 13 is for children to write the word “Lussi” on doors, fences, and walls. With the word always goes the picture of a female figure (Saint Lucy). The purpose of this practice in ancient times was to announce to the demons of winter that their reign was broken on Saint Lucy’s Day, that the sun would return again and the days become longer.
Francis X. Weiser
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent Milay
Loving God, grant that your Word be a lamp unto our feet, a guide in the wilderness of our hearts, a welcome beacon in the darkness of our daily decisions. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
When first even the least drop of faith is instilled in our minds, we begin to contemplate God’s face, peaceful and calm and gracious toward us. We see him afar off, but so clearly as to know we are not deceived…However much we are shadowed on every side with great darkness, we are nevertheless illumined as much as need be for firm assurance when, to show forth his mercy, the light of God sheds even a little of its radiance. — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.2.19