Thursday, December 13, 2012

St. Lucy

Yesterday, I got some infection in my eye, causing me to be uber-sensitive to light. I spent most of the night and early morning trying to right balance of soft light that wouldn’t hurt while still enough to get things done. I’ve always valued by vision above other senses because I’m a writer and a visual learner. So it was apropos that I learned today is the Feast of Saint Lucy, the patron of the blind.

The American Girl doll Kirsten.
Her family celebrates St. Lucia Day.
The only thing I knew about Saint Lucia Day was what I learned in my American Girl books when I was little. Kirsten's nineteenth-century family were Swedish in origin, and Saint Lucia Day is represented as a custom from the old country. A young girl represents Lucy wearing a white robe, red sash, and a wreath of candles on her head. She serves pastries or St. Lucia buns (made from saffron)  to the family.

Lucy (which means “light”) was a third-century Christian in Sicily who refused to marry a pagan. She gave away her dowry to the poor. Her fiance turned her in to be killed. There are two versions of how she lost her eyes. One is that the guards pulled out her eyes with forks; another is that she cut out her own eyes because they were what her fiance admired about her.  Both stories say God restored her sight. She was eventually killed, making her one of the most famous virgin-martyrs.

St. Lucy is often depicted with her eyes on a dish.
Her story spread quickly, and by the fifth century she was well-known throughout Christendom. She is one of seven women commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass, and she celebrated highly in the Lutheran Church as well (hence Saint Lucia Day celebrations in Scandinavian countries). Her feast day falls on one of the darkest days of the year. I think that is because it is when it is darkest that we crave light the most.That's what makes the candles of Advent so attractive: the hope that pushes back against the looming, dark night.

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