Saint Lucy’s Day

st luice

These notes come from two websites:  American Catholic   and   The Catholic Company:

“Lucia means “light” and so her feast day is celebrated with candles, torch lights, and even bonfires. Falling during the Advent season—and thus a long, dark winter—there are many beautiful traditions associating this saint with the meaning of her name, the story of her life, and her glorious position in heaven.”

“In some Catholic cultures it’s common to have a Mass procession on St. Lucy’s feast day with young girls carrying candles, with the lead girl wearing a wreath of lights . Tradition holds that St. Lucy would wear a wreath of candles on her head so she could see better as she served the poor Christians hiding from persecution in the dark underground catacombs of Rome.

Many countries have special St. Lucy’s day traditions, but perhaps the most well-known are the ones of Italian and Scandinavian origin. According to this resource, in Sweden,

“the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy’s Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by ‘Star Boys,’ her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. ‘St. Lucy’ will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods” which were usually baked sweets.”

LuciaBread300x199

The other part of the story of Saint Lucy is that she was an early Christian martyr,  from Syracuse in Sicily.  Many legends abound about her martyrdom. The most prevailing one is that the torturers put out her eyes before they killed her.  Thus, she is the patron of persons with eye diseases.  So she is a friend of mine!

portraint of a lady as stlucy

portrait of a lady as St. Lucy, by Giovanni Boltraffio

Painters over the years have let their imaginations run wild over this grisly martyrdom, usually including her extracted eyeballs in paintings of Saint Lucy:

Here is Incres’ version:

Ingres-Photoshopped-St-Lucy

and one by Domenico Beccafumi:

Saint_Lucy_by_Domenico_di_Pace_Beccafumi

 

 

and this one, from the Griffony polyptych, National Gallery , DC:

lucy griffony polyptych

 

As a poet, I am awed by John Donne’s long and mysterious poem:

 

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day

By John Donne

 

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,

Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;

The sun is spent, and now his flasks

Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

The world’s whole sap is sunk;

The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,

Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,

Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,

Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be

At the next world, that is, at the next spring;

For I am every dead thing,

In whom Love wrought new alchemy.

For his art did express

A quintessence even from nothingness,

From dull privations, and lean emptiness;

He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot

Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,

Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;

I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave

Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood

Have we two wept, and so

Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow

To be two chaoses, when we did show

Care to aught else; and often absences

Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)

Of the first nothing the elixir grown;

Were I a man, that I were one

I needs must know; I should prefer,

If I were any beast,

Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,

And love; all, all some properties invest

If I an ordinary nothing were,

As shadow, a light and body must be here.

 

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.

You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun

At this time to the Goat is run

To fetch new lust, and give it you,

Enjoy your summer all;

Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,

Let me prepare towards her, and let me call

This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this

Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.

 

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One thought on “Saint Lucy’s Day

  1. What a lovely post! I just read about you and see we’re almost neighbors–in the Philly area. I’m a retired theological educator and dean. And a writer. I wish you lived just around the corner! I was drawn to this post because I named my pacemaker Lucy! (for I Love Lucy, of course!) Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wealth of spirit in this format.
    Elouise

    Liked by 1 person

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