The Feast of St. Lucy is one of those observances of the Christian year that springs from the very edge of our history and tradition. Though hagiographies going back as far as the 5th century record her as having been born in Sicily in the 3rd century and dying a martyrs death in the early 4th century, the coincidence of her name meaning “light,” her martyrdom involving the gouging out of her eyes and the date of her feast being during the very weeks of the year when the darkness is most pronounced seem a little too much to pass over without some thought.
Lucy’s story appears to be largely an allegory for both the environmental reality of Christians (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and the theological reality of all faithful people at the very moment before Christ dawns in their lives. Though her name means ‘light,’ Lucy’s legacy is the power of the creeping darkness. Yes, she is granted restored spiritual vision, but only long enough to see the final blow of her death.
Yet, there still is a flicker of hope.
One of the traditions associated with St. Lucy’s day is the procession through the darkened house of a young girl wreathed in candles. This is done early in the morning and the young maiden sings songs meant to rouse the slumbering to a wakefulness that includes the sweetness of cake and frivolity. While of undeniable importance to the member of the cultures in which it practiced, this exercise is but a token, a foretaste of the great in-breaking of light that will take place on Christmas, when both environmental light and spiritual light will begin increasing.
And it is here that I think we can find our own insight from the legacy of Lucy. We all see the darkness growing around us. Often times, it may seem difficult for us to do anything about it, even as it threatens (or succeeds in consuming) us, too. What would it mean for us to worry less about our ability to completely banish the darkness, committing rather to bringing whatever light we can into the situation? Even if we cannot cure the darkness, we can sing of the coming dawn.