Lucy is the only (major, canonized) martyr of Advent. Her feast lands in the middle of the season, which may be a caution to us believers accustomed to quiet waiting and economic frivolity. At the heart of waiting and preparation is sacrifice. At the center of a season’s royal purple is a drop of red blood.
Today we are still a week away from solstice. But because of the drift of the Julian calendar, late medieval Europe endured December 13th as the shortest day of the year. It’s still a pretty brief nine hours of daylight at my latitude.
Lucy featured prominently in our parish’s Advent pageant a few years back.
(Lucy is praying in her room when she hears her mother calling her.)
MOTHER: Lucy! (Lucy finishes praying and comes to her mother and father.)
FATHER: Lucy, we have good news for you. Your mother and I have found you a husband. You are getting married.
LUCY: Married? But I want to dedicate my life to God and help the poor.
FATHER: But Lucy, we have already made these plans. I have the dowry for the wedding here.
MOTHER: He is not a Christian, but he is rich and he will take care of you. (Lucy nods, but not with enthusiasm. Her parents leave and she kneels to pray. She opens her Bible and reads.)
Narrator: You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to everybody in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
LUCY: My light WILL shine before others, to give glory to God! (Lucy takes the dowry money and gives it away to a poor person. Then she kneels down to pray again. Her family and suitor return.)
MOTHER Lucy, here is your husband.
SUITOR: (Noting the Bible) She is a Christian?
FATHER: But she is a good girl.
SUITOR: She is a Christian?
MOTHER: Where is the money we left here? The dowry?
LUCY: I gave it to the poor.
SUITOR: She is a crazy Christian!
The scene ended with an arrest and a modern Saint Lucy procession. But we had the girls hold the candles, not wear them as crowns.
Thomas Merton was more poetic about it:
Lucy, whose day is our darkest season,
(Although your name is full of light,)
We walkers in the murk and rain of flesh and sense,
Lost in the midnight of our dead world’s winter solstice
Look for the fogs to open on your friendly star.
Merton’s Kentucky fields in December were chilled and misty. Likely not yet snow-laden with those piercing and brisk and clear winter nights. Before the romance of Christmas sets in, we often have days of gray. Those mists can indeed fog and clog our vision. Lucy is a great saint for Advent. And not just because she is a very friendly star.