December 13th is the Feast Day of St Lucy. You may not have heard of her but her name means ‘light’; it has the same root as ‘lucid’, meaning ‘clear, radiant and understandable’. Unfortunately for us, Lucy’s history does not match up to this. All we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse, Sicily, lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. The early church venerated her and by the sixth century her courage in defence of the faith was widely recognised.
Legends arose in an attempt to shed light on Lucy’s bravery. One tells the story of a young Christian woman whose mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. But Lucy had vowed to dedicate her life to the service of Christ. Knowing that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl’s vow, she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. After Lucy prayed for her, her mother’s long illness was miraculously cured. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy’s desire, which was that she should give her money to the poor and commit her life to God. Unfortunately, the rejected bridegroom – possibly jealous at the loss of money that would have come to him on their marriage – betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution as a punishment but the guards who came to take her away found her stiff and too heavy to move. They tried to burn her alive but she was miraculously preserved, dying in the end by the sword.
Another legend arose in which Lucy’s eyes were put out before her death. This legend concluded with God restoring Lucy’s eyes. However, it was the meaning behind her name rather than this miraculous story that resulted in Lucy being named as the patron saint of the blind.
Many Christians endured incredible torture and died painful deaths for their faith during Diocletian’s reign. Lucy may not, in fact, have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did suffer such a fate and, in one way or another, her faith certainly withstood tests that we can barely imagine. Whatever the facts, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted as a Christian in spite of torture and the threat of death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life. Joshua 1:9 (NLT) says, ‘This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
Saint Lucy did not hide her light under a basket but let it shine for the whole world, and for people down through the centuries, to see. We may not suffer torture in the way that she did but we are still called to let the light of Christ illumine our daily lives. Let us have the courage to bring our faith into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation and every part of our day.
A Bible passage that reminds us of this is found in John’s Gospel: ‘In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it’ (John 1:1–5, NLT).
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