Saint Lucy
Feast Day December 13th


Legend of Saint Lucy - by MASTER of the Saint Lucy Legend - from Sint-Jacobskerk, Bruges . . . .

The three episodes from the life of St Lucy which are depicted here are based on the account in the Legenda Aurea (thirteenth century). In gratitude for the healing of Lucy's mother after a pilgrimage to the grave of St Agatha, they both decided to give their possessions away to the poor (first scene). Then Lucy was brought before the consul by her fiancÚ and on account of her faith she was condemned to prostitution (second scene). Lucy miraculously became so heavy that even a thousand yokes of oxen could not drag her away (third scene).

 

The Legend of Saint Lucy

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Some saints are celebrated during the Season of Advent because they have some connection to Christmas, others do not. Among the saints that do contribute to the Christmas tradition are Saint Lucy, whose feast day is celebrated on December 13. Saint Lucy was given December 13 as her feast day by the Church because according to the old Julian calendar it was the shortest day of the year.

Saint Lucy lived in the Town of Syracuse in Sicily during the fourth century, at the time of the persecutions of Diocletian. When Lucy was still a young girl, she made a secret vow that she would remain unmarried, and would serve God all her life. Her mother, who did not know of her vow, promised a rich young man of Syracuse that Lucy would marry him. It was a common thing for parents to arrange their children's marriages, so the young man and Lucy's mother were quite sure that this would be acceptable to Lucy.

Lucy tried several times to persuade her mother that she did not want to marry anyone, and avoided meeting the young man as often as she could. Both her mother and the young man were angry with her, but she kept her secret and did not tell them of her vow. She prayed, asking God for help.

Saint Lucy Altarpiece (Pala di S. Lucia) -
by DOMENICO DA TOLMEZZO -
from Galleria d'Arte Antica, Udine
 

The mother became ill with a constant hemorrhage and made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Agatha to pray for healing. While at the tomb, the mother was healed. Saint Agatha appeared to Lucy in a dream and told her that she would be martyred for Christ's sake. Lucy then told her mother of her vow and how she had prayed for some way to change her mother's mind. Grateful for healing, the mother allowed Lucy to follow her vow.

Angered by the change in plans, the rich young suitor denounced Lucy to the governor of the region as a Christian. When she was found guilty, a judge ordered that Lucy be sold into slavery. Soldiers came to take her away, but no matter how hard they tried, Lucy stood as if rooted to the ground. The soldiers were frightened by this, a small young woman as unmovable as a mountain. They next poured oil on her head and set her on fire to try to make her move, but her body was not burned. They demanded to know why she was not harmed and she replied that the power of the Lord Jesus Christ protected her. Finally, they stabbed her in the throat with a sword and she was welcomed into Heaven by Jesus, Whom she had loved so much. Since that time many legends have grown up around her story. Some say that she was tortured and her eyes were put out before her death. Legend goes on to tell how Mary intervened and gave Lucy two new eyes, shinier than those she had lost. lucia.gif (11487 bytes)Her body was eventually brought to Venice where she is now resting in the church of Santa Lucia. Because her name means "light" she very early became the great patron saint for the "light of the body" - the eyes. Many of the ancient light and fire customs of the Yuletide became associated with her Feast Day. an-lucia.gif 
(12178 bytes)Thus we find "Lucy candles" lighted in the homes and "Lucy fires" burned in the outdoors. Before the Reformation, Saint Lucy's Day was one of unusual celebration and festivity because for the people of Sweden and Norway, she was the great "light saint", who conquered the demon of darkness, turned the tides of their long winter and brought the light of the day to renewed victory. In Sweden, where the Swedish official religion frowns upon devotion to saints, Saint Lucy is still very important and is still retained as the protectress of the country.

 

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