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“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)

There are ways to enter into this special time of year and celebrate Advent without jumping the gun and celebrating Christmas prematurely. Rather than celebrating Christmas, we should incorporate into our lives the feasts and rituals that the Church gives us, such as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Gaudete Sunday, or this beautiful feast of St. Lucy.

Lucy was an early Roman martyr, killed for the Catholic Faith in Syracuse, Sicily, in 304 A.D. She is mentioned in the Roman Canon at Mass in the list of virgin martyrs like Cecilia, Agnes, and Agatha. Tradition tells us that her mother betrothed her in marriage, but Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha. As a result of the prayers, her mother was cured of a disease and she allowed Lucy to live a life of virginity dedicated to God. Her spurned fiancé reported her as a Christian to the governor, and she was subsequently tortured and martyred. She’s often depicted holding her eyes. One account is that her eyes were gouged out as part of her torture. When her body was prepared for burial, the Christians discovered her eyes had been restored. Thus, she is the patroness for the blind and those with eye ailments.

Her patronage of things associated with the eye is also linked to her name, which means “light.” Her feast is celebrated near the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Therefore, her feast has become a great celebration of light amidst the darkness – a hint at what will come at Christmas.

Perhaps the most famous celebrations of Lucy occur in Sweden, when the oldest girl wakes up her family with coffee and sweet bread. Wearing a white dress and a wreath of lit candles, she is a reminder in the cold darkness of the light of salvation.

To a person without faith, the martyrs look like fools. Lucy’s death was gruesome, and any observers would have thought her death was the end of her story. Yet she is celebrated today, even thousands of miles away from where she lived her unassuming life. No one remembers the name of her fiancé or the governor who ordered her martyrdom. But Lucy has been honored by tens of millions for centuries.

Even in the darkness of an age of martyrdom, even in a time of paganism or secularism, the light of Christ will not be overcome.

Lucy reminds us of this in the midst of Advent. One of the important parts of observing Advent as a time of waiting is to remember the longing for the Messiah. We don’t know what it was like to live in a world before a Messiah. But during Advent, we attempt to meditate on that darkness.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

The darkness of a world without a Savior is far darker than even Sweden in the cold hours before dawn. To stir up gratitude in our hearts for His coming, let us spend these last day of Advent trying to wait. The darkness, the sin, the emptiness has an answer. Jesus Christ.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

St. Lucy, pray for us.

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