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Saint Lucy

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This article is about the Christian saint. For other meanings, see Saint Lucia (disambiguation)
Saint Lucy (Saint Lucia)
Saint Lucy by Domenico di Pace Beccafumi.jpg
Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, 1521, a High Renaissance recasting of a Gothic iconic image (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena)
Virgin and Martyr
Born trad. ca 283 AD[1], Syracuse
Died trad. 304 AD, Syracuse
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Anglican Communion
Lutheran Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Major shrine San Geremia, Venice
Feast December 13
September 16 (on some local calendars)
Attributes cord; eyes; eyes on a dish; lamp; swords; woman hitched to a yoke of oxen; woman in the company of Saint Agatha, Saint Agnes of Rome, Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Thecla; woman kneeling before the tomb of Saint Agatha
Patronage blind; martyrs; Perugia, Italy; Mtarfa, Malta; epidemics; salesmen, Syracuse, Italy, throat infections, writers

Saint Lucy, also known as Saint Lucia (283 – 304), was a wealthy young Christian martyr who is venerated as a saint by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is 13 December, by the unreformed Julian calendar the longest night of the year; with a name derived from lux, lucis "light", she is the patron saint of those who are blind. Saint Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavian peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy's Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism. Saint Lucy is one of seven women, aside from the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Hagiography tells us that Lucy was a Christian during the Diocletian persecution. She consecrated her virginity to God,[2] refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork.

The oldest record of her story comes from the fifth-century accounts of saints' lives.[2] By the sixth century, her story was widespread, so that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I.[3] At the opening of the eighth century Aldhelm included a brief account of her life among the virgins praised in De laude virginitatis, and in the following century the Venerable Bede included her in his Martyrology.[4] In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged out prior to her execution. In art, her eyes sometimes appear on a plate that she is holding.

Until 1861 relics of Saint Lucy were venerated in a church dedicated to her in Venice; after its demolition, they were transferred to the church of San Geremia.

The Roman Catholic calendar of saints formerly had a commemoration of Saints Lucy and Geminianus on 16 September. This was removed in 1969, as a duplication of the feast of her dies natalis on 13 December and because the Geminianus in question, mentioned in the Passio of Saint Lucy, seems to be a merely fictitious figure,[5] unrelated to the Geminianus whose feast is on 31 January.

Life

Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root (luc-) with the Latin word for light, lux. "In 'Lucy' is said, the way of light" Jacobus de Voragine stated at the beginning of his vita of the Blessed Virgin Lucy, in Legenda Aurea, the most widely-read version of the Lucy legend in the Middle Ages.

Jacobello del Fiore Santa Lucía en el sepulcro de Santa Agüeda PC Fermo

Eutychia and Lucy at the Tomb of Saint Agatha, by Jacobello del Fiore

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up, reported in the acta that are associated with her name. All the details are conventional ones also associated with other female martyrs of the early 4th century.[6] Her Roman father died when she was young, leaving her and her mother without a protecting guardian. Her mother, Eutychia, had suffered four years with dysentery but Lucy had heard the renown of Saint Agatha, the patroness of Catania, "and when they were at a Mass, one read a gospel that made mention of a woman who was healed of the dysentery by touching of the hem of the coat of Jesus Christ," which, according to the Legenda Aurea, convinced her mother to pray together at Saint Agatha's tomb. They stayed up all night praying, until they fell asleep, exhausted. Saint Agatha appeared in a vision to Lucy and said, "Soon you shall be the glory of Syracuse, as I am of Catania." At that instant Eutychiaea was cured.

Eutychia had arranged a marriage for Lucy with a pagan bridegroom, but Lucy urged that the dowry be spent on alms so that she might retain her virginity. Euthychia suggested that the sums would make a good bequest, but Lucy countered, "...whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Savior, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death."[7] News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to the ears of Lucy's betrothed, who heard from a chattering nurse that Lucy had found a nobler Bridegroom.

Her rejected pagan bridegroom denounced Lucy as a Christian to the magistrate Paschasius, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image. Lucy replied that she had given all that she had: "I offer to Him myself, let Him do with His offering as it pleases Him." Sentenced to be defiled in a brothel, Lucy asserted:

No one's body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.[7]

The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away they found her so filled with the Holy Spirit that she was as stiff and heavy as a mountain; they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Even after implanting a dagger through her throat she prophesied against her persecutor. As a final torture, her eyes were gouged out. She was miraculously still able to see without her eyes. In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate.

Legend

SantaLuccia

Statue of St. Lucy at Saint Leonard of Port Maurice Church in the North End of Boston

Jacobus de Voragine did not include the episode of Lucy's passion that has been most vivid to her devotés ever since the Middle Ages: having her eyes torn out. It should be noted that another account dates this loss of eyes to before her martyrdom, claiming that in response to a suitor who admired her beautiful eyes, "she cut them out and sent them to him, asking to be left in peace thereafter."[8] Lucy was represented in Gothic art holding a dish with two eyes on it (illustration above). The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes.

Dante also mentions Lucia in Inferno Canto II as the messenger "of all cruelty the foe" sent to Beatrice from "The blessed Dame" (Divine Mercy), to rouse Beatrice to send Virgil to Dante's aid. She has instructed Virgil to guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory. Lucia is only referenced indirectly in Virgil's discourse within the narrative and doesn't appear; the reasons for her appearing in this intermediary role are still somewhat unclear to scholars, although doubtless Dante had some allegorical end in mind, perhaps having Lucy as a figure of Illuminating Grace or Mercy or even Justice.[9] Nonetheless Dante obviously regarded Lucia with great reverence, placing her opposite Adam within the Mystic Rose in Canto XXXII of the Paradiso.

In Mark Musa's translation of Dante's Purgatorio, it is noted that Lucy was admired by an undesirable suitor for her beautiful eyes. To stay chaste she plucked out her own eyes, a great sacrifice for which God gave her a pair of even more beautiful eyes. It is said in Sweden that to vividly celebrate St. Lucy's Day will help him/her live the long winter days with enough light.

Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. She was the patroness of Syarcuse in Sicily, Italy.

Relics

Sigebert (1030-1112), a monk of Gembloux, in his sermo de Sancta Lucia, chronicled that her body lay undisturbed in Sicily for 400 years, before Faroald II, Duke of Spoleto, captured the island and transferred the body to Corfinium in the Abruzzo, Italy. From there it was removed by the Emperor Otho I in 972 to Metz and deposited in the church of St. Vincent. It was from this shrine that an arm of the saint was taken to the monastery of Luitburg in the Diocese of Spires - an incident celebrated by Sigebert himself in verse.

The subsequent history of the relics is not clear. On their capture of Constantinople in 1204, the French found some relics attributed to Saint Lucy in the city, and Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, secured them for the monastery of St. George at Venice. In 1513 the Venetians presented to Louis XII of France the saint's head, which he deposited in the cathedral church of Bourges. Another account, however, states that the head was brought to Bourges from Rome where it had been transferred during the time when the relics rested in Corfinium. The remainder of the relics remain in Venice: they were transferred to the church of San Geremia when the church of Santa Lucia was demolished in the 19th century to make way for the new railway terminus. A century later, on 7 November 1981, thieves stole all her bones, except her head. Police recovered them five weeks later, on her feast day. Other parts of the corpse have found their way to Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, as well as Germany and France.[10]

Lucia-13.12.06

Lucia procession in Sweden.

Popular celebration

As her brief day brings the longest night of the year by the old reckoning, John Donne's poem, "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie's Day, being the shortest day", begins with: "'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's," and expresses, in a mourning piece, the withdrawal of the world-spirit into sterility and darkness, where "The world's whole sap is sunk." [1].

This timing, and her name meaning light, is a factor in the particular devotion to St. Lucy in Scandinavian countries, where young girls dress as the saint in honor of the feast. A special devotion to St. Lucy is present in the North Eastern regions of Italy.

Notes

  1. Traditional dates as given in Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Lucy, Saint".
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09414a.htm
  3. Noted by Blunt 1885.
  4. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09414a.htm; supplementing the fourteenth-century synthesis of legendary material in Legenda Aurea, Sigebert of Gembloux's mid-eleventh century passio, written to support a local cult of Lucy at Metz, is edited by Tino Licht, Acta Sanctae Luciae (Universitätsverlag Winter) 2007 along with a historicizing tractate and a sermon.
  5. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 139
  6. "We know nothing of St. Lucy, as the sole authority for her story is her fabulous 'Acts', a Christian romance similar to the 'Acts' of other virgin martyrs", wrote John Henry Blunt (The Annotated Book of Common Prayer, [London] 1885:176), adding "though probably based on facts".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Ælfric's Lives of Saints". (Walter W. Skeat, ed., Early English Text Society, original series, vols. 76, 82, 94, 114 [London, 1881-1900], revised; as found at the University of Virginia's Old English resource pages). http://www.engl.virginia.edu/OE/aelfric/lucy.html. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  8. ""St. Lucy's Day" article". At the "School of the Seasons" website. http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/lucy.html. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  9. See David H. Higgins' commentary in Dante, The Divine Comedy, trans. C.H. Sisson. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 019920960X. P. 506.
  10. "Santa Lucia of the gondoliers brought home to Sicily", 17 December 2004.

External links

an:Santa Luzía br:Lusia Sirakuza bg:Луция ca:Santa Llúcia cs:Svatá Lucie (osoba) da:Sankta Luciafur:Sante Luzie gl:Lucía de Siracusa ko:루치아 hr:Sveta Lucija (mučenica) is:Heilög Lúsíaja:シラクサのルチア nn:Den heilage Luciapt:Lúcia de Siracusa ru:Луция Сиракузская scn:Santa Lucìa sk:Svätá Lucia (osoba) sr:Света Луција fi:Pyhä Lucia sv:Lucia (helgon) tl:Lucia ng Siracusa vec:Santa Łusia

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