Today, the Church celebrates the memory of one of her earliest martyrs, young woman named Lucy.
Lucy was killed during a terrifying persecution of the Church perpetrated by the Roman emperor, Diocletian.
The story is told that Lucy rejected a marriage proposal from a suitor and in his anger at her refusal, he turned her over the imperial authorities, accusing her of being the member of a seditious, treasonous, outlaw sect called “the Church”.
Lucy did not deny her accuser. She was, in fact, a Christian, and she steadfastly refused to recant her Christian Faith, even when threatened with torture and death.
The Roman authorities made good on their promises. Lucy was sentenced to death and before that sentence was carried out, she was brutally tortured. What she endured is too horrifying to specifically describe.
Cruelty, so universal, and so intractable, to the human condition, has been called the essential evidence of our fallen and sinful nature. How easy it seems for us to treat people with contempt and to not only refuse to recognize the image of God in every person, but also to try to destroy that image!
Not even modernity, with all its promises to deliver us from our most treacherous impulses, has banished cruelty from the human condition. In fact, in many ways it has made cruelty much more easy. We need a Savior. We need a light to shine in the midst of the darkness we all too willingly create. This light is Christ and his light is meant to shine in us, making us a beacon that leads the world from dark paths and to a different way of life illuminated by the mercy of God in Christ.
Saint Lucy’s name means light and in the dark days in which she lived and died she gave witness to the One God who is the Light of all Lights, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Like her Savior, neither torture or death could extinguish the radiance of her witness or the fire of her love.
We may never have to suffer so horribly as Saint Lucy did, but we will be asked to make sacrifices for our faith and we should pray, that when our moment comes to make a sacrifice for Christ, that we will be able to do so courageously and willingly, without hesitation or complaint.
In the Scandinavian countries, where the winters are long, cold and dark, the witness of Saint Lucy is recalled by young women, who don white robes, and wear upon their heads a crown of greenery and candles. The gentle light of the candles represents the halo of the saint. The white robe represents Lucy’s status as a martyr, evoking the garments of the martyrs in the Book of Revelation- “robes washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.”
This evocation of Saint Lucy is beautiful and packed with significance.
Discipleship, following Christ, will necessitate that we be willing, if asked by the Lord, to venture into dark places as a bearer of Christ’s light. All Christians are bearers of Christ’s light and the Lord has no intention that our light be hidden away, but we must go out, often from what is safe and familiar, and cast the warmth of Christ’s light into a world that suffers from the cold of sin and death.
The light of Saint Lucy still shines, but her light is not the only light, our light must shine too!
Christ did not come to leave the world in the darkness. Christ came to cast a fire on the earth- holy fire, and we are meant to be his fire!