Santa Lucia

Daily Reading for December 13

The feast of St. Lucy (304) occurs during the Geminid meteor showers, sometimes called “St. Lucy’s Lights.” The northern sky filled with shooting stars prompts us to put on the “armor of light” in anticipation of the day of the Lord. Before the Gregorian calendar reform in 1582, the feast of Santa Lucia fell on the shortest day of the year. Lucy (“light”) marked the close of the long, dark nights and heralded the new light to come. Thus her feast is identified with a wreath of candles to drive away the darkness and welcome the returning sunlight.

Born to nobility in Syracuse, Sicily, young Lucy accompanied her mother on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Agatha. Her mother was miraculously healed, convincing Lucy to serve God. She gave all her riches to the poor and lived a life of service. She was beheaded after surviving extreme torture during the Diocletian persecutions. Her relics remain in Venice, Italy, at Santa Lucia Church.

Tales of a miraculous appearance of Lucy to a desperately hungry Sweden, her head haloed with light and her arms filled with enough food for everyone, generate the traditional “Lucia bride.” In Swedish homes, at cockcrow, the eldest girl in the house dresses in a white gown sashed in red and crowns her head with an evergreen wreath of seven to nine candles to impersonate Lucy. The Lussibrud wakes all the sleepers with coffee, sweet drink, and cakes called “Lucy cats.” The cakes are circular swirls, like cinnamon buns, that represent the eternal Sun. All gather for breakfast and tales of Lucy, who announces that darkness is broken and the Son is coming.

To honor Lucy and the Advent of the Light of the world, choose a family member to rise early and awaken the household with beverage and donuts or round sweet rolls. Just before dawn, you may want to go outside and try to spot the Geminid lights.

From Teach Us to Number Our Days: A Liturgical Advent Calendar by Barbara Dee Baumgarten. Copyright © 1999. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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