Today we celebrate the feast of virgin and martyr, St. Lucy, patron saint of the blind. She is often represented in art as holding two eyeballs on a dish, an unconfirmed symbol of the legend of the torture she endured under the reign of Diocletian in which there was heavy persecution of those practicing Christianity.
St. Lucy was betrothed to a pagan, but refused; protecting the flower of her virginity in Christ’s name. Meanwhile her mother was miraculously cured of her illness upon praying with Lucy at the grave of St. Agatha (whose iconography is even more grim), and in gratitude she gave her blessing to Lucy to sell her wealth and give the proceeds to the poor, and maintain her virtuous virginity. When her betrothed discovered this, he had her jailed and killed in 304. Much of the detail surrounding her persecution belongs in the realm of legend; being burned, but not burning, being rendered immovable when ordered to a brothel, and of course her eyes being gouged out and her sight restored.
The name Lucy means light, and has the same roots as luminous, which is particularly appropriate for Advent, as the Light of Lights is to come at Christmas. Her death and her persecution paradoxically offer us a glimpse of light coming from the darkness. On December 13th in the Julian Calendar, this day was the darkest day of the year, so it is quite appropriate to know that on this Feast of St. Lucy, whose name means light, that in our darkest hour, there will always be light, even if our physical eyes (and senses) cannot see it.
So this December 13th, let us be grateful for our sight, and pray that we can have the sight of Christ. Let us, like Lucy, express the faith to believe in his Light in our darkness, and the surety that our ability to see rightly has more to do with how our heart sees than how our eyes perceive.
One of my favorite books is the “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I particularly appreciate the fox in his parting words to the Little Prince (and, here, I think St. Lucy would agree): “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”