Hello, friends! Exams are over and I am back in the blogosphere. I'll have to write a recap of November soon, but today is for something else--
Happy Saint Lucy Day!
Saint Lucy is a Christian martyr who lived sometime during the late third and early fourth centuries. There are many different ways her story has made its way around, but the long and short of it is this:
Service and Light
Lucy (whose name means "light") was born to a fairly well-to-do family in Syracuse during the harrowing reign of Diocletian. Legend holds that Lucy loved God from an early age and spent her time serving those most abused by her society.
In her day, many of these folks were fellow Christians who, disempowered and destitute, lived together in dark catacombs. Lucy was known for bringing great baskets of food to these underground shelters. In order to use both of her hands in service, she rigged a wreath of candles to wear in her hair; the candles lit her way through the tombs.
What a sight that had to have been to a hungry and harried soul!
Nun Up vs. Pagan Marriage
Eventually, Lucy made it known that she wanted to completely commit her life to the service of God—she wanted to nun up.
That’s like “suit up,” but better.
Fearing for her daughter’s future, Lucy’s mother arranged a marriage for Lucy to a wealthy Pagan man. However, Lucy was sure of her calling to God’s service and refused to marry him. She begged her mother to break the engagement and allow Lucy her dowry money to aid those in poverty.
At this plea, Lucy’s mother recanted and blessed her daughter. The jilted young man, though, was not happy. He took Lucy before the emperor, who demanded that she marry. Lucy held firm to her calling. Diocletian ordered that she be removed from the spot and sent off to a brothel as punishment(???!!!!).
When the guards went to take her away they could not move the girl. The storytellers promise that not even a team of oxen could pull her from where she stood.
And when the guards attempted to set fire to Lucy, no flame would touch her.
Now, from here the story gets gorier. Some folks say Lucy tore out her own eyes earlier in the plot because her betrothed liked them so much (“you can have my eyes, but not me”). Others say Lucy was brutally tortured for her defiance of patriarchy/Diocletian's ruling, and eventually died by a sword.
This is the woman we celebrate on December 13th. During advent. While the rest of the world hobnobs with Elf on the Shelf.
When I first heard Lucy’s story I was:
1. Disgusted by the gore.
Early martyrdom stories are brutal. It is just a fact, and maybe a slightly unhealthy obsession back in the day.
Why did Lucy not just marry the poor pagan man and serve God anyway? Why did marriage mean lack of service to God? And why were early Christians so obsessed with celibacy, no, FEMALE VIRGINITY?! What is wrong with sex? What is wrong with marriage?
In my context, nothing.
And then I remembered that Lucy had no choice in the matter.
As a young woman during that time—and in certain places and spaces in THIS time, I tell you—she did not have the resources or rights to her own money, land, or her own BODY.
It is easy for me to get annoyed with stories of my ancient sisters refusing marriages or dedicating their “virginity” to God because I have choice in the matter. My sexuality is not a commodity, and my own body is NOT used against my will.
I know I am lucky to be able to make such a statement. Many women are not.
At any rate, looking at Lucy’s story with the patriarchal system of her day in mind, I find something beautiful. There is faithfulness in Lucy’s decision to defy the norm.
When there was no choice given, she realized her God-given agency and MADE ONE.
It would have been easy to just marry up with the guy and make everyone happy, but in order to do that Lucy would have had to deny the person she knew God was calling her to be. She would have had to give up on the woman she herself wanted to be.
Sure, the story is gory and encrypted over centuries of time, but there is a thread of Advent hope and Kingdom glory in Lucy’s tale.
There is hope in Lucy's stubborn resolve to let no one and no system rob her of God-breathed personhood.
On this day of feasting, O God, may we reflect Your liberating Light as stubbornly as sister Lucy.
Move in us to bring end to violence and birth to Your ways. Amen!
4 Ways to Remember Lucy:
1. Wear this beautiful crown. All day. Because why not.
As mentioned above, people say that Lucy wore a wreath with lit candles in the catacombs so she could have light to see but still be able to use both hands to help Christians in hiding from Diocletian. Cool. Visit this fun site to print your own awesome wreath.
2. Do as the Swedes.
Lucy is a BIG TIME DEAL in Sweden and anyone who loved the American Girl Kirsten will know this already. Many Swedish girls, dressed in white gowns and candle crowns, rise early on December 13th to deliver sweet rolls and coffee to their loved ones. There is lots of singing and frivolity. Lovely.
Maybe you don’t have a white nightgown, but I bet those in your house, neighborhood, or workplace would love some hot buns anyway.
3. Empower younglings.
Take time to cherish the young among us and champion their unique callings—give those imaginations a great stretch! Read stories about people who were faithful to God and themselves no matter what the cost. Wonder together about the beautiful light every person has to share with the world.
4. Empower women.
Find a local women’s shelter and ask how you can help. Whether by hugs, good coffee, money, connections, or food, make the path to freedom easier for someone!
And, while you're at it, shed light on situations and behaviors that are violent toward female people (and other people too). "For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light" (Luke 8:17).
Have any Lucy traditions or ideas to share? I'd love to hear!
Thanks for being here, beloveds.