The Liturgical Year: Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Lucy of Syracuse13 December

There comes to us, today, the fourth of our Wise Virgins, the valiant Martyr, Lucy. Her glorious name shines on the sacred Dyptich of the Canon of the Mass, together with those of Agatha, Agnes, and Cecily; and as often as we hear it pronounced during these days of Advent, it reminds us (for Lucy signifies Light), that He who consoles the Church, by enlightening her children, is soon to be with us. Lucy is one of the three glories of the Church of Sicily; as Catania is immortalised by Agatha, and Palermo by Rosaly, so is Syracuse by Lucy. Therefore, let us devoutly keep her feast: she will aid us by her prayers during this holy season, and will repay our love by obtainiug for us a warmer love of that Jesus, whose grace enabled her to conquer the world.

Once more let us consider, why our Lord has not only given us Apostles, Martyrs, and Bishops as guides to us on our road to Bethlehem, but has willed also that we should be accompanied by such Virgins as Lucy. The children of the Church are forcibly reminded by this, that, in approaching the Crib of their Sovereign Lord and God, they must bring with them, besides their faith, that purity of mind and body without which no one can come near to God. Let us now read the glorious Acts of the Virgin Lucy.

Lucy, a Virgin of Syracuse, illustrious by birth and by the Christian faith, which she had professed from her infancy, went to Catania, with her mother Eutychia, who was suffering from a flux of blood, there to venerate the body of the blessed Agatha. Having prayed fervently at the tomb, she obtained her mother’s cure by the intercession of Agatha. Lucy then asked her mother that she would permit her to bestow upon the poor of Christ the fortune which she intended to leave her. No sooner, therefore, had she returned to Syracuse, than she sold all that was given to her and distributed the money among the poor.

When he to whom her parents had, against her will, promised her in marriage, came to know what Lucy had done, he went before the Prefect Paschasius, and accused her of being a Christian. Paschasius entreated and threatened, but could not induce her to worship the idols; nay, the more he strove to shake her faith, the more inflamed were the praises which she uttered in professing its excellence. He said, therefore, to her: “We shall have no more of your words, when you feel the blows of my executioners.”

To this the Virgin replied: “Words can never be wanting to God’s servants, for Christ our Lord has said to them: ‘When you shall be brought before kings and governors, take no thought how or what to speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit that speaks in you.'”

Paschasius then asked her: “Is the Holy Spirit in you?”

She answered: “They who live chastely and piously, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

He said: “I will order you to be taken to a brothel, that this Holy Spirit may leave you.”

The Virgin said to him: “The violence wherewith you threaten me would obtain for me a double crown of chastity.”

Whereupon Paschasius being exceeding angry, ordered Lucy to be dragged to a place where her treasure might be violated; but, by the power of God, so firmly was she fixed to the place where she stood, that it was impossible to move her. Wherefore the Prefect ordered her to be covered over with pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and a fire to be kindled round her. But seeing that the flame was not permitted to hurt her, they tormented her in many cruel ways, and at length ran a sword through her neck. Thus wounded, Lucy foretold the peace of the Church, which would come after the deaths of Dioclesian and Maximian, and then died. It was the Ides of December (December 13). Her body was buried at Syracuse, but was translated thence first to Constantinople, and afterwards to Venice.

Antiphons

We here give some of the Antiphons which occur in the Office of the Saint : they form a lyric poem of great beauty.

• As Lucy was praying, there appeared unto her the blessed Agatha, and she comforted the handmaid of Christ.
• O Virgin Lucy! why ask you of me what you can straightways grant to your mother?
• Because of you, O Virgin Lucy, the city of Syracuse shall be honoured by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Words of Lucy: I bless you, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by your Son the fire was quenched that was around me.
• In your patience you did possess your soul, O Lucy, Spouse of Christ! You did hate the things that are in the world, and you shone among the Angels. You did conquer the enemy by your own blood.

Petition to Saint Lucy

We present ourselves before you, Virgin Martyr, beseeching you to obtain for us that we may recognise in his lowliness that same Jesus whom you now see in his glory. Take us under your powerful patronage. Your name signifies Light; guide us through the dark night of this life. O fair Light of Virginity, enlighten us; evil concupiscence has wounded our eyes: pray for us, you bright Light of Virginity, that our blindness be healed, and that rising above created things, we may be able to see that true Light, which shines in darkness, but which darkness cannot comprehend. Pray for us, that our eye may be purified, and may see, in the Child who is to be born at Bethlehem, the new Man, the second Adam, the model on which the life of our regeneration must be formed. Pray, too, O holy Virgin, for the Church of Rome and for all those which adopt her form of the Holy Sacrifice; for they daily pronounce at the Altar of God your sweet name, and the Lamb, who is present, loves to hear it. Heap your choicest blessings on the fair Isle which was your native land, and where grew the palm of your martyrdom. May your intercession secure to her inhabitants firmness of faith, purity of morals, and temporal prosperity, and deliver them from the disorders which threaten her with destruction. Amen.


– from the book The Liturgical Year: Advent, by the Very Reverend Dom Prosper Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes, translated from the French by the Revered Dom Laurence Shepherd, Monk of the English-Benedictine Congregation, 2nd edition; published in Dublin Ireland by James Duffy, 15 Wellington-Quay, 1870