The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.
Virgin and Martyr
Saint Lucy from the Prayer Book of Michelino da Besozzo (Milan, early 15th century, tempera, ink and gold leaf on parchment.) Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
May the glorious intercession
of the Virgin and Martyr Saint Lucy
give us new heart, we pray, O Lord,
so that we may celebrate her heavenly birthday
in this present age
and so behold things eternal.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:17 - 11:2
"Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord." For it is not the man who commends himself that is accepted, but the man whom the Lord commends. I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25: 1-13
"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
Prayer to Saint Lucy
Hear us, O God, our salvation, that, as we rejoice in keeping the festival of Blessed Lucy, thy virgin and martyr, so we may profit by the tender devotion we gain through her example. Through our Lord. Amen.
Story of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
According to the traditional story, she was born to rich and noble parents about 283. Her father died when she was young. Fifty-two years prior to Saint Lucy, Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr was executed. Saint Agatha's fame attracted many visitors to her relics at Catania. Lucy and her mother, Eutychia, made the pilgrimage, where Eutychia was healed of a hemorrhage. Lucy persuaded Eutychia to distribute a great part of their riches among the poor. This angered the young man to whom she was betrothed. He reported her as a Christian. She was executed by with sword in the year 303. She was first condemned to suffer the shame of prostitution but in the strength of God she stood unmovable and could not be dragged away to the place of shame. God also saved her from being set on fire. According to some stories, Saint Lucy's eyes were plucked out during her torture and God miraculously restored her sight. Her feast day is celebrated especially in Sweden, where elements of light and sight, as well as the martyr's crown, are combined in a beautiful family custom appropriate for Advent celebration.
The eldest daughter of the household, wearing a white dress with a sash of crimson and a crown of branches set with lighted candles, wakes all the members of the household and serves them special cake and coffee. While it may not be practical to light a crown of candles, the family can enjoy this custom of a special treat prepared by the eldest daughter of the family (with help from mother, if necessary). As a substitute for the flaming crown, the coffee cake can be prepared in the shape of a crown and set with candles.
Recipes for a Saint Lucy's celebration
Recipes from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press (see links page).
Saint Lucy's Crown
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup lukewarm milk
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup of warm water (100-110 degrees F)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sweet butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
Grated rind of 1 lemon
4-5 tablespoons blanched almonds, grated or finely chopped
4-5 tablespoons chopped candied citron (optional)
Confectioners' Sugar Glaze (see recipe below)
Tapers or thin candles (optional)
Crush the saffron to a fine powder, and steep it in a tablespoon or two of the lukewarm milk for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set the mixture aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until frothy.
Scald the remaining milk. Stir in the rest of the sugar, and the salt and butter. Stir until the butter is melted. Let cool to lukewarm. Stir into the yeast mixture. Add the saffron milk and lightly beaten egg. Stir in the flour gradually, mixing well. Add the lemon rind, almonds, and citron, if you like.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. While you are kneading, add more flour if the dough is sticky.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down. Cut off one-third to make the top braid; set aside. Divide the remaining dough into three parts. Roll each part into a rope about 25 inches long. Place the three ropes close together on a buttered baking sheet and braid them together. (Try starting from the middle; you may find it easier.) Form the braid into a circle, pinching the ends to seal.
Divide the reserved dough into three parts. Roll each part into a rope about 24 inches long. Proceed as above: Place the three ropes close together on a buttered baking sheet and braid them together. Form the braid into a circle, pinching the ends to seal.
Cover both braids lightly and let the bread rise for 30-45 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk.
Bake at 400 degree F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for about 40 minutes longer, or until the two braided rings are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Place the smaller braid on top of the larger. Dizzle over it the Confectioners' Sugar Glaze. Optional: Stick thin tapers into the crown and light them. There is no fixed number of tapers; why not put in one for each member of your family?
Yield 1 large double braided Saint Lucy's Crown
You can elimate the saffron, and flavor the crown with 2 teaspoons ground cardamom; add it along with the salt. For a smaller crown, you can just halve this recipe; the baking time will be a little shorter.
Confectioners' Sugar Glaze
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice or milk or water
1/2-1 cup confectioner's sugar
Stir the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar; mix well. Add more sugar or lemon juice as needed to produce a proper consistency for dizzling.
Swedish Saint Lucy Ginger Snaps (Luciapepperkakor)
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/2 cups dark or light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup heavy cream
6-7 cups flour
Icing (recipe below)
Heat the corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, molasses, ginger, lemon rind, and baking soda.
In a large bowl, whip the cream until almost stiff.
Stir the syrup mixture gradually into the cream. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer for 4 to 5 minutes (about twice as long if you are beating by hand with a spoon or whisk). Add 4 cups of the flour, mixing well with a spoon. Then gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, pliable dough. Knead for 2 or 3 minutes.
Wrap the dough well in well in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, you can start the chilling process in the freezer. Leave the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with fancy cutters, such as animals and people, heart and flowers. Try making some pretty young girls -- perhaps with crowns -- like Saint Lucy. If possible, do creche scenes or other Christmas motifs, such as stars and angels. (Even in our baking we can try to emphasize what matters about Christmas -- the star, the baby, the angels singing -- and play down Santa Claus and full stockings.)
Place the cookies on a lightly buttered cookie sheet. Bake at 275 degrees F for about 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown.
Ice when cold.
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
Beat the white of an egg until frothy. Add 1 cup confectioners' sugar (and, optional, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice). If the icing is too thick, add more lemon juice; too thin, more sugar. You can make several batches, adding food coloring as you wish. An even quicker icing is just a few drops of water mixed with confectioners' sugar and food coloring.