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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Feast of St Lucy: darkness will not overcome the light

Today is the Feast of St Lucy, the young woman martyred in Syracuse in 304 AD during the Diocletian persecution.

According to the Julian calendar used in Sweden until 1753, the night between the 12th and the 13th of December was Midwinter, the longest night of the year, when it was believed that extra protection was needed against darkness and evil. Hence in Sweden Sankta Lucia has become a major festival of light celebrated in churches, schools and homes. In the beautiful service St Lucy appears wearing a white gown, a crown of candles and a red ribbon around her waist as a sign of her martydom. She is accompanied by young people singing traditional Swedish songs and carols.

Each year in London Swedes and their friends come together for a great celebration of Sankta Lucia, to which I am invited, along with the clergy of Porvoo sister Churches. This year's celebration was in Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral.

We witness the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq, violent terrorist attacks like those of the past weekend, the bomb blast that killed 38 in Istanbul and then the attack on Coptic Christians worshipping in the chapel of SS Peter and Paul in the Cathedral compound in Cairo which killed at least 25, mostly women and children.  There is great darkness in our world. Lucia is a powerful symbol of our faith, that good will prevail despite the apparent increase in evil and people continuing to behave at their worst towards their fellow human beings. St Lucy's feast day today is a reminder of the blessed light we all need, as St John's Gospel says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it". (St John 1.5)

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