Monday, February 9, 2015

Saint Lucy

gondola sunset
pink to the Dolomites
limestone sky
where the walk
ends in water
we wet our feet
pray to Saint Lucy
to go, to see

In October, after spending 10 days in Croatia, Beth and I stopped in Venice for a few days. We stayed in the Cannaregio, a short walk from the Church of Saint Geremia, just off the Strada Nuova, where the body of Saint Lucy lies in a glass case. I wanted to visit Saint Lucy as I am about to teach an eight week course on Dante's Inferno and the invention of Hell. Dante avows himself a "fedele", a devotee of Lucy. In Canto two of the Inferno, the Virgin Mary speaks to Lucy, seeking some help for Dante. Lucy urges Beatrice to come to Dante's aid. Later, in Purgatory, Lucy carries the sleeping Dante up the lower slopes of Mount Purgatory. Later, in Paradise, Dante will seat her on a throne with John the Baptist on her right, and, on John's right, Saint Anne, mother of Mary.
Saint Lucy is "the enemy of all who are cruel" She is the patron saint of illumination and sight, both outer and inner. Dante may have credited her for relief from an illness of the eyes. She is often portrayed as "Divine Wisdom", carrying a lighted lamp in her hands. Santa Lucia - the saint of light - was originally from Syracusa, Sicily. One version of her story has her consecrating herself to Christ after a visit from Saint Agatha in a dream, renouncing matrimony, and giving all of her belongings to the poor. This did not go over well with her husband-to be. She was imprisoned and tortured. Her eyes were dug out but she put them back in place. (another version has Lucy removing her own eyes to discourage a suitor) She is often depicted carrying a silver tray, on which rest her eyes. In the end, she was decapitated. Her relics traveled to Constantinople, and when the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople the Venetian Doge Enrico Dandalo brought Lucy's bones to Venice. In 1981 thieves stole all of her bones, except her head. They were recovered five weeks later, on her feast day. Miraculously, other relics of her body are claimed in Rome, Naples, Verona, Milan, Lisbon, Germany, France and Spain. Her feast day originally corresponded with the winter solstice, a celebration of the return of light.
We have come to pay our respects to Lucy, to Dante, to illumination; to go, to see, to seek the light of Divine Wisdom.

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