What do Norse Vikings, Swedish farmers, an Italian peasant girl, & an English Bishop have in common? Well since today is the feast of St. Lucia you have a clue. The interesting story is in who & the why. Let’s start with the Norse Vikings. According to the old Julian calendar, December 13 was the darkest day. In modern times with our Gregorian calendar, we know this to be the Winter Solstice, usually falling on December 21st or 22nd; the shortest day & the longest night for those of us, like the Vikings, in the Northern Hemisphere. This darkest day was not a day to be out on a boat, better to be inside, possibly by a hardy fire to keep warm -a tradition that would later become part of the winter festival – the burning of the Yule Log. But in those days, December 13 was the time of year when the ancient pagan Scandinavian farmers offered sacrifices in honor of the Goddess of good crops for the coming summer. These sacrifices would usually involve building a ceremonial fire to light the night.
The name Lucia comes from Lux which means light. An old legend from Sweden, names Lucia as the bride of light. The story says that on December 13, Lucia will appear riding in a lusse-cart, similar to a chariot, & if the cart breaks down, you will get lice in your hair. On Lucia night, the threshing of grain must be finished to insure a bountiful crop the next year, the horses should have on winter shoes, & all new-born babies should be baptized before Lucia night or the trolls would come & whisk them away forever. The people who lived in Vermland claimed Lucia was the queen of supernatural beings & was a worker of miracles.
To understand why we celebrate St. Lucia Day today, we need to look at the actual person. An English bishop from the Seventh Century, St. Aldhelm, gave us the story of St. Lucia as we know it today.
Santa Lucia was born around the year 300 A.D. to a wealthy Sicilian family. Although her father died when she was a baby, he left plenty of money for Lucia & her mother to be cared for. As she grew Lucia learned of The Christ & was raised in the Christian faith. She made a secret vow never to marry but instead to spend her life serving the poor. Her mother was unaware of this vow, & pressed her to marry a man who was pagan. Although she resisted, Lucia became engaged to this man.
Around that time, her mother suffered from unexplained bleeding, & Lucia persuaded her to go to the tomb of St. Agatha to pray. Miraculously, her mother was healed. After this, Lucia told her mother of her vow never to marry, & persuaded her that in gratitude to God they should give away their wealth to the poor of the city. So, by candlelight, the mother & daughter went about the city secretly ministering to the poor. Some even said she would bring food to the poor people living in caves, & that because she needed both hands to carry the food, she strapped candles to her head.
As a result of her vow, the young man she had been engaged to was furious. Not only did he lose the opportunity of having the beautiful Lucia as his wife, he also missed out on the great amount of money that would have been her dowry that he would have received in the event of their marriage. He went to the governor & accused her of both being a Christian, & aiding other Christians. At that time, it was illegal to be a Christian. Lucia was called before a judge & given the chance to renounce her faith, but she refused.
The judge ordered her to be taken away & executed, but the soldiers who came to drag her away could not budge her. Instead, they put wood around her & laid a fire beneath her, but the fire would not light. Finally, the judge called forth one of the soldiers & told him to kill her with his sword, which he did.
Many years later, Sweden was in the grip of a terrible famine. At the height of that dark, icy winter, hunger & suffering were at their worst. People were reduced to grinding tree bark to bake into bitter bread. But on the long night of Santa Lucia Day a brilliantly lit ship came sailing across the stormy waters of Lake Vannern. At the helm stood a beautiful young woman dressed all in white, with a face so radiant that there was a glow of light all about her head. As the vessel touched shore, great quantities of food & clothing appeared with her for the starving. When asked her name, she simply replied “Lucia”. When all were fed & cared for, the vessel disappeared as quickly as it had come. To this day, the people of Sweden celebrate the remembrance of Lucia, & how she came to save the people of their country.
The emblem of eyes on a cup or plate recalls her torture & suffering & reflects popular devotion to her as protector of the light which brings sight. In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown in Gothic art holding her eyes on a golden plate. She also holds the palm branch, symbol of victory over evil.
The story of St. Lucia resonated particularly in Scandinavia where it became mingled with those earlier Norse legends. Today it is one of the very few saint days observed in Scandinavia. Put the two together, the religious & the folklore, & you create a warm & joyous day dedicated to the finding of light in the darkness.
My daughter, who attended the YIP program in Jarna Sweden can attest that they do indeed celebrate this joyful fest, which begins before dawn. Traditionally it is the oldest girl in the family rising to make saffron buns & coffee for her parents. She wears white, with a red sash & a wreath of candles on her head. Other girls in the family are dressed in white as attendants & the boys are dressed as “star boys” with pointy star hats.
In the pedagogy of the Waldorf schools, the 2nd grade studies the Saints, so they take up this festival. The youngest in the class wears the candle crown & the class processes thru the hallways singing:
Santa Lucia, Thy light is glowing
All through the darkest night, comfort bestowing
Dreams float on wings of night,
Comes then the morning light
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Through silent winter gloom, Thy song comes winging to
Waken the Earth anew, Glad carols bringing,
Come thou, oh queeen of Night,
Wearing thy crown so bright,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia, Christmas foretelling,
Fill hearts with hope and cheer, Dark fear dispelling,
Bring to the world’s call,
Peace and goodwill to all,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia
Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as an event signaling the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the birth of the Light on Christmas Day. It is said that to vividly celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.
What would it be like to use this feast day as an opportunity to ‘see’ the growing darkness with eyes of hope, knowing that in the dark womb the light will be reborn, again & yet again.
13 December 2022 – “Speaking with the Stars”: Nature brings us its own version of holiday lighting with the annual return of the luminous Geminid meteor shower.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
662- Feast Day of Saint Odilia, patron saint of good eyesight, & of Alsace. Odilia was born blind. Her father did not want her because she was a girl & handicapped, so her mother had her brought to Palma where she was raised by peasants there. A tenth-century legend relates that when she was twelve, Odile was taken into a nearby monastery. While there, the itinerant bishop Saint Erhard of Regensburg was led, by an angel, to Palma where he baptized her Odile (Sol Dei), whereupon she miraculously recovered her sight. Her younger brother Hughes had her brought home again, which enraged her father so much that he accidentally killed his son. Odile miraculously revived him, & left home again.
She fled across the Rhine to a cave near Freiburg Germany. It is said the cliff face opened up in order to rescue her from her plight. In the cave, she hid from her father. When he tried to follow her, he was injured by falling rocks & gave up.
When her father fell ill, Odile returned to nurse him. He finally gave up resisting his headstrong daughter & founded the Augustine monastic community of Mont Ste. Odile in the Hochwald, Bas-Rhin, where Odile became abbess.
Some years later Odile was shown the site of Niedermünster at the foot of the mountain by St. John the Baptist in a vision. There she founded a second monastery, including a hospital. The local well is still said to cure eye diseases.
St. Odile died about 720 at the convent of Niedermünster. At the insistent prayers of her sisters she was returned to life, but after describing the beauties of the afterlife to them, she took communion by herself & died again.
1204 – Deathday of Maimonides, a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific & influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Cordova, (present-day Spain) on Passover Eve he worked as a rabbi, physician, & philosopher in Morocco & Egypt.
During his lifetime, most Jews greeted Maimonides’ writings on Jewish law & ethics with acclaim & gratitude, even as far away as Iraq & Yemen, his copious work comprises a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. He is sometimes known as “ha Nesher ha Gadol” (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.
Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic & Arab sciences. Influenced by Al-Farabi, Avicenna, & his contemporary Averroes .He in his turn influenced other prominent Arab & Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher & polymath in both the Jewish & Islamic worlds.
Maimonides exerted an important influence on the Scholastic philosophers, especially on Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas & Duns Scotus. He was a Jewish Scholastic. Educated by reading the works of Arab Muslim philosophers , he acquired an intimate acquaintance not only with Arab Muslim philosophy, but with the doctrines of Aristotle. Maimonides strove to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy & science with the teachings of the Torah.
1294 – Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit. He was elected pope in the Catholic Church’s last non-conclave papal election, ending a two-year impasse. Among the only edicts of his to remain in force was the confirmation of the right of the pope to abdicate; nearly all of his other official acts were annulled by his successor, Boniface VIII. On 13 December 1294, a week after issuing the decree, Celestine resigned, stating his desire to return to his humble, pre-papal life. He was subsequently imprisoned by Boniface in the castle of Fumone in the Campagna region, in order to prevent his potential installation as antipope. He died in prison at the age of 81. Celestine was canonized by Pope Clement V. No subsequent pope has taken the name Celestine
1466 – Deathday of Donatello, Italian painter & sculptor
1476 – Birthday of St. Lucy Brocadelli, mystic & stigmatic. Lucy was born in 1476 on the feast day of St. Lucia, the eldest of eleven children in the town of Narni (then called Narnia) in the region of Umbria. When she was only five years old, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Two years later, she had another vision, this time of the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic. Dominic is said to have given her his scapular at this time. When she was twelve years old, Lucy made a private vow of chastity, & she determined to become a Dominican nun.
Her uncle tried to get her to marry Count Pietro di Alessio of Milan, an acquaintance of the family. Lucy was actually quite fond of him, but felt that her earlier vow of perpetual virginity made the marriage impossible. The strain Lucy felt as a result of the conflicting feelings made her seriously ill. During this time, the Virgin Mary & Saint Dominic again appeared to her, this time accompanied by St. Catherine of Siena. They reportedly advised Lucy to contract a legal marriage to Pietro, but to explain that her vow of virginity would have to be respected & not violated. Pietro agreed to the terms, & the marriage was formalized.
Lucy performed austere penances, which included regularly wearing a hair shirt under her garments & spending most of the night in prayer as well as helping the poor. The servants told her husband that Lucy was often visited in the evenings by Saint Catherine, Saint Agnes, & Saint Agnes of Montepulciano, who helped her make bread for the poor.
However, when one of the servants came up to him one day & told him that Lucy was privately entertaining a handsome young man she appeared to be quite familiar with. He took up his sword & went to see who this person was. When he arrived, he found Lucy contemplating a large crucifix. The servant told him that the man he had seen Lucy with looked like the figure on the crucifix.
Later Lucy left one night for a local Franciscan friary, only to find it closed. She returned home the following morning, stating that she had been led back by two saints. That was enough for Pietro. He had her locked away for the bulk of one Lenten season. She was visited only by servants who brought her food. When Easter arrived, however, she managed to escape from Pietro back to her mother’s house &, on 8 May 1494, became a Dominican tertiary. Pietro expressed his disapproval of this in a rather dramatic form—by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit of the Order.
The next year she was sent to Viterbo to establish a new convent & here she found she was frequently the object of unwanted attention, as she was reported to have received the stigmata. Lucy did her best to hide these marks, & was frequently in spiritual ecstasy. T
The local Prior Provincial of the Dominican Order would not permit any member of the Order to see her. There are records that at least one Dominican, Catherine of Racconigi, did visit her, evidently by bilocation, & that Lucy’s earlier visitations by departed saints continued. This punishment was to last her entire life. When she died her body was laid out for burial & so many people wanted to pay their last respects that her funeral had to be delayed by three days. Her tomb in the convent church was opened four years later & her perfectly preserved body was transferred to a glass case.
The 4th Sunday of Advent – 18 December 2022
at the Rudolf Steiner Branch Chicago, 2 pm – 3:30 pm CST
(after Rev. Jonah Evans talk at the Christian Community)
The Individuality of Conscience and the Goetheanum
with Lucien Dante Lazar
Out of our conscience, we witness the Christ in the other. And through this Seeing, our I is born within us, whose self-conscious interior is the I of God. This is a mystery of John the Baptist.
When Love enters the human heart as an awakening to freedom, the Wisdom of form enters our awareness, and color, that majesty of Light, teaches us about creation. This is a mystery of the painter Raphael.
When the Word approaches us, inspiring us in our language to find the Heavenly Sophia as intellect, we write truth and honor the New Revelation of the Christ and His marriage to Sophia. And out of this marriage, we learn about ourselves. This is a mystery of Novalis.
On this last Sunday of Advent dedicated to the Human Being & the Angels, we will engage in these three Christian gifts through the social encounter, our working with color, and our thinking through language. And we will strive to harmonize these three incarnations of this significant individuality with the birth, death, and resurrection of the Goetheanum.
$10-$50 or pay what you will at the door or online www.rschicago.org/donate(credit card or PayPal)
For more Info. contact Cultural Events & Festivals Coordinator
Rudolf Steiner Branch 4249 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 (map)
The ‘Envy of the Gods’ – The ‘Envy of Human Beings’
Presented by Adriana Koulias*
A Winter Solstice offering preparing us for the Centennial commemoration
of the burning of the first Goetheanum.
21 December 2022, at 5 pm PT, 6 pm MT, 7 pm CT, 8 pm ET
Here is a link to the World Clock for your time zone
Online & in-person at the Rudolf Steiner Branch Chicago
Dear Friends – This special presentation is supported by your generous donations. $10-$50 or pay what you will www.rschicago.org/donate (credit card or PayPal)
Please type ‘Adriana’ to designate your payment
For those attending in-person doors open at 5:30 pm for our Potluck meal.
Please bring food & drink to share.
For more Info. contact Cultural Events & Festivals Coordinator Hazel Archer-Ginsberg
You are invited to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Adriana Koulias
Time: Dec 21, 2022, 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Work on building the First Goetheanum, which was designed and supervised by Rudolf Steiner, began after the laying of the double dodecahedron foundation stone on the 20th of September 1913. Construction proceeded for a decade under enormous difficulties in the political, economic and cultural realms, brought on by the advent of the First World War. After the war when the building was near completion, the First Goetheanum was destroyed by an arsonist on New Year’s Eve 1922/1923.
This NYE 2022-23 will be the 100th anniversary of this event and the world is again facing many difficulties, political, economic and social. Adriana’s lecture will explore what Rudolf Steiner meant by the ‘Envy of the Gods and the Envy of Human beings’ and how a consciousness of this during the coming 12 Holy Nights can provide the necessary strengthening for the coming twelve months.
During this presentation Adriana will speak about the three gifts given by Rudolf Steiner in 1913: The naming of Anthroposophy, The Fifth Gospel, and The Laying of the Foundation Stone of the First Goetheanum. She will explore with us how we can link our hearts to the old Goetheanum during the coming 12 Holy Nights to prepare ourselves for the coming 12 months in 2023, so we can work towards a Cosmic New Year.
In this way we will celebrate the Jubilee of the Christmas Conference and the resurrection of the living impulse of the First Goetheanum in the most auspicious way.
For Rudolf Steiner tells us: ‘My dear friends, may this link our hearts to the old Goetheanum which we had to consign to the elements. May it link our hearts also to the Spirit, to the Soul of this Goetheanum. With this vow before whatever is best within our being we want to live on not only into the new year. In strength of deed, bearing the spirit, leading the soul we want to live on into the new cosmic year.’ ~Rudolf Steiner, ‘The Envy of the Gods and the Envy of Human Beings.’
Adriana Koulias was born in 1960 in Brazil. Adriana moved to Australia when she was 9 years old where she lives today. She has studied art, operatic singing and nursing. She has been studying Anthroposophy (awareness of our humanity) as given by Rudolf Steiner for 33 years and has since 2002-3 integrated this knowledge into several novels and a number of books, international lectures and articles online and in magazines.