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St. Lucy’s Vespers[1]

 

 

ANTIPHON      Psalm 131, 1-2

1 Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. 2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weanèd child.

 

BIDDING PRAYER

O God, make speed to save us; O Lord, make haste to help us.

Your daughter Lucy (Lucia), pure of life, gentle of spirit, and faithful unto you, was martyred in ancient Syracuse, on the shortest day of the year, in a tyrant’s reign of terror. Bless us as we await the return of light to lengthening days, and of your son Jesus Christ with the promise of your salvation and the grace of her endurance, that we may ever be found faithful to you, and to be lights to our world, no matter what darkness abide. Amen.

 

SCRIPTURE READING: Revelation 19:5-8

And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that hear him, both small and great.

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

The Word of the Lord.   Thanks be to God.

 

MUSIC: Christmas: Santa Lucia Sweden: https://youtu.be/i2-Q_ObdE-4

 

POEM: John Donne, Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day[2]

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
         The sun is spent, and now his flasks
         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
                The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
         For I am every dead thing,
         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
                For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
         I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
         Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
                Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
         Were I a man, that I were one
         I needs must know; I should prefer,
                If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
         At this time to the Goat is run
         To fetch new lust, and give it you,
                Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.

 

MUSIC:  Light in Darkness: Swedish Lucia Tradition. https://youtu.be/C9f6zxo6X0s

POEM: San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross), tr. Roy Campbell, With a Divine Intention[3]

Without support, yet well supported,
Though in pitch-darkness, with no ray,
Entirely I am burned away.

My spirit is so freed from every
Created thing, that through the skies,
Above herself, she’s lifted, flies,
And as in a most fragrant reverie,
Only on God her weight applies
This thing which most my faith esteems
For this one fact will be reported –
Because my soul above me streams
Without support, yet well-supported.

What though I languish in the shades
As through my mortal life I go,
Not over-heavy is my woe,
Since if no glow my gloom invades,
With a celestial light I glow.
The love of such a life, I say,
The more benightedly it darkens,
Turns more to that to which it hearkens,
Though in pitch-darkness, with no ray.

Since I knew Love, I have been taught
He can perform most wonderous labours.
Though good and bad in me are neighbours
He turns their difference to naught
Then both into Himself, so sweetly,
And with a flame so fine and fragrant
Which now I feel in me completely
Reduce my being, till no vagrant
Vestige of my own self can stay.
And wholly I am burned away.

MUSIC: LUCIA – The night of light: https://youtu.be/34xgG2q8KMQ

 

About This Service

St. Lucy, or Santa Lucia, was martyred during the persecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian in either the year 303 or 304. This was the last of the persecutions of all Christians by the Roman state, and was perhaps the most fervent. Diocletian’s successor, Constantine, famously converted to Christianity, ended the political persecution of Christians (at least right-believing Christians), and laid the groundwork for orthodox Christianity to become the state religion throughout the empire.

Her history lost now to us in legend and in myth, St. Lucy appears to us as a woman of great piety, purity, and faith – one whom only a fool would wound and only a monster would kill. Her feast day, December 13, was under the old calendar the shortest day (and longest night) of the year, after which the sunlight would gradually begin to return to the earth, a symbol to Christians of the Light of Christ about to come into their world, once again, at Christmas.

Tradition has been for the youngest female child in a family to be St. Lucy on St. Lucy’s Day. She dresses all in white and, at least for a moment, walks before the household with a crown of lighted candles on her head, as steadily as her original walked, it is told, to her doom.

Tyrants and evil people will do as they will, as we have seen even in our own day. Nonetheless,  the light of all faithful people will shine, burning, to oppose them, from atop the smallest and youngest among us, year after year, on the latest dawn and the longest night of the year, and at all other dawns and nights beside.

The feast is one of the holiest and most beloved traditional celebrations in Sweden.

 

Music for St. Lucy’s Vespers

Light in Darkness: Swedish Lucia Tradition. https://youtu.be/C9f6zxo6X0s

Christmas: Santa Lucia Sweden: https://youtu.be/i2-Q_ObdE-4

 

LUCIA – The night of light: https://youtu.be/34xgG2q8KMQ

 

Resources (available for free online)

Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org

Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf

Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (Church Publishing, 2010).

Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982

Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org

St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org

 

A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1] Music for this service is available via the YouTube links placed throughout the service. Please stop the service video and click the links on the service bulletin to open the music.

[2] In the public domain. Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44122/a-nocturnal-upon-st-lucys-day

[3] Source: Mark Pryce, ed., Literary Companion to the Festivals (Fortress, 2003), 167-8.

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