In today’s first reading at Holy Mass, for Monday of the third week of Advent, we read/hear an early prophecy for the coming of Christ. It comes from a very unexpected source. When the Israelites were encamped in Moab, passing through on their way into the promised land, the king of Moab, Balak fears that they will invade his land. So, he hires a non-Israelite diviner or seer, named Balaam, to curse the Israelites. Instead of cursing them, he is compelled to pronounce blessings on them. After the third blessing, the Holy Spirit granted him a glimpse into Israel’s future glory. He was given to “see what the Almighty sees, enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.” What did Balaam see?
“I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.“– Numbers 24:17
This refers to the future king of Israel, “star” and “scepter” being terms relating to royalty. The prophecy was immediately fulfilled in King David, who is associated with the symbol of a star. But it was also applied towards the anticipation of an ultimate king who would sit on the throne of David and cause it to continue.
A non-Israelite who was in no way expected to have spiritual vision, essentially sees God coming from afar off! He is contrasted in the readings today with those who had every reason to recognize him but did not. We read/hear how the Jewish chief priests and elders question Jesus on his authority for doing the things they saw him doing. They failed to see the One who stood in their midst as the long-awaited Messiah; they failed to perceive that he was operating with Divine authority – – his own.
Speaking of sight, today is also, providentially, the Feast of St. Lucy, the patroness of afflictions of the eyes. She was a young Sicilian woman who consecrated her virginity to Christ. When her mother decided to have her marry a pagan man, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha for her mother’s healing from an illness.. Her mother was indeed healed – – physically, but not just physically, because she relented from her own plans for her daughter. Unfortunately though, the young man who was interested in marrying Lucy sought revenge by revealing to the authorities that she was a Christian. This led to her martyrdom in, during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian.
Even when it was hard to see, Lucy waited courageously for the dawning of the Light whom she believed in and followed – – and radiated. She is one of those wise virgins (the Gospel reading for the Memorial of St. Lucy) who had the oil of faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in her flask, enabling her to see in the dark. Christ her King and Bridegroom filled her with his own light which can never be exterminated, For his sake, Lucy underwent the torture of having her eyes put out and was eventually killed by the sword. And now her name, Lucy, which means light (from the root “lux”, is mentioned along with several other Saints of the early Church, at every Mass in the Eucharistic prayer. She is good Advent Saint to herald the coming of the Light that illuminates all men. He is coming to heal the eyes of the blind; he comes to dispel the darkness of the winter of sin and death that plagues us. St. Lucy saw him with faith and knew that she would see him face-to-face in all his glory.
The light of St. Lucy’s faith in Christ spread way beyond Sicily to the northern countries of Europe. In Scandinavian countries that experience long dark winters, there is a tradition of young girls dressed in white, wearing lit candle wreaths atop their heads to express devotion to St. Lucy on her feast day.
May the holy virgin Saint Lucy pray for us to see Christ’s brightness dawn in our hearts this Christmas.
Prayer to Saint Lucy Saint Lucy, whose beautiful name signifies light, by the light of faith which God bestowed upon you increase and preserve His light in my soul so that I may avoid evil and be zealous in the performance of good works, and detest nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and sin. Obtain for me, by your intercession with God perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of souls. St. Lucy, virgin and martyr hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.