Holy Darkness, Holy Light

Homily, Holy Darkness, Holy Light
Feast of Santa Lucia, Year C, 2021
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Tequesta, FL

The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

-Genesis 1:9–13

-Psalm 104:1,6,11–26

-Matthew 6:25–34

We are living in Darkness

We are living in dark times.
Even now the sun is setting and soon we will be sitting in the quiet of night.
We are living in dark times. 
The winter solstice draws near and the nights grow longer.
The sun sets earlier; the dawn awakens later.
We are living in dark times.
It’s the season of Advent and we read Scriptures that describe the sun and moon going dark and we say prayers which ask for the darkness to be scattered. 

We are living in dark times, and for many of us, that can be uncomfortable. From our youth we are taught that darkness is a threat, and so the idea of living in dark times can be scary. 

Darkness can be holy

And yet, while Scripture is certainly filled with images of darkness for sin and evil, it is also filled with images of darkness as a sign of God’s presence. 

Think of Moses covered in the dark cloud of God’s presence on Mount Sinai or the words of Psalm 97:2, “Clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.”

Darkness can be holy. 

Even now in the season of Advent, when we talk so much about the light overcoming the darkness, darkness can be a gift. 

I think about the protective and creative darkness within the womb of Mary. 
I think about the beautiful darkness of Mary and Jesus’ skin. 
I think about the quiet darkness of that silent and holy night. 

Yes, at times, we speak of darkness as something bad, but sometimes darkness can be good. Even in this moment, how beautiful it is to pray and worship together as the light fades. 

Santa Lucia

Today we celebrate the feast of Santa Lucia, St. Lucy, whose name means light and whose head is adorned with the glow of candles. And yet from the earliest times her feast day was associated with the winter solstice, the darkest and longest night of the year. And so here on this feast day we have a fusion of light and dark. And perhaps on this day darkness and light are not so much enemies as they are friends, walking together.

There is an old legend about Santa Lucia that says that in the 3rd century when Christians were being killed and persecuted under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, Christians would take shelter in the darkness of the catacombs. There in these underground tunnels of tombs Christians prayed and worshiped together because to do so in the light would be too dangerous. In the midst of those times, Santa Lucia, secretly a Christian herself, entered the darkness of those tombs carrying food and supplies to her siblings in Christ. Legend has it that because her hands were full, she adorned her head with a wreath of candles to light the path before her—just enough light so that she could find her way. 

And so here again, we see the union of light and dark. The darkness that covers the Christian community in safety and protection and the light that guides Santa Lucia upon her way. Darkness and light. Darkness and light. 

Finding God in Darkness

You know I wonder how many things in our lives that we experience as darkness hold something of the holy in them. I wonder how many things there are in our lives that we would rather avoid and have scattered than recognize how God might be present within them. 

I’m not saying that all darkness is good, just I wouldn’t say that all things that appear as light are good. But I do wonder what we would find if we went looking for God in the darkness. I wonder what we would find if we walked with Santa Lucia into the darkness, adorned with just enough light for each step. 

The Tradition of Santa Lucia

On this Feast Day of Santa Lucia, this festival of light in the midst of darkness, there is a tradition all across Scandinavia, and especially Sweden to gather and sing together in darkness. And to appoint one person from among us to clothe herself as Santa Lucia, crown of candles and all. And just as Santa Lucia entered the darkness of the catacombs to bring food to her siblings in Christ, our own Santa Lucia comes forward bringing food to those gathered. It is a time to celebrate light. And it also a time to celebrate the dark. 

And so at this time, I invite our own Santa Lucia, Sophie Riddle, to come forward with her treats—cookies all the way from Sweden (by way of Ikea), and to share them with all of us as we sing the traditional song for this day. And as she does, I invite you to take some time to reflect on the darkness and light in your life, that you might find God in them both. 


In these dark times, as the sun is setting, on this Feast Day of Santa Lucia, in the season of Advent, as we draw closer to the winter solstice, may your light know holy darkness and may your darkness know holy light. Amen.