From the editor: December 13, 2013

Lucy of Syracuse
Lucy of Syracuse

Lucy & the Light

Today is the Commemoration of the Martyr Lucy of Syracuse, who witnessed to Christ near the end of the third century in Sicily. The picture is from the interior of the Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy, a sixth-century mosaic in which Lucy is included with other martyrs (Cecilia, Crispina, et al).

In the old Julian Calendar, Dec. 13 was closer to the winter solstice, which may be why Lucy, or Lucia from the word for light, became popular in darkest Scandinavia, where the custom on Dec. 13 was for oldest daughter to awaken her family while wearing a wreath of lit candles.

But my thoughts also turn to light today because I've been reading a lot about light recently. Light is the first creation from God's spoken word: "Let there be light." What exactly is light? It baffled the ancients and still baffles physicists. It behaves as both particle and wave. It is not reducible to component parts—the notion of photon is useful to describe what seems to be a "packet of energy" released when an orbiting electron drops into a lower orbit in an atom. The math works, but light is still mysterious: it travels at the same speed relative to any observer regardless of the speed of the observer. (Think of a car going 60 passing me while I am going 55—it will appear to be going 5 mph relative to me: this is not the case with light.) Light simply is its own thing, and not reducible to the mechanics of normal particles nor tied to the mechanics of space-time.

Light strikes me as a mirror of the infinite: you can move faster and faster but never catch up to it in the same way that you cannot catch up to an infinity of numbers, no matter how many numbers you "travel"—you should be getting closer to infinity but you are separated by the same infinite "distance." We are finite, but God dwells in unapproachable light, says St. Paul. How did he know this? Perhaps from reading Psalm 104:2: "He covers himself with light as with a garment." Unapproachable gets at that idea of us finite creatures trying to reach the Infinite. And yet...

The great mystery we are preparing to celebrate this month is the Birth of Immanuel, God With Us. The Infinite allows us to catch up by reaching down—the Infinite God becomes Incarnate, finite, enfleshed, subjected to human experience, except for sin:

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not...[He] was the true Light, that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:4-5, 9)

So, in these dark times, let us always keep turning toward the Light! And, speaking of true light, please read "Into the Light," a Christmas meditation for you by Anthony Esolen.

—James M. Kushiner