Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Life of St. Lucy

by Ælfric


The Life of St. Lucy was taken from 'Ælfric’s Lives of the Saints', a sermon-cycle composed in the last decade of the tenth century. Ælfric wrote most of his works while he was a monk at Cerne Abbas, Dorset, before he became abbot of Eynsham in Oxfordshire in 1005. Ælfric was a prolific writer, composing not only three cycles of homilies (two sets of Catholic Homilies, and the Lives of the Saints), but also various other works of an educational nature, including a Grammar and a Colloquy, both designed to help in the teaching of Latin. He is generally regarded as the most important and versatile prose-writer of late Anglo-Saxon England, only rivaled by his contemporary Wulfstan.

Larger Work

Ælfric's Lives of Saints

Publisher & Date

Early English Text Society, 1881-1900

The renown of St. Agatha [another virgin martyr] spread over land and sea, and a great multitude out of Syracuse sought the virgin's tomb, from a distance of fifty miles, in the city of Catana, with great devotion. Then a certain widow named Eutychia came to the famous tomb along with some others, including the blessed Lucy. The widow was diseased, having had a flux blood for the space of four years, and had tried many physicians; but all of them could not heal the one of her. Then at the mass it chanced to be read how the woman who had a flux of blood was healed when she touched the Savior's robe. Then the faithful Lucy said to her mother, "If you believe this well-known gospel, mother, believe that Agatha has merited from Christ, since she suffered for his name, that she may always behold him in her presence, in eternal bliss. Now touch her tomb, and you will immediately be well."

After the mass the mother and daughter prostrated themselves in prayer at the tomb. While they lay there praying, Lucy fell asleep and saw Agatha among hosts of angels, splendidly adorned, and called to her thus, crying from above: "My sister Lucy, true virgin of God, why do you ask me for what you yourself could grant? Your holy faith has helped your mother: look! she is entirely healed through Christ; and even as this town is made famous by me through Christ's favor, so shall Syracuse be made famous by you, because you prepared yourself for Christ, in your pure virginity, as a pure habitation." Then Lucy woke up.

She rose, trembling because of that bright vision, and said to her mother, "you are mightily healed. Now I pray you, by the same one who healed you with prayers, that you never name to me any bridegroom, nor expect of my body any mortal fruit. As for the property that you would have given me for my pollution, give it to me for my chastity: for I am going to Christ."

Her mother said, "you know my wealth, and I have kept your father's property for nine years now against all losses, and I have increased it further. First close my eyes, then dispose of the property however you please, dear daughter."

Then Lucy said, "listen to my counsel; you can take nothing with you from this life, and whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Savior, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death."

Thus Lucy frequently exhorted her mother until she sold her shining gems and even her land for ready money, and distributed it to the poor and to strangers, to widows and exiles, and to the wise servants of God. This came to the ears of the nobly-born youth who was wooing Lucy, who was named Paschasius. He was an impious heathen, who enticed the holy maiden to make offerings to devils; but the Lord's virgin said, "A pure offering is this, and acceptable to God, that one should visit widows, and comfort exiles, and help orphan children in their affliction. For three years now I have been employed about no other deeds, but have offered these offerings to the living Lord. Now I desire truly to offer myself to him, because for some time I have had nothing to spend in his service."

Then Paschasius was angry, and they spoke a great deal until he promised her a beating if she would not be silent.

Lucy said to him, "the words of the living God cannot be suppressed or put to silence."

Then he asked her slanderously, "What, are you God?"

Lucy answered, "I am the Almighty's handmaid and therefore I speak God's words, since he says in his gospel, "It is not you who speak there, but the Holy Spirit speaks in you."

After that Paschasius arrogantly inquired, "Really! Does the Holy Spirit dwell in you?"

Lucy answered the impious one and said, "The apostle promised those who preserve their chastity that they may be God's temple and the habitation of the Holy Spirit."

The impious one said, "I shall immediately have men lead you to the house of prostitution, where you will lose your virginity. The Holy Spirit will flee from you when you are thus foully dishonored."

Lucy answered, "No one's body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me."

Then the cruel one wished to carry out his word, to have her led to loathsome pollution, and began to drag her to the house of lechery. But God's might was displayed at once in the maiden: the Holy Spirit held her, and fastened her as by a great weight, so that the wicked ones could not remove the maiden. With cruel intent they fastened ropes to her hands and feet, and many tugged at once, but she was not moved: she stood firm as a mountain.

The impious Paschasius was perplexed, and commanded false sorcerers to be brought to him, so that they could overpower the virgin of God with their enchantments. But when they did not succeed, he commanded oxen to be harnessed to her, but even so they could not budge the maiden.

The murderer said to the pure maid, "Why is it that a thousand men cannot move you, weak as you are?"

Lucy said to him, "Even if you called ten thousand men, they would hear the Holy Spirit speaking thus: Cadent a latere tuo mille, et decem millia a dextris tuis, tibi autem non adpropinquabit malum. 'A thousand shall fall beside you, and then a thousand at your right hand, but no evil will approach you.'"

The impious one was yet more perplexed, and he commanded men to light a great pile around the maiden, and sprinkle her with pitch and oil. She stood undismayed in the fire, and said, "I have obtained from Christ in prayer that this deadly fire may have no power over me, that you will be put to shame, and that this example will dispel all fear of torture from believers and take from unbelievers their cruel joy."

Then the impious one was madly vexed, so that his friends could not assuage his madness; but they urged him to kill the pure maid with the sword. Then she was wounded, so that her bowels fell out, and still she did not die, but continued in prayer as long as she wished, and said to the people, "I tell you truly that peace is granted to God's congregation, and the furious emperor Diocletian is deposed from his empire, and Maximian the evildoer is dead. Even as the city of Catana within its walls has the powerful intercessions of my sister Agatha, so am I allotted by Almighty God now to this city of Syracuse, to intercede for you, if you receive the faith."

While she spoke thus, the wicked Paschasius was bound with chains and led before the virgin. He had previously been accused, for his cruel deeds, to the Roman people, who governed all the land. He was brought in bonds to Rome, and when he could not excuse his evil deeds the senators commanded him to be beheaded.

The blessed Lucy remained in the same place where she was struck down until priests came and administered the sacrament with the holy mysteries, and she departed to Christ as they were saying "Amen."

Then the people reared a church on the spot where she lay and hallowed it in her name to glory of the Savior who reigns as God throughout eternity. Amen.

This translation is from Walter W. Skeat, ed., 'Ælfric's Lives of Saints'. Early English Text Society, original series, vols. 76, 82, 94, 114 (London, 1881-1900); it has been revised somewhat.

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