Today the Church honors St. Lucy, often referred to as the “Saint of Light.” It is not uncommon to have a procession with young girls carrying candles, with the lead girl wearing a wreath of lights. And by now, most of us have put up lights outside our houses and decorated trees for Christmas. These traditions may pass our attention without much thought to how these lights have spiritual significance. Some additional customs of light have, pardon the pun, illuminated my thinking.
When living in the South American country of Colombia, my family was introduced to a wonderful tradition. The evening of Dec. 7 is known in Colombia as the “Noche de Velitas” (“Night of the Little Candles”). Families and neighbors gather together once the sun sets and light little candles outside their homes. City parks and town squares are illuminated. Medellin, one of the country’s largest cities, is famous for “El Alumbrado” (“the Lighting”) with millions of lights on and around the city’s primary river.
You probably can guess the significance of the date of the celebration. The next day, Dec. 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Colombia marks the eve of this great feast by commemorating the vigil held by those in Rome in anticipation of Pius IX’s papal bull declaring the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.
Even though we are living now in the U.S., we still celebrate the Noche de Velitas because Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception — patroness of the United States and that perfect vessel into which the Christ Child would come — ought to be celebrated with light!The Light Shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness Has Not Overcome It| National Catholic Register