On Light | by Elizabeth Fong

Lucy rejected her bridegroom because she had promised herself to Christ. According to legend, her punishment for this rejection was to be burned alive, but the fire would not start. She was then ordered to be defiled in a brothel, but her feet would not move. In some versions of the story, her eyes are gouged out by persecutors, in others she plucks her own eyes out and gives them to her suitor on a plate.

Lucia comes from the latin lux which means light.

August 21st, 2017: The first total solar eclipse visible from America in over three decades. A solar eclipse happens when a new moon blocks the sun rays from reaching the earth. The sun is 400 times the size of the moon, but is 400 times farther away– this is why the the sun and the moon appear the same size from Earth’s sky, and why total eclipses are possible.

A cosmic miracle, if you will.

Lucy was never canonized because her story took place pre-congregation, prior to the creation of the canonization process. But because of her devout faith in Christ, she is recognized as St. Lucy, the patron saint of the blind.

I don’t have the proper eye protection to look at the eclipse, so I make a pinhole projector out of a cereal box. With my back towards the sun I look into my makeshift eclipse viewer; I see the small shadow of the moon moving in front of the sun projected onto cardboard— I see the dim echo of something too bright to look at.

I dream of Lucy with her eyes on a plate. I see her empty sockets; this too is an offering.

There is distance between what we see and what is actually there— there is always something lost in translation. No matter how skewed, I am grateful for my sight. I love every particle of light and how it holds my loved ones. Simone Weil wrote, “Let us love this distance that is thoroughly woven with friendship, for those who do not love each other are not separated.” I’m still learning how to be grateful for the lack, for the not yet.

Sight connects, but it also isolates.

It is through light that I’m able to see. Sometimes I’ll look down at my own hands typing or holding a fork and I am struck by my own aliveness, by the stark difference between my hands and the object I’m holding. How strange it is to be confronted with the edges of yourself.

Light is both a wave and a particle. I constantly rock back and forth between delight and shame.

I have a poster in my room that is pinned on the wall perpendicular to my window. Over time, the pigment has faded. The proper term for this is photodegradation. As light fills the room, the ultraviolet rays from the sun breakdown chemical bonds that are present in dyes. This process alters the amount of light absorbed by a particular wavelength, and thus color drains.

The sun will damage our eyes too. If you look directly at a solar eclipse with bare eyes, the sun’s light can burn your retina, causing partial blindness. This phenomenon is called solar retinopathy. And while the sun’s rays literally destroy the cells in the retina, the partial blindness appears a few days after the original injury, and occurs without pain.

When my eyes catch flame, I know that to look is to empty. Now I too have an offering, Now I’m gazing inwards at the emptiness, begging to be filled again.

In every version of St. Lucy’s story, God returns her sight. I imagine her with her new eyes: Is everything as she left it? She doesn’t remember; Lucy doesn’t care about the space in between what she sees and what actually is. Everything is so vibrantly colored, it overwhelms her. The new sight makes her remember losing her eyes. For a moment, the memory pain leaves her breathless. As tears well up in her eyes, she reaches up to touch her cheek and I too remember what it is to cry.

 


 

Elizabeth lives in Minnesota. She has never been sunburned.

Twitter: @grizzfang