The Christmas party of the Moscow CL community

Moscow. "He is near! The Lord is here!"

In Russia, December 25 is an ordinary day (Christmas is celebrated on 7 January). But the CL community in the capital still wanted to get together to celebrate with testimonies, songs and mulled wine, together with Catholic and Orthodox friends.
Alexandra Shilova

For several years, the Moscow community has organised a Christmas party on December 25. This cannot be taken for granted as it is not a public holiday in Russia (Christmas is celebrated on January 7). Sometimes, like last year, the 25th fell on the weekend. This year the holiday fell on a Monday, a working day, and the not insignificant question arose as to whether we had the energy, because the second half of December is a very busy and tiring time for many. In the end, a small group of friends took charge of the organization. Some spent half a day preparing refreshments for 70 people, others were busy thinking about the program.

When we met to discuss the content of the evening, one friend said: “I thought about what I am looking forward to this Christmas, what I would like most. Peace. It is clear that so many are waiting for it and that it is not ours. Peace is Christ's and it is very different from how the world conceives it. This was particularly clear in our community's dialogue with Cardinal Pizzaballa at the beginning of December. How is his witness of peace related to those fruits of the Incarnation mentioned in the CL flyer?"

As he spoke, I had in my eyes the smiling face of the parish priest of Gaza, Fr. Gabriel Romani, whose interview I had read a short time before in Traces. And then other concrete faces, of friends and strangers, whose stories I read on the movement's website: that 'cloud of witnesses' that has accompanied us throughout the year, starting with Jone Echarri. I thought: the mystery of the Incarnation is really not something distant, because it shines in their faces, we can experience it in the lives of those for whom Christ is the supreme object of love. They witness to us this new way of seeing – with the eyes of Jesus – that passes through the darkness and fatigue of circumstances to reach the depths of reality. And that is precisely why they fit in with the need for peace, for justice, for happiness. So I proposed that we show these radiant faces to everyone, let us hear their stories, which affirm precisely the mystery of Christmas: that the Son of God took on our flesh out of mercy, and this changes people today, changes our gaze today.

So in the first part of the evening we spoke about some of them: Jone; Fr. Gabriel; a husband who has lost his wife but has 'fallen in love with Christ', a wife who knows that the only consistency for her and her husband, who is suffering from a serious illness, is Jesus; a young mother and very dear friend who arrived in Italy from Ukraine with her family to discover that her second son has health problems, and after months of misunderstanding and confusion has begun her dialogue with God... Very different stories and at the same time so similar, because they all show how Christ becomes the flesh of everyday life, and they cry out to us: “He is near! The Lord is here!", as we sang in the words of Claudio Chieffo.

This is the good news that we all need so much. After the testimonies, the buffet and guest talks began, and many came to say thank you, impressed and moved. One friend, an Orthodox priest, who has been coming to our Christmas feast for several years, said: “It almost does not feel like Christmas to me, but rather like Holy Week,” because he is fatigued by so many things, as are so many other people who have come: many carry deep wounds and really serious difficulties. Then he added: “But it is true that starlight is best seen in the darkest night.” It was precisely the light that struck his wife: “Thank you, we really need to hear stories like that. In our tradition we are used to thinking that goodness, happiness, will come in another life, who knows when. Instead it is very important, vital, to see that it is already there, that it is happening now.” She said that her father was not very sure about coming, it being Monday and having so many things to sort out, but she insisted: "We have to go, he wants us!"

Among the guests there were many people who do not belong to the community, some unknown, invited by someone. Others, on the other hand, always come. So, as soon as I entered our Cultural Centre, two hours before the start, I saw a family of Orthodox friends with their young son, looking at the books on the shelves. She often used to come in previous years, so I asked her if they had come for the party. "No, we passed by almost by chance, but to tell the truth we were hoping to be at your party!" They waited two hours, stayed for part of the party and had to leave early as they live outside Moscow and were on public transport. Another friend, also Orthodox, came with her whole family and, like every year, prepared mulled wine for everyone. Among those who came for the first time there was a young couple, friends of a person of the community. They were amazed: "We did not think there was such a place in Moscow. People now flee relationships. How is this unity, this communion possible? What do all these people have in common?". Another young friend worked late and came after 11pm, when we were tidying up the hall. But he was happy to have been able to see us anyway and helped us move the tables.

Read also - Sigov: 'The logic of Christmas and Ukraine at war'

After dessert, we sang Christmas carols together, some all together, others prepared by the community's very small choir. It was a very ironic, but very sincere attempt. Fr. Pietro came 1-2 times a month from Novgorod, , which is almost 600 kilometres from Moscow, to hold the rehearsals. The joy of Christmas is a miracle: singing in Russian, Italian, English, Spanish, Latin, Neapolitan... there was an incredible unity, as if there was no language or musical barrier. The last hymn, Gaudete, performed by four voices, again affirmed His carnal presence, which can be touched and experienced among us: “He is near! The Lord is here!”.