Crossing the threshold of the church of “Mary, Joy of the Infirm” is to enter directly into the heart of the Orthodox faith. The praise expressed by the hymns and prayers, from inside the doors of the temple continued for two hours, and created among the faithful a climate of deep prayer. The liturgy was solemn; the vestments were splendid and rich, all of them red because of Easter.
Maria Voce, wore a veil over her head, like the one all the Russian women wore who were attending the liturgy together with the Orthodox members of the Focolare Movement. It was a time of fellowship and respect for the different churches in attendance. At the conclusion, everyone exchanged three kisses to seal a pact of mutual love, as a witness to a bond of unity that recalls the words of Saint Paul: “there is neither Jew nor Greek” which, now, in front of iconostasis could be translated: “there is no Orthodox nor Catholic, but we are all one in Christ.”
The celebration was followed by a greeting to Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, who presides over the external relations department of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He was visibly pleased to see the president of the Movement and her Catholic delegation together with the Orthodox who accompanied her. Father Dimitri Sizonenko, acting head of the Secretariat for inter-Christian relations, was particularly overjoyed by the testimony of unity given by the Movement and called for a wider spreading of this spirit.
Two more meetings remained for the afternoon of May 15, with the families and with the young people. “How are we to convey the spirit of the Movement to our children? How can we help other families to appreciate the faith? What should we do when we feel overcome by our weakness?” These were some of the questions posed by the thirty persons – most of them young couples. Some were married in the Church after having encountered the charism of Chiara Lubich, while others came to appreciate the importance of fedelity in marriage after having had quite another kind of experience. Years of atheism have left their mark on the family institution. Marriages are often unstable and the decision to get married is often more a matter of tradition than of personal conviction. There are many divorces, unmarried couples living together, and alcoholism. “The messages is given by the testimony that you offer as a family,» Maria Voce responded, “by your capacity to say you’re sorry, to go back and look at the other with love after a moment of difficuulty. This is worth more than many words,” Giancarlo Faletti continued: “No one likes to suffer. But God meets us in our suffering and he allows himself to be met so that he can tell us something and give us something, to help us go on loving.”
The meeting with youths began with an informal gesture. Neckties were removed, guitars began to play, and photographs were taken. There was open discussion about the challenges of Russian society, including corruption, excessive freedom, and the difficulty of finding a place for the upcoming Genfest (Budapest, September 2012).
One young man would leave his job after he had unwittingly endorsed a fraud. “You need to take a decisive step give witness. In these places you can change if there are people like you,” is the encouragement of Maria Voce “You’re in an environment that needs to be Christianised,” Giancarlo Faletti affirms, “and Jesus is using you to convey a message. Inside a ruthless economist, there is always a man with a soul. We cannot give up, we must bear witness.”
“Free choice is an opportunity that God gives us to exercise our freedom,” the president replied to Liza who could not find a sense of direction for his life. Considering your actions with your brothers can help to amplify what God is asking you and help you to give a firm response.” There was seriousness and fresh commitment during the two hours of discussions, concluding with Maria Voce’s words of trust: “I leave you to do, I trust in Jesus in you and among you. The Genfest will be a surprise and will be most beautiful because you will do it.”
By our correspondent Maddalena Maltese