Although we are delayed by a few days –you know the “technical” inconveniences of this mission– we write a few lines to wish you happy feasts! We thank all of you for the greetings that you sent us! May God hear your prayers and grant us peace!
We have had very unique celebrations. Because of the danger and having to concentrate all the activities at a prudent time, both the Christmas and the New Year Masses were at 4 pm. And because it is so cold and there is no heat, we are using the Blessed Sacrament chapel instead of the big church. In the windows of the chapel there are still large plastic patches instead of the stained glass – a reminder of the January explosion last year, but at least it’s a smaller environment and forces us to crowd together!
In the recent weeks we have had very little electricity. But as an unexpected Christmas gift, as soon as the Christmas Mass began, we had power! It lasted for an hour longer, so it gave us time to even have a moment of celebration. With music and some sweets the party was ready! Adults and children danced until the last minute that we had power!
And if some skeptic still ventures to attribute it to chance, on the 31st the same thing happened! We got power during Mass!
In the homily, Fr. Rodrigo urged us to be thankful for the good things with which God has blessed us: the gift of life – in the midst of this war we are still alive! Health, when we have no means to protect ourselves from the cold; that our young people are able to continue their education in college, in spite of so many setbacks; that as faithful, we are able to live the spirit of family intensely, and receive the Blessed Sacrament daily; confessions, spiritual exercises, activities and apostolates made under such adverse circumstances, and many other goods received personally.
After the Mass, we were able to have a bit of celebration until power lasted. And we even had a New Year toast with a bottle of homemade red wine, instead of the more refined champagne!
These are small details that may seem insignificant to the eyes of those who do not suffer the hardships that these people go through here. There is no electricity to hear carols or put lights in the manger; no candies or sweet bread or the means to cook party food, no gifts or new clothes, or even the ability to get a good hot shower!
And while it is ultimately only about the “decorative” aspect of the celebrations, it becomes difficult to live them so austerely … However, after the Mass and the Christmas party, everyone told us happily: Thanks! You have made us feel that we are at Christmas!
And these difficulties are just a shadow of what the Christians are really suffering here. When the feast days were approaching, fundamentalist opposition groups, seeking to sow terror and to prevent the faithful from going to pray, openly published on social networks their plan to attack the traditionally Christian neighborhoods in the center of the city during the feast days, “to fire on their houses missiles painted red as gifts from Santa Claus.” And that is what they did. Bombs literally rained on them during those days, claiming thousands of victims and causing destruction everywhere.
But they do not realize that they cannot beat them … Far from intimidating them, they make them stronger! And the danger of losing one’s life could not drown out the Christmas spirit of this people, who once more filled all the Churches of the city of Aleppo.
That is the secret of Christians; it enrages and confuses the devil and those who work under his banner: suffering strengthens them, persecution makes them fruitful, and death gives them life!
Merry Christmas to all! And again a New Year of peace!
Missionaries in Aleppo