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Christmas Liturgy in the church of the Patriarch’s residence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the city of Bari

Bari, Italy • January, 7, 2012

Many believers gathered for the Divine Christmas Liturgy in the Russian church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in the city of Bari. The liturgy was conducted by the dean of the church archpriest Andrey Boytsov. A lot of orthodox believers came from other Italian cities (Naples, Rome and others) to participate in the solemn ceremony.

The Eucharist of laypeople at the Christmas Liturgy.

At the most exiting moment of the Divine Liturgy in the Russian Church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Bari on the joyous day of Christmas the believers came up to the Eucharistic Chalice and through partaking the holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ became communicants of the Holy Spirit on this great festive day, the core of the core of the Christian Church.

A part of a splendid church chandelier of forged iron
in the central part of the Russian Church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in the city of Bari

Of course there were also pilgrims, who came to Italy from faraway Russia to say their prayers in the Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in the city where his relics are kept. On this day, Chairman of the Board of St Nicholas the Wonderworker Charitable Foundation Andrey Bykov also said his prayers at the Liturgy in the Church of the Patriarch’s residence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Bari.

Riccardo Pierno, the director of the Italian department of the Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker Foundation, an Italian and a Catholic, who participated in an orthodox Christmas Liturgy for the first time describes his impressions as follows:

"Though I couldn’t understand what the choir was singing and the priest was proclaiming during the liturgy I had never felt the presence of God in and around myself as clearly as on that night. With all my senses – smell, touch and hearing. Thanks to the beautiful melodies of the chants which the language barrier can’t prevent from being understood, thanks to the warm, soft and intimate lighting of the church, the smell of labdanum and melting candle wax, spiritual faces of those surrounding me, even without understanding the language I merged with the overall feeling of the solemnity of the holyday.

An Orthodox Liturgy is a full immersion of a person, of all his or her being: soul, body and spirit into the prayer!

My experience of that day was a deepest one. And I was impressed by the unity of the Orthodox believers nor less than by the very Liturgy: it gave me that unique impression of being among people I had never met before and feeling that I’d known them for a very long time – whole my life. These fellowship and unity give birth to such a joy, wish for the good for all people, close and distant ones, wish to do good by yourself and bring only joy to this world! The soul is almost soaring on the wings of Christian love, filling with some special, wonderful silence and calmness. That is exactly what I couldn’t find in my tradition and I would really want to fill in for this lack.

It was very pleasant to see there so many Italians married to Orthodox believers who came to the Liturgy to express their deep respect to the Orthodox tradition and fraternal love.

I’d like to finish with an episode linked with the Cross. When all of us having formed a line were kissing the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and my turn came up, father Andrey said to me in Italian: To you, Riccardo! Accept my greetings! 'In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And he gave me the Cross so that I could kiss it. Probably this episode won’t produce any particular impression on you but I keep coming back to it, go through it over and over again – I was touched by these words, said by an orthodox priest in perfect Italian!

I’m really grateful to two Andreys: father Andrey Boitsov and Andrey Yuryevich Bykov, the head of the Foundation, for the opportunity to experience these inexpressible and unmatched minutes and hours of the Orthodox Christmas service."