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An “unexpected cave”

by Lorenzo Zura

Last night of the year. Christmas has just passed. I am going, with a companion, to spend the night at the Crocicchio [1]. Outside, people prepare to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Inside everything seems quiet and the same as usual, yet I perceive a different atmosphere…

2nd January, debut of the first course of the year for us novices led by Fr. Dall’Asta on “Art and Faith”. We started by observing, analyzing and admiring “The Vocation of San Matteo” by Caravaggio (I recommend you to look for it on internet and contemplate it)… We can distinguish two groups of characters: on the right two men indicate a group of people around a table, whose attitudes are the most disparate. A great difference emerges immediately: the different way of dressing of the characters. If the characters around the table wear late sixteenth-century Caravaggio clothes, on the other hand the two men are dressed in the old style (with clothes referable to the Roman era). The fact that the characters wear contemporary clothes means that the “spectator” no longer feels the separation between himself and those characters, he can go inside the scene, participate in it and feel that invitation also addressed to himself. From being a simple “spectator” he becomes a witness, contemporary with the mystery, no longer relegated to a distant era, but alive and current in hic et nunc!

This can be assimilated to the composition of place that Ignatius asks us to do in the path of the Spiritual Exercises: to imagine the space in which the Gospel scene takes place, rooting it in the concreteness of one’s experience, so as to be able to identify and participate personally in the event represented.

Christmas has just passed… I imagine a hidden cave, secluded, on the sidelines, not illuminated, silent, out of the center and from the noise of the city, in the suburbs, unnoticed by most… From the most hidden meanders of myself spontaneously emerges an image: the Crocicchio. A place where perhaps I would not spontaneously go, but which in spite of everything exerts a fascination for me, attracts me, calls me. I feel that there I discover something about myself and the great mystery that is Life, which I could not find elsewhere. That humanity so fragile and yet so resistant to the impacts of life constantly challenges me. I wonder if perhaps I am also responsible for their condition, if perhaps it was also me with my lifestyle and my indifference to close the door to them and to induce them to take refuge in that “cave”.

There are many questions that whip in my head when I think to that evening, but perhaps one (that warms my heart and gives me hope) prevails over the other: and if the unexpected joy felt in the simplicity of that evening, between songs, laughter , jokes, were the same experienced by the shepherds in front of a life that is born? What if they, in that condition so difficult for me to understand, were more helpful to me than I to them? “The important thing is not to find solutions to all problems but to create bonds and discover that this bond changes me and opens me up” (Jean Vanier).

Lorenzo Zura, novice of the second year

[1] Homeless shelter of the San Marcellino foundation (see previous article).

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