It’s night, the day has been heavy, the mind seeks God and for a moment flies into yet another dream, untamable hope for fullness and fulfillment, just momentum of desire toward something higher, but, let’s face it, also to try to escape and make reality more bearable. But it is only my dream, which is not always equal to God’s dream about me and would not even make me happy. In fact, my happiness, God himself, is right here already, and there is no need to look for him in the future or anywhere else.
Fr. Divo Barsotti, one of the great mystics of the 20th century, used to say, “There is no holier place than the place where you are, there is no holier hour than the one you are living, in that place, in that hour for you the one, God, is present.”
It is quite true, we find our greatest happiness in a present charged with the divine presence, which is always available to us and also enlivens our relationships with others. the dream, however, with its projecting forward, retains an important role. It suggests new goals and targets, distant horizons but still within our reach; it gives us a momentum that prevents us from losing hope in difficult times where we do not glimpse the light. Our dreams are sometimes futile, sometimes higher. If the Christian has grown in faith and discernment, his dream now approaches God’s dream about him.
God has desires for us that exceed our own; His dream about us is something even more beautiful than what we can come to in our own strength or imagination.
God’s dream for us is not something unattainable or imposed on us from the outside; to understand it we have to start with our own dream, but letting it be shaped and transformed by him, in a dialogue where he is present in what we are doing and intervenes to open new horizons for us.
The anesthetic effect of my dream, still far from being in unison with God’s, fades too soon. However, I decide to shake off my proverbial inaction and send the article I wrote about the San Remo Christian Song Festival to their website email, hoping it will be of interest.
A few days later, unexpectedly the phone rings. It is Fabrizio Venturi, the artistic director of the Sanremo Christian Song Festival, who introduces himself very cordially and tells me that he is organizing the Euro Christian Music Festival, in Turin, at the same time as the Eurovision Song Contest. He offers me to participate and represent Israel, even better if paired with a singer of Israeli nationality, since I am Italian, resident in Israel for 13 years, but without being a citizen.
Fabrizio taught me trust in God and others, only by trusting in God and through the cooperation of others can we accomplish projects that seemingly exceed our strength. Without Fabrizio the Eurochristianmusicfestival would not have even seen the light of day, and we must give him credit for this insight and for carrying it forward with courage and determination.
I sit in front of the tabernacle and, almost on the spur of the moment, write “Greater Love” the song I will bring to the festival, in Hebrew and English. I sacrifice the musicality of the verses to keep at all costs the words of Jesus in the exact order in which they are recorded in the oldest manuscripts of the Gospels, without any changes or additions on my part. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, love one another as I have loved you” is the chorus of the piece, a compendious phrase for the entire Gospel.
GREATER LOVE– אהבה גדולה written by Filippo Rossi (Nothingless)
.כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהָאָב אוֹהֵב אוֹתִי כֵּן גַּם אנִי אוֹהֵב אֶתְכֶם As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; עִמְדוּ בְּאַהֲבָתִי Remain in my love. .אֵין אַהֲבָה גְּדוֹלָה -מֵאַהֲבָתוֹ שֶׁל הנּוֹתֵן– אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ- בְּעַד יְדִידָיו Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. אֶהֱבוּ זֶה אֶת זֶה כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי אָהַבְתִּי אֶתְכֶם Love one another as I have loved you. If you remain in My Word, you will be truly my disciples and you will know the truth . אִם תַּעַמְדוּ בּדְבָרִי, תַּלְמִידַי אַתֶּם בֶּאֱמֶת; וְתֵדְעוּ אֶת הָאֱמֶת and the truth will set you free וְהָאֱמֶת תּשַׁחְרֵר אֶתְכֶם .אֵין אַהֲבָה גְּדוֹלָה -מֵאַהֲבָתוֹ שֶׁל הנּוֹתֵן– אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ- בְּעַד יְדִידָיו Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. אֶהֱבוּ זֶה אֶת זֶה כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי אָהַבְתִּי אֶתְכֶם Love one another as I have loved you. I am with you always (till the world’s end) אִתְּכֶם אֲנִי כָּל הַיָּמִים עַד קץ הָעוֹלָם .אֵין אַהֲבָה גְּדוֹלָה מֵאַהֲבָתוֹ שֶׁל הנּוֹתֵן אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ- בְּעַד יְדִידָיו Greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. אֶהֱבוּ זֶה אֶת זֶה כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֲנִי אָהַבְתִּי אֶתְכֶם Love one another as I have loved you.
The piece is harmonically complex, with three key changes and some difficult notes to take. An ill-advised choice for someone like me, who has never sung in public in his life. The stage of the Gospel House, an evangelical church in Turin, will be the site of my absolute debut as a singer in a live event.
Finding the Israeli singer who would agree to duet with me was not easy. We had to overcome resistance and barriers and that atavistic distrust that Jews (rightly so, given the tragic persecutions they have suffered throughout history) have toward Christians. We will never ask forgiveness enough for the atrocities committed in the name of faith, in a total misrepresentation of the Gospel message. Nitsan Golan wrote to me at the very last possible moment to sign up for the festival, she threw her heart over the hurdle, agreeing to come with me to Turin to sing at a Christian festival, she a Jewish believer. Nitsan, besides being the bearer of uncommon vocal gifts and great professionalism, taught me enthusiasm, to say yes to others and to the opportunities that life offers us, without getting imprisoned by our mental schemes or fundamentalisms that end up limiting us and not bringing us closer to either God or others.
I land in Turin and head straight to the apartment I have rented about 30 km from the city. I would like to be at the Festival site by 9 o’clock, but the Google navigator takes me around the Turin countryside for an hour and a half…finally I manage to get to the Gospel House. They are the other creators of this Festival, they all worked for free and with great sacrifice to make it happen, Gionathan de Stradis, his wife Simona, Piero Maniscalchi, famous sound engineer, the Band musicians, the choristers and all the people at work reminded me of the value of free service for others. Everyone is courteous and kind at the Gospel House and I will gratefully remember the positive atmosphere there.
I meet the Pastor of this evangelical church, Franco Drago, who on several occasions will show me affection and encouragement, and we get to talking about Mary-a sore point in ecumenical dialogue with us Catholics. Yet it seems to me that even this distance is more in our mutual pride and inability to listen seriously to each other than in anything substantial that really divides us. “What unites us is much more than what divides us,” is not just a rhetorical phrase: it is reality and it is up to us to draw all the consequences.
As soon as I arrive Fabrizio Venturi is rehearsing “Caro Padre” , his best-known hit, on stage, and I begin to wonder if I will be able to get on that stage. The next morning I run to the airport and meet for the first time Nitsan Golan, the singer who is to duet with me. We have a quick rehearsal together before going to Sound Check, which precedes the semifinals, and thank God that she is there to teach me a few tricks of the trade. I get to know the other contestants.
Rivelino Dutch aka Blackrockstar proves to be very affable right away and his “You Give me reason”, really impresses me, God is the reason for our existence, his stubborn seeking us out even when we turn away from him because of the temptations that life is littered with, gives us the drive to persevere.
Equally affable is Meissa, from Calabria, who represents Italy along with Shoek, a seemingly tough rapper who nevertheless turns out to be the most good-natured and easygoing of all after a few moments of conversation. Their “Mi arrendo, ti arrendi” is a committed song with the profound message that there can be no peace unless we accept surrender. I also know the Swedish Daali with his “When the stars begin to fall”. I’m impressed by the wonderful lyrics and his performance, it’s like being at a concert of a real rock star, but when we talk I’m looking at a person who doesn’t want to impress or look like someone, he’s simply himself-rare virtue.
Here is South Africa with the duo Saul City, they are a young married couple, they will be the winners of the festival. There is something mystical about their persons, the result of their mutual union lived in the Lord, which ends up exuding in their music, beautiful and non-commercial. “Silence”, masterfully interpreted, is a description of the path of prayer lived in silence, which becomes the place of certainty that God is always by our side.
We encourage each other with Adele Zappia, the Festival co-host; we are both debuting. And as we talk, Melissa Lischer, a Swiss contestant who brings the beautiful “Always After You” -message of deep gratitude to God that cannot be totally expressed in words- also arrives. I am a little confused-I confess-next to these two women who look like something out of a fashion magazine, but I am reassured by a blessing. Melissa being a good evangelical-we Catholics are used to letting the priest do everything-she starts blessing us, asking God’s help for the success of the Festival and not only that, we in turn bless each other and proceed happy and spiritually strengthened to the debut stage.
Don Alfred Imonda for Congo brings a song in his Congolese language “Uniti si può”, song written originally in Italian byFabrizio Venturi – Fulvio Vasarri – Marco Iardella for the victims of the earthquake that struck central Italy in 2017, but also to inspire all those who have to rebuild from the debris of something that has been destroyed. I am able to appreciate the depth of its lyrics.. “United we can move forward, all it takes is a gesture even a small one, and the help will come from whoever and you won’t know about the color of his skin or of his God” (https://www.eurochristianmusicfestival.com/diretta-tv/ ).. which deservedly will win the prize for best lyrics awarded by the press room, by Biagio Maimone.
Mikaela Sabrina is from Argentina and manages to communicate that human warmth and vitality that Latin Americans have written in their hearts, her song “Poesia” is a profound message about her father’s conversion: God writes a wonderful poem in the heart of every man who converts, saving him from his past. When she sings she is passionate and you can see that her lyrics move her and betray her love for the one for whom she wrote it.
The Mauritian singer Brian Minor sings beautifully, has a convincing voice, and it is no accident that he wins two awards with a catchy song “The Crack”.
Karen Marra performs on stage and sings like a super singer, her vocal performance is impressive-no coincidence that during her time in London she was chosen as the vocalist for the spice girls. She also very kindly takes us on a tour of Turin The international Christian music star present at the festival is Noel Robinson. He is an easy-going person, and his performance on stage reveals a long artistic career that has brought performance and worship-leading skills to perfection. Josephine Belle is a free woman because she met Jesus. We have a deep spiritual exchange and I think I have found a true friend. She represents England…. “Free” she sings convinced. I want to be free, in the spiritual sense of the word, moving with ease on stage. Her track bring us musically into the marvelous world of London productions.
Brother Vinicius is Brazilian and communicates that joy, a positive and festive approach that seems written in the genes of this people, his “Vale a Pena” already winner of the Sanremo Christian Song Festival, sung in Portuguese is even more beautiful…it is worth living, following Christ is the only certainty.
To Jesus Christ who has always been with us and inspired our actions goes the most beautiful prize and glory of this Festival.
I open my eyes again and everything has been so beautiful that it feels like a dream. However, this dream does not fade, its beneficial effect lasts, God’s presence and the love I received from others fill my heart. The Euro Christian Music Festival, this dream that I would not have even imagined and has already become a reality, has all the air of beeing the most beautiful dream, God’s dream.