Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Faith unfreeze


St. Albert Church in Nestorstrasse off Kurfurstendamm looked empty at the outside. The doors were closed so it was easy to see there was nothing going in the church. That’s why passing by, I didn’t notice I was in front of the building I was looking for. Instead, I went straight to what looked like a cathedral further up the street (back in the Philippines, every big church is almost always a Catholic church). I thought I heard a bell toll from its towers so in haste I entered it, thinking I was late for the mass. But once inside, I found out it was an evangelical church – a woman minister was in the pulpit directing the few attendees to the readings of the day, in German.
An elderly just outside the massive walls to the church was kind to accommodate my question but she, too, spoke only in German. Helpless, I went out the church into the street, searched for – and found – a Good Samaritan to point the way to the Catholic church I just missed.
St. Albert wasn’t really a big church, but more like a chapel I guess, except that it has high ceilings (Catholics comprise only 30 percent or 1.2 million of Berlin’s total population of 3.4 million – Protestants are the majority – so small churches like this will do for the flock).
I found inside the church about 70 attendees, mostly senior citizens, and I came in just before the priest was to give the Holy Communion. The mass must have started earlier at 10 a.m., not 10:30 as a staff at the International Institute of Journalism told me, and the service was in German, not English, again not as I expected.
In panic, I queued up to receive the Holy Communion – I thought to myself, perhaps I could just stay for personal prayers later on (it was impossible to look for another Mass. This is Berlin, not Manila).
The mass was over in a few minutes, so I lingered to pray, until the church was almost empty. Just when I thought I have seen the last person come out, one by one, people started coming in. They were very distinct, however. They were not Germans nor Asians like me. They were all blacks (no pun intended). I suspected there was a prayer meeting to follow and regardless of the crowd, I decided I would stay. But curiosity got the better of me, so I was soon inquiring about what would happen in the church. The African-looking young man I inquired from said an English service was to follow, at 12 p.m. or an hour and a half since I entered the church. I was like a parched soil that suddenly got excited for the prospect of rain!
More people filed into the church and it was filled in no time – the crowd numbered about 200. I saw a couple of fellow Filipinos in the hall – the rest were whom I thought African-Germans – and we simply nudged in respect for our race.
The mass was soon rolling and it was English all right. A choir at the loft gave a solemn touch to the celebration. At the Holy Communion, I just stayed at the pew because I already had it earlier.
The Mass was over in about an hour and I left the church to a final song with some foreign, yet lovely sounding lyrics (for some reason, the persons I asked about for the meaning of the words didn’t know the meaning themselves although just like me, they sang it with glee).
The church that was empty when I first passed by it was now bursting with people going out to their other errands for the day.
I thought at 1 p.m. the weather was harsh. I pulled in my jacket to pack the heat inside but the cold only grew worse so I had to rush my walk to Kurfurstendamm to the subway station in Adenaurplatz where I got off for the church.
I wasn’t hungry but I was really feeling the cold so I had to stop by a cafe for a cup of hot tea and some bread - to gather heat for the cold.
It occurred to me, I have been cowering in the cold thirteen days into my two-month stay in Berlin. But I thought to myself it wasn’t a good idea to let my faith freeze but get it warmed by the grace of the Holy Mass in the same way the hot cup of tea revived the life in my sun-deprived body.

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