The above is a relatively old photograph which I just re-edited two nights ago, in a fit of insomnia. I rather enjoy going through some of my photo archives from time to time just to see how much my technique and approach has changed. In any case, this was a swan in search of a mate, and was doing everything he could to show off. As far as I could tell he was not being very successful that day, but that is beside the point.
It is Maundy Thursday and I have a bout of homesickness for Manila. The Philippines is the one country I enjoyed attending the Paschal Triduum services each year, and never saw it as an obligation. Perhaps it was because I was so involved in the community and parish, but the solemnity of the occasion was spiritually uplifting in ways that uniquely intertwined culture, faith and family. The visitation of the seven churches (Visita Iglesia) that followed the evening service was something I looked forward to as well. I miss calling up friends and family to compare Visita Iglesia routes or sometimes even join forces. By comparison, Germany has always been the most difficult country for me to observe this tradition, mainly because there is usually only one church per village, two if you are lucky (one Catholic and one Protestant). If you have a car and know where to go, however, the seven villages are manageable. Here in Berlin the number of Protestant churches heavily outweigh the Catholic ones, making it very difficult to string together a plausible route using only the public transportation and accomplishing the seven churches before midnight! My aunts´tradition of visiting 14 churches would be a sheer impossibility here.
The three main themes of Maundy Thursday never change for Catholics: Passover, Eucharist, and Service, and of the three, I choose to focus on Service this year. As the swan reminded me, all it takes is one person to make difference, to change the status quo. I have seen this in action many times during my years as a development worker, and later on in various capacities of community service, but if the change makes sense, and it is for the greater good, the initial resistance and disruption will transform into significant change.
Conviction, faith, perseverance, and patience are the four main elements to effecting change, regardless of whether it is personal or social. Either way, you need to believe in what you do, not give up at the slightest of glitches, and understand what is going on within and around you. Some parts of the journey are lonely, perhaps even rough, but if there is one thing I have come to rely on, it is the generosity of loved ones and the support of good neighbours with their time, effort, and insight. A kind word, a helping hand, mindfulness of the emotions, these are all part of service and generosity.
The following prayer is the first prayer I memorised upon entering the Ateneo de Manila University in 1987, and it has been with me ever since.
Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to look for any reward,
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.
–Prayer for Generosity
St. Ignatius of Loyola