Learning the Lord’s Prayer in Hawaiian may now be on my to-do list. I have picked up French and Italian “Our Father” phrases through the years, but Hawaiian is particularly foreign to my western ear. Even so, the prayer song this morning in Hana’s St. Mary’s Church was lilting and lovely and I think God smiled upon our efforts.
On our way to St. Mary’s, we passed the Wananalua Church, the historic Congregational Church which is featured in my novel, Hana-lani (Nani-lei’s church with the big white cross), and continued the half block to the historic Catholic Church. St. Mary’s is a white church, inside and out. It’s whiteness is like entering a soft cloud, airy and arched, and its curved windows along the side aisles open onto a sea of green grass. At the door we were greeted warmly with leis of vines and leaves and wide smiles and kisses on the cheek. We found seats in a pew. Others came in, some greeting friends and family, some looking about for the first time, wondering at the airy interior, visitors like us.
The Mass danced through the white space. Hawaiian phrases sailed alongside English as though the temperate breezes blowing through the windows winged and paired them as they flew to the high altar. I felt as though I too had been borne up high on the “wings of a prayer” to a holy aerie. Yet, I knew that we the people anchored the pews as all around and above angels dived and soared in their airy dance.
It was a good thing to worship together here in Hana once more, and again I sensed the Body of Christ united before God’s altar, partaking of God himself, allowing God to weave through each of us as we stood in song or knelt in prayer. The hymns weren’t our classic Anglo-Catholic hymns from our home parish, but the beat was easy and the words profound, and as I found myself tapping my toe lightly on the hardwood floor, I sensed that we the people were pulled into the experience of worship itself. This is a good thing and not to be considered lightly – to be pulled into prayer and praise, singing together with one voice to God our creator. And it is not a good thing, I think, to be pushed away from joining in worship, to be watching as spectators, as sometimes happens in evangelical or even high liturgical productions, silencing the voices of the people in the pews.
The Mass, the great prayer given to us by Christ, is meant to be a sacred shared supper, one that never loses sight of God’s presence in the bread and wine, always points to whom we worship with every fiber of our being, every intention of our soul. When we cross the threshold of a church, we step into the home of God and the home of his people. We become one in him and through him one with each other. We are in this place, this sacred space, to worship God, and to receive him into our hearts and bodies. We are God’s family, his dear children.
Hana, Maui is a small gentle town sloping to the sea. The green flanks of Haleakala rise to the west and the blue waters undulate to the east. The sun appears early, erupting from the curved horizon separating sea and sky, traveling up and turning slate to silver to deep sapphire. The trade winds soften the burning sun and the sky is an ever-changing drama of cloud formations.
And near the center of town, where Hasegawa’s General Store offers snacks and tackle and the Post Office connects with the rest of the world, a white church stands in the grass, with its doors open and welcoming. “Come on in,” the church says. “We love you.”
So we did just that this Sunday morning in Hana town, and I’m so glad we did.