This Thanksgiving weekend we spent giving thanks for Hana, Maui. We arrived in the dusk of Tuesday evening, flying low along the coast from Kahului to Hana. Darkness was descending quickly and a thick fog enshrouded our small nine-seater plane. I knew that Hana Airport had no radar, and if we could not land due to poor visibility we would turn around and return to Kahului Airport, where we would need to rent a car for the two hour winding trip to Hana.
Suspended in the fog, it seemed we were floating. I began to pray. Then I sensed the plane had curved out to sea searching for visibility pockets, but it was actually making a different approach, coming in from the south. Soon we saw the coastline of land and sea, the gentle green shape of Ka’uiki Head reaching out from Hana Bay, with its lighthouse alight and welcoming, and soon we heard the wheels touch the landing strip. We rolled between the lights flaring along the sides of the runway. Safe. With bowed heads we maneuvered through the exit door and climbed down the rope ladder to terra firma.
The pilot explained he used GPS (I suppose I should not have worried) but when he said that he missed the “twilight cutoff” by one minute I asked what he meant. “I’m not allowed to land at the Hana Airport after twilight.” “Oh,” I said. One minute? My prayers were needed after all.
The temps have been on the cool side even for this rain forest on the eastern shore of Maui in the middle of winter, but in spite of winds and gray skies, rain has been mostly at night and we have been able to walk a bit. But the loveliness of Hana isn’t just the tropical temperatures, the palms, the roaring surf, the little drinks with umbrellas, but rather the people. Over the years we have come to appreciate this village that nestles under the volcano Haleakala, that is protected by Fagan’s Cross standing like a beacon on one of the green foothills.
And so I wrote Hana-lani, a love story set here, and in the dreaming and the courtship of words and phrases and sentences, as I married language that reflected the many colors, sounds, and fragrances, with the family and faith of Hana, I’ve been blessed by the warm hospitality of the folks that live here. We return to Hana, it is true, to rest, relax, and listen to the surf (and sip a few Mai Tais) but also to enjoy the people.
We are in our gentle years and not quite as active as we once were, but the paths that meander over the lawns of our hotel are kind and beckoning, with views of the sea and the spewing white foam. And from our veranda we can see Ka’uiki Head, the same scene that’s on the cover of my novel. At night, surf pounds and rain rattles the roof. In the day, we read and rest, and I create my next scene in The Fire Trail. And all the while, I say my prayers of thanksgiving as we slip into Advent and the marking of a new Church Year.
Our time in Hana has been appropriately bracketed by Eucharists celebrated on Thanksgiving and today, Advent I. We climbed the white stairs to St. Mary’s and entered through an arched portal into the airy space where prayers mingle with breezes wafting through open windows. It is a white church, set on a green hillside, Fagan’s Cross higher up, and the volcano behind that, and today the chancel was splashed with purple hangings for Advent. Four Advent candles nested in their greens and the Lady altar had been lovingly decorated with flowers (we joined in a Rosary before Mass). The polished wooden pews have comfortable kneelers, and for this I am grateful, because I like to kneel when I pray.
They say that gratitude is a good cure for depression (and drug-free), forcing one to turn outward and less inward, becoming a bit more selfless and a little less self-centered. I think there is truth in this, and it is also true that it is a good preparation for penitence, a cleaning out of the heart. For when I am thankful for the blessings of each day, beginning with the blessing of waking to the day itself, I am humbled. And in the humbling I see places in my heart that need cleaning out… dark corners where envy, pride, idolatry, sloth, gluttony, wrath, and all their many many relatives, have hidden. It is good to give my soul a good sweeping, to let the fresh air in, just as the breezes blow through the windows of St. Mary’s.
In this holy season I will re-learn the Advent collect in the Book of Common Prayer:
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
I will re-memorize these words and place them in my newly swept heart. I shall hold them close, so that I may retrieve them at any moment in any place during this holy season. They are words that sum up our hopeful faith and faithful hope, these sixteenth-century phrases of Bishop Cranmer. I would like to have that armor of light. I would like to rise to that life immortal.
So we trundled up the stairs to St. Mary’s and worshiped God with the lovely people of Hana. Many ages formed the congregation, and while I was pleased to see so many children, I was equally pleased to see the respect paid to the elderly. No one was left out, and we visitors were greeted with vine leis, a sweet kindness.
Sometimes we sang together in Hawaiian, sometimes in English, as we accomplished the “work of the people,” the Holy Liturgy, joining together in the great action of the Mass, with Scripture, sermon, creed, confession, consecration of the bread and wine, communion. In this huge prayer we took part in a drama enacted throughout the world and throughout time, and we sang with the angels and saints in Heaven. I think God was pleased with the offering of his children in Hana.
We have entered Advent, the season of the coming of Christ Jesus among us, humbly as a child who donned our flesh and shared our sufferings, so that he could unite with us and carry us to Heaven. We now look to Christ’s coming again, his second advent, in glory to judge the living and the dead. Will we be ready? We are told it could happen now, tomorrow, the next day. So we practice penitence, as we wait for that glorious advent; we cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light.