Monday, September 3, 2012

Queen Lili'uokalani Ecumenical Address by Bishop Randolph Sykes given at 'Iolani Palace, Honolulu

Bishop Stephen Randolph Sykes speaking to the Hawaiian Community and
O‘ahu Residents as the President of The Interfaith Alliance Hawai‘i

The Most Reverend Stephen Randolph Sykes' address and blessing given to the ‘Onipa‘a Celebration on the birthday of Hawai‘i's last monarch, Her Majesty, Queen Lili‘uokalani, as follows:

Aloha kākou. It was my privilege several days ago to be among those who went to Mauna ‘Ala – the Fragrant Mountain – to visit Queen Lili‘uokalani’s grave with George Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s grandson, and to offer prayers and ho‘okupu. When I spoke that day in the chapel, I recalled that the last time I had been at Mauna ‘Ala was to visit with Kahu Lydia Namahana Mai‘olo. For several years, when I would come over to Honolulu from my home in Ha‘ena on Kaua‘i, we would talk about the ali‘i and old Hawai‘i. At that time, one of my monastic brothers and I were writing stories about the ancient high chiefs for both Spirit of Aloha and Kauai Magazine. While she reminisced I often got “chicken skin” from how she made each event seem as if it had just happened and to hear stories she shared from her father and others in her family as well as the many ali‘i from by-gone days.

As you know, the kahu of the royal ‘iwi was selected by Kamehameha the Great. The story she told me was that one day he called for his chiefs to come right away and only two dropped what they were doing and went immediately to the Alii Nui. The others took their time, cleaned themselves up, and got dressed up first. One of the two who came quickly was Namahana's great grandfather who appears as one of the two personages on the insignia of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Kamehameha selected Ho‘olulu to hide his bones so that they would remain a source of mana for the ali‘i and not be plundered by foreigners.

Namahana shared wonderful stories. On one of my visits, she told me about a private visit Queen Lili‘uokalani had made to Mauna ‘Ala shortly after becoming Queen. In those days, long before the current crypt was dug, the caskets of the kings and queens were kept in what is now the chapel at Mauna ‘Ala. Queen Lili‘uokalani came to visit her brother, King Kalākaua, who had actually passed to God in San Francisco. He was the first ali‘i to be embalmed. She said the Queen asked that the casket be opened.

Several hundred persons attended the day long event to celebrate the
175th Birthday of Queen Lili‘uokalani at ‘Iolani Palace

No one stayed with her. Lili‘uokalani was left alone. She spent several hours with Kalākaua. Of course, she was also with Kap‘iolani and the sacred ‘iwi of the other ali‘i in the silence of the chapel. I have often reflected on what that time must have meant for the Queen. What would it be like to visit one's royal ancestors so intimately? What did she think about? What was it she may have said, either to herself or out loud? What was it she heard? Did she gain perspectives that enlightened her? Were her memories ones of happiness or ones of melancholy?

We know of her sense of duty to her people and that she would need to make very important decisions that would take a turn not imagined at the time. She governed a kingdom that was recognized internationally and that held treaties with the greatest powers in the world at the time. She was a constitutional monarch whose ability to govern had been compromised by the Bayonet Constitution of 1877 . She was determined to protect her people against the encroachment of foreign interests that were overtaking the country and bringing about injustices that hurt the citizens of her sovereign nation most deeply. And, her subjects supported her and loved her.

Lili‘uokalani was a woman of great moral integrity. She was deeply spiritual. She understood that duty came above personal concerns. She firmly believed that truth and righteousness would prevail against any odds.

That brings me back to her time at Mauna ‘Ala with the ‘iwi of Kalākaua. It must have been a time when she called on the mana of her ancestors to join with God’s Holy Spirit to guide her and give her strength. When we read her writings and listen to the lyrics of her songs, we hear the voice of “one crying in the wilderness”: make ours the straight pathway that leads to God. Be pono. kanaka; stand tall. In the face of adversity show love and be caring of those who are in need. Her aloha extended to many and she was accepting of not only Christians but also of Buddhists and others who brought their religions and spiritual traditions to Hawaii from far-away lands. By her example we know that she had an open heart.

We know, too, that she was determined that despite her plight, her suffering, and imprisonment, that no one’s blood should be shed in seeking to restore what was taken. In many ways, she prefigured the way of Gandhi and others who follow the path of non-violence. That is not to say that she was passive and indifferent. On the contrary, her letters to President Cleveland asked that truth prevail, and the findings of the Blount Commission supported her position. It is indeed unfortunate that, like so much in world history, the times were such that forces she could not control would prevail. 119 years after the overthrow, she and we are still waiting for the United States to return sovereignty to the Hawaiian Kingdom. Her concern was always for the good of her people.

His Grace, Bishop Sykes pictured with
Kahu Kordell Kekoa, Chaplain of Kamehameha Schools,
Kahu Umi'ali'loa Sexton, Waimanalo Hawaiian Church and
Kahu Curt Pa'alua Kekuna, Kawaiaha'o Church

Today, as we celebrate her birthday, we must remember her graciousness, her hopes, and keep alive the goal that justice and reconciliation result in the return of the Hawaiian Kingdom to her people. We must also recognize that we are a country where we are a majority of minorities, and persevere in living the aloha that such diversity allows. That is the gift that our Queen gave us and we are obliged to respect and carry on her generosity.

On behalf of The Interfaith Alliance Hawai‘i, of which I am President, and the many religious and spiritual traditions that make up the fabric of Hawai‘i today, I wish you peace, good health, and happiness. As Orthodox Bishop of Hawai‘i of the Inclusive Orthodox Church,

E pule kakou [let us pray]: O God, send forth Your Spirit upon these islands and to those who stand with us today as we recall the birth of our beloved Queen Lili‘uokalani. Thank You for giving her to us as an example of one whose actions affirm Your Son’s teaching that we love and pray for those who have done us harm. My we be strengthened by her resolve to be pono, to be respectful and show courage. Makualani, restore not only the hope of the Hawaiian people but also their Kingdom and their lands. Reconcile our nations and open the hearts of those who fear restoration and reconciliation. We thank you for keeping us in Your Light that we may always love and serve one another. Help us and guide us as we face these difficult times. Give us good health. Bless us, our children, and our children’s children, that Your Wisdom and Comfort may ever be our strength and joy. Amene. ‘Amama ‘amama, ua noa.

Bishop Sykes pictured with the 'Onipa'a Coordinator and
George Cleveland, Grandson of the late President Grover Cleveland.
Bishop was accompanied by His Grace, Bp. Daniel as Chaplain.