Brooklyn, NY, December 22, 2014
Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi had a mystical vision. I’m not saying he was a Saint. He was imperfect like you and me, and he often reminded me of my own obvious imperfection! He kept me humble! But he did have a mystical vision. I am not sure if it came from his saintly ancestor, Patriarch Stephen Doueihi, or from his mother! But this vision was a passion for what was beautiful, for what was noble.
A long time ago when he was in Rome, Sayedna Doueihi spent time as a seminarian, and later as a young priest, reflecting on the most famous work of Michangelo, the Sistine Chapel, which depicts the entire history of salvation with impressive beauty. When I was a seminarian, I chose to live next to Sayedna Doueihi. What an education that was! During that time, he and I often spoke of this great vision of beauty, along with all the other things he found beautiful, like a good cigar, a good soccer game and a good argument!
Children were also a great source of beauty, and he truly loved them. He likewise loved the sacred nature of Christian marriage, and in his home town of Zgharta, Lebanon, he refused the tradition of the “kidnapped bride,” because she could not freely consent to this noble sacrament. Because of this, and other principled stands he took, he received the consternation of some, yet like a good Doueihi he stood his ground. He said that marriage is to be beautiful, or not at all, and it should not be tampered with!
Sayedna Doueihi also found the Maronite Tradition to be beautiful. His translations into prosaic English were a great source of renewal for our Maronite Church here in America. He translated the entire Divine Liturgy; the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation, and Marriage; the entire Ginnaz, which are the prayers for the faithful departed; and all the steps of the Priesthood (Cantor, Lector, Subdeacon, Deacon, Priest, Periodute and Chorbishop). He was very careful to express the complete and entire vision of the Liturgy, not adding or subtracting from Tradition.
For the Ginnaz, he translated the service for a child, a man, a woman, a priest, but never got to the one for the bishops. He told me it was too scary for him, for the prayers demanded too much from the bishop! This is why today we are using the Ginnaz for a Priest, and we have adopted it for him.
For the Order of Cantor, Lector, Subdeacon, Deacon, Priest, Periodute, and Chorbishop, Sayedna translated each one very carefully so as to embody the total vision of priestly orders. He did not want to obscure any word or meaning, but rather, to let the beauty of our tradition speak for itself, and it certainly does!
As a young priest, he was the pastor of the parish in Zgharta, Lebanon. During that time Sayedna Doueihi translated from French into Arabic the beautiful and poetic book, entitled Prayers by Father Michel Quoist. The prayer entitled “The Prayer of Priest on Sunday Night” is a beautiful testimony of some of what a priest experiences. The prayer begins:
“Tonight, Lord, I am alone.
Little by little the sounds died down in the church.
The people went away.
And I came home.
The prayer goes on to describe how “alone” he felt, but yet how grateful the priest feels when God is close to him even in his loneliness.
Bishop Doueihi loved the beauty of humanity (as it is) and of God (as God is). Nothing fake, nothing artificial! Sayedna loved the beauty of a good fight, he loved to interact with people. This love for the beauty of God is what was behind his mystical vision of all things good and noble. This beauty is also what lies behind our readings for today’s Ginnaz:
In the Gospel from John Jesus tells us “let not your heart be troubled,” a beautiful reminder to those who live with so much trouble in this often unhappy and angry world, our Lord is with us! The Epistle from Saint Paul to the Romans, likewise, reminds us that we belong to a loving and providential God, our loving Creator, and the Artisan of Life. Saint Paul writes, “None of us live as his own matter, and none of us dies as his own master. While we live, we are the Lord’s, and when we die, we die as his servants.” We are God’s masterpiece, and he is our God.
May Sayedna Stephen Hector Doueihi rest in peace. And may the beautiful mystical vision he shared with us through his life continue to bless and make us holy and beautiful as well.
(Reprinted with permission.)