Eastern Church: June 2010 Archives
After struggling with Leukemia Metropolitan Basil Myron Schott, OFM, died this morning. He was 71. I have fond memories of meeting the archbishop and always found him to be a kind and holy man.
Since 2002, Archbishop Basil was the head of the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church in the USA.
May his memory be eternal.
The funeral arrangements for His Eminence, Metropolitan Basil, Schott funeral arrangements.pdf.
It is indeed fitting to honor the blessed deacon of Edessa for his desire that the preaching of the divine word and the training of his disciples rest on the purity of Sacred Scripture. He also acquired honor as a Christian musician and poet. He was so accomplished in both arts that he was called the "lyre of the Holy Spirit." From this, Venerable Brothers, you can learn what arts promote the knowledge of sacred things. Ephrem lived among people whose nature was attracted by the sweetness of poetry and music. The heretics of the second century after Christ used these same allurements to skillfully disseminate their errors. Therefore Ephrem, like youthful David killing the giant Goliath with his own sword, opposed art with art and clothed Catholic doctrine in melody and rhythm. These he diligently taught to boys and girls, so that eventually all the people learned them. In this fashion he not only renewed the education of the faithful in Christian doctrine and supported their piety with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, but also happily kept creeping heresy at bay.
The artistry introduced by Blessed Ephrem added dignity to sacred matters as Theodoretus stresses. The metric rhythm, which our saint popularized, was widely propagated both among the Greeks and the Latins. Indeed does it seem probable that the liturgical antiphonary with its songs and processions, introduced at Constantinople in the works of Chrysostom and at Milan by Ambrose (whence it spread throughout all of Italy), was the work of some other author? For the "custom of Eastern rhythm" deeply moved the catechumen Augustine in northern Italy; Gregory the Great improved it and we use it in a more advanced form. Critics acknowledge that that "same Eastern rhythm" had it origins in Ephrem's Syrian antiphonary.
It is no wonder then that many of the Fathers of the Church stress the authority of St. Ephrem. Nyssenus says of his writings, "Studying the Old and New Scriptures most thoroughly, he interpreted them accurately, word for word; and what was hidden and concealed, from the very creation of the world to the last book of grace, he illumined with commentaries, using the light of the Spirit." And Chrysostom: "The great Ephrem is scourge of the slothful, consoler of the afflicted, educator, instructor and exhorter of youth, mirror of monks, leader of penitents, goad and sting of heretics, reservoir of virtues, and the home and lodging of the Holy Spirit." Certainly nothing greater can be said in praise of a man who, however, seemed so small in his own eyes that he claimed to be the least of all and a most vile sinner" (12-14).
Pope Benedict XV
Principi Apostolorum Petro (On St. Ephrem the Syrian), 5 October 1920
June 3rd is quickly becoming a date that most Christians will not forget too easily: 1) the liturgical memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga, 19th century African martyrs; 2) the death of Blessed Pope John XXIII; 3) the murder of Father Ragheed and his companions; and now 3) the murder of Bishop Luigi Padovese, OFM Cap.
Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni's death with the three subdeacons is still a rather moving memory for me, not just on the anniversary but throughout the year when thinking of the plight of the Eastern churches. But why? Because he could've gone the other way, avoided the situation of his people and saved his life. Instead he confronted evil head-on with courage. Like other things one remembers, the deaths of people who unknowingly become incredible, beautiful witnesses to the Presence of Christ right now (not some time ago).
Father Ragheed was a Catholic priest of the Chaldean Church in the Diocese of Mosul. Ganni was ordained a priest October 13, 2001. He was 35 years old, a young priest, and a collaborator in Truth for the Kingdom of God. He was convinced in the beauty of God's Word and His enduring Presence in the world and that we ought not to be scared away.
More on Father Ragheed can be read here.