Category Archives: Eastern Church

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

saint-ephrem2.gifIt 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”

Pope Benedict XV

Apostolorum Pet
ro (On St. Ephrem the Syrian), 5 October 1920

Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni: 3rd anniversary of death

ragheed.jpgJune 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.

Pontifical Oriental Institute gets new rector: James M. McCann

Jesuit Father James McCann has been named Rector of the
Pontifical Oriental Institute by Pope Benedict XVI. Father McCann will assume
his duties in Rome in September of 2010. His academic and ecclesial
administration coupled with his expertise in Eastern churches and society (the
focus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute) makes this appointment easy to
understand why he’s a good choice. He’ll be fresh air to the Oriental Institute
like his immediate predecessor did prior to be named an archbishop-secretary
for the Vatican office for Eastern churches last year.

The Pontifical Oriental Institute was founded by Pope Benedict XV in 1917 as a center for higher studies in Eastern Christianity.

Read Father McCann’s bio here: New PIO Rector.pdf

Dolan in Syria and Lebanon: the deep sacred roots of the churches, places and people in the story of our redemption

CNEWA Syria 2010.jpegAs bishop, I am told, you are asked to sit on boards and be a voice for causes that you may not have too much interest in or knowledge of. While to the new Archbishop Dolan’s portfolio as the archbishop of New York, he is the chairman of the board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and is learning lots of new and beautiful things about the Church in other parts of the world. He made a recent trip to the Middle East with members of the governing board which opened his eyes to a new reality of what it is like to be an Eastern Christian. John Cardinal Foley, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem accompanied the CNEWA board. The archbishop learned the beautiful horizons of the East and the limits thereof.

Read Archbishop Dolan’s reflections on his visit to the Middle East last week. I found it interesting and insightful and I hope it does the same for you.
I am going to be shameless here. When I was at the Catholic Information Service at the Knights of Columbus I commissioned my friend, Father Steven Hawkes-Teeples, SJ, professor Theology at the Oriental Institute in Rome to write a booklet on basics of Eastern Christianity. The old booklet just didn’t serve the needs of our readers and something more up-to-date was needed, especially since Catholic Church has more than one expression of herself. The booklet, The Eastern Christians and Their Churches, is worth a thorough read.

Yousif Habash as new bishop for Syrian Catholics elected

Habash.jpgThe Holy Father consented to the election of Chor-bishop Yousif (Joseph) Habash, pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Los Angeles) as 2nd bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance (Newark) by the Patriarch and bishops of the Syrian Catholic Church.

Habash succeeds Bishop Joseph Younan (and read here) who was elected Patriarch of the Syrians in January 2009.
Bishop-elect Habash was born in Iraq in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1975. He’s served the US eparchy since 2001.
A 2004 census notes the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance having 13,000 faithful.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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