Tenny Thomas to present paper at 6th annual Archbishop Iakovos Graduate Student Conference in Patristic Studies

Mr. Tenny Thomas, FOCUS Director of the Northeast American Diocese, will be presenting a paper at the Stephen and Catherine Pappas Patristic Institute of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology's sixth annual Archbishop Iakovos Graduate Student Conference in Patristic Studies on March 11 - 13, 2010.

Tenny, a graduate student of Union Theological Seminary, will be presenting his paper on The Mysteries of the Eucharist in the Thought of Ephrem the Syrian.

Please read the abstract to Tenny's paper below:

"Ephrem the Syrian was born into a Christian family in Nisibis in about 306 A.D. He was Christianity‘s most important Syriac speaking representative and uniquely succeeded in reconciling the vocations of theologian and poet. He was educated and grew up beside James, Bishop of Nisibis (303-338), and with him founded the theological school in his city. He was ordained a deacon and was intensely active in local Christian community life until 363, the year when Nisibis fell into Persian hands. Ephrem then emigrated to Edessa, where he continued his activity as a preacher. He died in Edessa in 373.

In this paper, I will analyze the most important madrashe (hymn) ―The Mysteries of the Eucharist where Ephrem considers the Eucharistic Mysteries. To speak of the Eucharist, Ephrem used various images, chief among them being: medicine of life, embers or burning coal and the pearl.

The burning coal theme was taken from the Prophet Isaiah (cf. 6: 6). It is the image of one of the seraphim's who picks up a burning coal with tongs and simply touches the lips of the Prophet with it in order to purify them; the Christian, on the other hand, touches and consumes the Burning Coal which is Christ himself:

- In your bread hides the Spirit who cannot be consumed; in your wine is the fire that cannot be swallowed. The Spirit in your bread, fire in your wine: behold a wonder heard from our lips.

- The seraph could not bring himself to touch the glowing coal with his fingers, it was Isaiah‘s mouth alone that it touched; neither did the fingers grasp it nor the mouth swallow it; but the Lord has granted us to do both these things.‖ ―The fire came down with anger to destroy sinners, but the fire of grace descends on the bread and settles in it. Instead of the fire that destroyed man, we have consumed the fire in the bread and have been invigorated. (Hymn De Fide 10: 8-10).

Here again is an example of St Ephrem‘s hymns, where he speaks of the pearl as a symbol of the riches and beauty of faith:
-I placed (the pearl), my brothers, on the palm of my hand, to be able to examine it. I began to look at it from one side and from the other: it looked the same from all sides. (Thus) is the search for the Son inscrutable, because it is all light. In its clarity I saw the Clear One who does not grow opaque; and in his purity, the great symbol of the Body of Our Lord, which is pure. In his indivisibility I saw the truth which is indivisible. (Hymn On the Pearl 1: 2-3).

I will briefly compare Ephrem‘s description of the Eucharist with the description of the Eucharist in the Byzantine tradition as well."

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