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Author Topic: Assignment One: The Eucharist by Fr. Schmemann  (Read 19639 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 09, 2008, 05:03:15 PM »

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to tackle (then read) The Eucharist by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  Please read the first chapter and be prepared to discuss by Monday, January 14th.  Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2008, 06:43:34 PM »

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to tackle (then read) The Eucharist by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  Please read the first chapter and be prepared to discuss by Monday, January 14th.  Thanks!

I'm game. It's my favorite.
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2008, 06:49:26 PM »

BTW, here's the URL for the English version:

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=Gp8st5bihlAC&dq=schmemann+eucharist+sacrament+of+the+kingdom&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=s1pgQTP7fY&sig=i5Y8unIzfSLm5lnQpD3Lwrd1NK4#PPP1,M1
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2008, 08:03:34 PM »

Excellent, thanks for the link!  I'm having trouble tracking down our copy. Wink
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2008, 09:12:49 PM »

I'm game. It's my favorite.
Heorhij,
I'm glad that you're planning to join in.  Did you read the book in Russian or in English?
Anything by Fr Alexander is always a great read.  And, CR is old enough to say that he had Fr Alexander as a professor at St Vlad's!
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2008, 09:12:12 AM »

Heorhij,
I'm glad that you're planning to join in.  Did you read the book in Russian or in English?
Anything by Fr Alexander is always a great read.  And, CR is old enough to say that he had Fr Alexander as a professor at St Vlad's!

Thank you, CarpatoRusyne! Actually, I read it in its English translation that my former priest, Fr. Michael D. of the Milan Synod gave me as part of my catechumen studies - it was almost precisely one year ago. But then, as I understood that Fr. Alexander had originally written it in his native Russian, I found the original (again, thanks be to God for the Internet!), and read it very avidly.

It's great that you had Fr. Alexander as your teacher! BTW, I am not sure how relevant this is to this discussion, but I wanted, if I may, to say a few words about Fr. Alexander's personality as I understood it while reading his "Journals." He was a very fine representative of the old ("pre-Soviet") Russian aristocracy. His last name sounds German, but that's a funny thing because it just "persevered" in his paternal lineage from some rather remote anestor - an ethnic German from the Baltics (an "ostzejskij nyemets").

His father was a military man, an officer of the Russian imperial cavalry who fought during the First World War and then during the Civil War of 1917-1920 on the side of the "whites," and his mother (nee Shishkova) was from a clergy family. After the final defeat of the White Army in November 1920, Fr. Alexander's parents escaped abroad and experienced all the calamities of the life of refugees. He was born in Estonia in 1921, and then his family moved to Yugoslavia, and then to France. As a boy in Paris, he went to a private secular school (Liceum), then to a private military school established by emigrant Russian military officers; and only then, after this combination of a very fine secular "humanist" education and a very elite military education, he finally made up his mind to go to a seminary and to become an Orthodox cleric. He married Ulyana (or Yuliana) Osorgina, a daughter of a very old Russian family (possibly with Ukrainian links) where men were priests. They moved to the USA in the 1950-s. Their two daughters later became wives of two well-known OCA priests of Ukrainian origin, Fr. John Tkachuk and Fr. Thomas Hopko.

Fr. Alexander's "Journals" impressed me tremendously by their rich, expressive language and especially by the mentioning of literally THOUSANDS of books that Fr. Alexander read and thought about. He was a very, very reading man. He loved French poetry, prose, theatre, secular philosophy (even when he seriously disagreed with it). He apparently knew by heart many poems by hundreds of French poets and also Russian poets - classic, "Silver Age" and contemporary (mostly emigrant). He also constantly read works of history and especially biographies.

Fr. Alexander also seemed to have a deep love of nature, of the splendor and beauty of the natural world, which he always perceived as an epiphany, as a reminder about the other world, the world to come. And he deeply loved people, and especially children. On the other hand, he a had a serious "chip on his shoulder," a rather bitter dislike of various phonies and psychopaths who pretended (or misguidedly believed) to be "spiritual people."

Fr. Alexander confessed in his Journals that he did not like his work as a professor and dean of the St. Vladimir seminary. He hated and feared administrative tasks, and it was always a great pain for him to deal with students whom he saw as unfit for becoming clergymen. Also, he was not a fast writer. Any writing for him was a difficult work, apparently because he was very critical of his own thinking and expressing his thoughts. It took him several years to write "Eucharist" in his native Russian, and he, unfortunately, did not live long enough to see the final version of its English translation. (Interestingly, he wrote his earlier book, "For the Life of the World," in English and was very surprised to see it translated by someone into Russian - he saw xeroxed copies of the Russian translation spread in then-Soviet Moscow by the underground "Samizdat" publishers.) Fr. Alexander died in 1983.
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 10:10:26 PM »

C'mon people, post... the President said, "by Monday..."   police
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2008, 10:34:24 PM »

Pg 20 second paragraph:

 "While it is true that contemporary liturgical piety percieves the sanctuary as something self-contained, accessible only to the 'initiated' -a particulary 'holy' place with its own brand of 'sanctity', as if to emphasize the 'profane' category to which the laity standing outside it belong- it is also not difficult to show that this perception is relatively recent, false and, most importantly, profoundly harmful for the Church."

 I found this particularly interesting.  Does this mean that early Christians could and did approach the Holy Table (altar)?
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2008, 11:22:24 PM »

Pg 20 second paragraph:

 I found this particularly interesting.  Does this mean that early Christians could and did approach the Holy Table (altar)?

We have to remember that even the iconostasis in the Byzantine tradition did not take on its modern form until about the 14th century.  So, there was not really a physical wall of separation between the nave and the sanctuary.  However, there is evidence to suggest that, beforehand, despite the lacking of this wall, that there were icons at the front for the faithful to venerate thus completing a "separation" between the faithful and the priests behind the altar. 

Yet at the same time, the cruciform shape that churches took was not based off of the pagan temples, but the Roman basilica, which were law courts in the Roman empire.  These all had an apse with a row in the middle flanked by a colonnade.  Since most churches were built up on the tomb of a saint (mostly martyrs) and that the altar had the remains of that saint to whom the Church dedicated, on the altar or in the altar, it is reasonable to assume that the faithful would come forward to not only receive the Eucharist but also venerate the relics of that particular saint.  The basilica allowed for easy regulation of the traffic of the faithful.

This is just a guess on my part.  But at the same time, I think we have to be mindful that the separation between the nave and the sanctuary is only temporary and we are connected through the Eucharist, which is far more physical and metaphysical than simply being able to go to the altar and touch it. 

AGain, I'm guessing. I look forward to what others have to say.
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2008, 12:27:18 AM »

Pg 20 second paragraph:

 "While it is true that contemporary liturgical piety percieves the sanctuary as something self-contained, accessible only to the 'initiated' -a particulary 'holy' place with its own brand of 'sanctity', as if to emphasize the 'profane' category to which the laity standing outside it belong- it is also not difficult to show that this perception is relatively recent, false and, most importantly, profoundly harmful for the Church."

 I found this particularly interesting.  Does this mean that early Christians could and did approach the Holy Table (altar)?

I am absolutely ignorant in the history of the early Church, so I can't answer this, but I believe Fr. Alexander is talking about a different kind of "inaccessiblity," not one created by physical walls but, rather, by the breach in the community of believers, the breach that resulted in the situation where the clergy can - and sometimes actually does - "order people around," decide, who can approach the Chalice and who cannot, or how many times a month or even year it is "appropriate" for the faithful to commune, etc.

In the tiny Greek mission parish that I attended since last Fall, this is a total non-issue, because it is indeed tiny - there is a total of 20 people, tops, attending, and we all went to the Chalice every single DL that I attended. But I know for a fact that in my native Ukraine and in other historically Orthodox countries of the former Soviet Union, there is almost a convention that you go to the Chalice but once or twice a year, when you are "really" "prepared." During a Divine Liturgy in several Ukrainian Orthodox churches that I know about, normally two-three-four or so people go to the Chalice while four or five dozen stay away. I think Fr. Alexander basically talks about the intrinsic wrongness of this approach. It's principally NOT that an individual "receives the Communion." Rather, it's the whole Church that gathers together and celebrates the Eucharist. People who for whatever reason came to the service and remain away from the Chalice should normally be exceptional, few.
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2008, 09:38:02 AM »

I'm fairly new to Orthodoxy (about 1.5 years now) so the things that jump out at me are the contrasts between it and Protestant worship.  Something I had overlooked the whole time I was a Baptist is what the book describes on pg 11 and quotes St. Paul's reproach to the Corinthians for assembling for any other reason than for communion.  Typically in the Southern Baptist churches, we only took communion once a quarter and usually in an evening service or Saturday night (I guess so there weren't so many people and therefore not as much grape juice and oyster crackers to pass around).  Once in a while a church might offer communion on Sunday morning, but I never went to one that did it weekly.  In light of Paul's words, what is it they gather for when these churches do not celebrate frequently?  Preaching, music, and "fellowship" which I'll define as social contact.  While all of those things are good and maybe even important, they can't hold a candle to the Eucharist of the Orthodox church.  Sadly, the communion of the Baptist church (and other Protestant churches, though I'll leave it to Baptist as that is my experience) is nothing more than "remembrance."  I won't say that a Protestant church service is completely in vain as it did eventually lead me to Orthodoxy, but I can firmly say I did not experience the fullness of worship until I could partake in the Orthodox church.
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2008, 09:38:10 PM »

I agree with Heorhij, I think the point Fr Alexander is trying to make is that the development of the iconostasis (especially in the Russian Church where the iconostasis would go from floor to ceiling) created a "them versus us" mentality, as Fr S goes on to say in the same paragraph, "It serves only to continually nourish that 'clericalism' - so utterly alien to Orthodoxy - that reduces the laity to the status of second-class citizens, defined primarily in negative terms..."
I believe in the early church that only the celebrants approached the altar and then, only for the celebration of the Eucharist itself.  If I remember correctly, all of the other offices of the early church (eg morning and evening worship) were celebrated by the clergy in the nave surrounded by the people and not at the altar as is done today.  Remnants of this practice can still be seen today in Vespers and Matins, when the priest serves alone, the litanies are taken by him on the ambon and not at the altar.
I think the thing that blew me away the first time I read this book was Fr S's use of the word concelebration in describing the bond between the celebrant and the people (page 15).
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2008, 10:44:36 PM »

"Therefore, the 'assembly as the Church' is in reality the first liturgical act, the foundation of the entire litugy; and unless one undertand this, one cannot understand the rest of the celebration.  When I say that I am going to church, it means I am going into the assembly of the faithful in order, thogether with them, to constitute the Church, in order to be what I became on the day of my baptism -a member, in the fullest , absolute meaning of the term, of the body of Christ." p23 Italics are the authors'.

 He really brings home the fact that the Liturgy (leitourgia) is the work of all of us together.  When we respond with "Lord, have mercy" during the Divine Liturgy, we ask this for ourselves but more importantly, we ask it for everyone.
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2008, 07:41:35 AM »

Are we moving on to Chapter 2?
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« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2008, 03:31:00 PM »

Yeah, let's move on to chapter 2, but do feel free to continue discussing chapter 1 as well.  Would it be enough time to read chapter 2 by January 28th (Monday)?
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« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2008, 03:50:21 PM »

^^I'm good with that date, though now that school's started, I'm beginning to get some homework.
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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2008, 04:02:58 PM »

Would it help to have a set date for each chapter?  I'm thinking we can just do a chapter every two weeks from the 28th on.
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2008, 04:04:26 PM »

Great idea!  I work best when I'm on a schedule...
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2008, 04:20:06 PM »

My priest had Fr. Schmenmann and Fr. Meyendorf while he was at St. Vladamir's, too. We have a copy of this in the church library; maybe I'll pick up a copy.
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2008, 04:28:41 PM »

I missed this thread when it first popped up!  Sad  I have this at home and read about half of it then set it aside and never picked it up again. 

Perhaps I should do so.
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« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2008, 04:02:19 PM »

Yeah, we've been slacking a little.  Anyone prepared to discuss chapter 2?
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« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2008, 05:28:50 PM »

I'd like to get in on this, what's the due date for Chapter 2?

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« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2008, 06:52:18 PM »

How about March 10?
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« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2008, 09:02:46 PM »

Sounds good (a.k.a. BUMP)

But pick March 11 - March 10th the board will be shut down for Clean Monday.
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« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2008, 11:07:32 PM »

March 11 works for me.
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« Reply #25 on: March 04, 2008, 11:06:48 AM »

Right-o, March 11 it is. 
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« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2008, 12:21:08 PM »

Works for me, too.
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« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2008, 07:13:37 AM »

I re-read the second chapter of the book yesterday night and, as always, found it very close to my heart. Indeed, Fr. Alexander is talking there about the concept of "symbol." We all tend to misunderstand it, taking symbols as something opposite to "reality" (e.g., this picture of George Washington on a dollar bill is not the "real" Washington, but "merely" a symbol). As far as I understand him, Fr. Alexander acknowledges that from the vantage point of human logic, this interpretation of symbol may be correct; but that was not, historically, the interpretation of symbol in the Orthodox liturgy. To a worshipping Orthodox, symbols during the Eucharist have been, historically, not something "instead" of reality, but indications of reality. When the priest performs the rite of small entrance, it does not mean that he is demonstrating us a "mere symbol" of Christ coming to His Kingdom; rather, it means that Christ IS ACTUALLY entering His Kingdom and we are entering His Kingdom with Him. The Eucharist is, indeed, the sacrament of the Kingdom. The door that separates us from Heaven becomes open and we are simultaneously "here" AND "there." That's why one of the eucharistic prayers in the altar says, "You brought us out of nothing into being, and when we fell, You raised us up again and did not cease doing everything until You led us to Heaven and granted us Your Kingdom to come."
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« Reply #28 on: March 12, 2008, 10:14:11 PM »

That is a very interesting point.  I think I tripped myself up a bit in my Protestant days thinking of things as merely symbolic when perhaps the better term would have been type instead of symbol. 
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« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2008, 01:37:02 PM »

Yes. I think, in this regard, that we all have this understanding of reality as "progredience," movement from point A to point B in this so-called "time." But then, is it all there is? Time may be something that we perceive while we are here, on earth, in this fallen world. Yet, the "real reality" is timeless, or, rather, it is some sort of multiple "times" that superimpose on one another.

If you watch one of my most favorite movies of all times, "The Mirror" by Andrei Tarkovsky, there is an episode in this film where the camera shows a collage of silent pictures from various documentaries, mostly from the time of WWII (particularly, soldiers marching in shallow water under rain, and then soldiers pulling a huge artillery gun in the mud), and you hear the voice of Arseniy Tarkovsky, the director's father, a brilliant poet, who recites the following poem:

Предчувствиям не верю, и примет
Я не боюсь. Ни клеветы, ни яда
Я не бегу. На свете смерти нет:
Бессмертны все. Бессмертно всё. Не надо
Бояться смерти ни в семнадцать лет,
Ни в семьдесят. Есть только явь и свет,
Ни тьмы, ни смерти нет на этом свете.
Мы все уже на берегу морском,
И я из тех, кто выбирает сети,
Когда идет бессмертье косяком.

Живите в доме - и не рухнет дом.
Я вызову любое из столетий,
Войду в него и дом построю в нем.
Вот почему со мною ваши дети
И жены ваши за одним столом,-
А стол один и прадеду и внуку:
Грядущее свершается сейчас,
И если я приподымаю руку,
Все пять лучей останутся у вас……

("I don't believe in bad omens, and I don't fear bad sings; I am not trying to run from slander or from poison, because there is no such thing as death; everyone is immortal, and all things are immortal; one should not fear death when one is seventeen or when one is seventy; there is only reality and there is only light, while there is no such thing as darkness and death; we have all arrived to the seashore, and I am just one of those who pull the fishing net and keep collecting the immortality... Live in the house, and the house will not fall; I will recall any century and enter it and build this house of mine in it; and that's why your children are there with me, and your wives sit with me at the same table; there is one table for the great-grandfather and the grandson; the future is happening now; and when I raise my hand, all the five rays will remain in you.")
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« Reply #30 on: March 14, 2008, 02:02:08 PM »

That is a very interesting point.  I think I tripped myself up a bit in my Protestant days thinking of things as merely symbolic when perhaps the better term would have been type instead of symbol. 

I think this is a general trapping of Western thinking, and I remember from my many talks with a local RC priest that this type of thinking dominates there.  People tend to be very fixated on whether or not something is "real", and don't understand that even "reality" is a subjective concept. 

I really enjoyed reading Fr. Alexander's description of the Heavenly reality of the Eucharist, and how it basically exists along with our "symbols".  It really makes every word and every motion much more profound.  I wonder - at the time he wrote this book he expressed dismay over the fact that even in the Orthodox world, the modern notion of "symbol" had gained unfortunate prominence.  Does anyone know if Fr. Alexander's beliefs are shared by any other prominent Orthodox figures?
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« Reply #31 on: March 17, 2008, 09:34:44 AM »

Mrs. President, are we moving forward to Chapter 3? Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: March 17, 2008, 10:01:54 PM »

Yep, I think so.  Chapter 3, due a week from today if no one protests.  I think maybe doing a chapter a week will help keep us on task.
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« Reply #33 on: March 17, 2008, 11:31:18 PM »

Sounds like a plan!
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« Reply #34 on: May 21, 2008, 12:18:26 AM »

... Hmmmm.  Methinks the Book Club got caught up in the pre-Pascha preparation and the Post-Pascha partying and lost track of where they were.  Are people still interested in reading this book?
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« Reply #35 on: May 21, 2008, 11:35:43 AM »

^I certainly am! (Even though I am, well, if not lost, but then, eh, somewhat immersed in a pre-wedding partying...Smiley)
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« Reply #36 on: May 21, 2008, 12:26:04 PM »

Well if people are still up for it, how about Ch 3 by this upcoming Monday (May 26)?
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« Reply #37 on: May 21, 2008, 04:25:59 PM »

Sure, I'm in. I've got time now that I'm no longer reading so much for school.
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« Reply #38 on: November 28, 2008, 07:26:26 PM »

Anyone want to revive this section of the board (though not necessarily with the same book)?
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« Reply #39 on: December 15, 2008, 04:07:00 AM »

I guess not! Smiley
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« Reply #40 on: December 15, 2008, 10:19:27 AM »

I guess not! Smiley

I'm interested - it would be good to read again for pleasure, and not for work!
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« Reply #41 on: December 15, 2008, 10:24:31 AM »

Sure, I wouldn't mind to do that.  Any suggestions?
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« Reply #42 on: December 15, 2008, 10:39:21 AM »

Personally, I would love to read some intelligent discussion of St. John of Damascus's "Exact Exposition of Orthodox Faith," or Vladimir Lossky's "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church." These two books are among those few books in theology that I really read and liked.
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« Reply #43 on: December 15, 2008, 10:53:36 AM »

If we had the interest, I'd be up for a couple of threads in the Book Club; one on something academic like Lossky, another one on something more experiential/spiritual.
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« Reply #44 on: December 15, 2008, 11:52:39 AM »

I'd be fine with either St. John or Lossky, though I'd have to buy the book by Lossky if we chose that option.
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