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Author Topic: Book: For The Life of The World  (Read 3512 times) Average Rating: 0
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TomS
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« on: October 18, 2004, 11:51:10 PM »

I am re-reading what I consider a great book by Schmemann: "For The Life of The World".

I have heard that the more traditional Orthodox don't care too much for him. Why is that?
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2004, 12:20:55 AM »

Beats me.  I tried to get into it, but I wasn't sure where it was going.  I need more concise, idiot-proof books like The Orthodox Church or something like that.  I had a hard enough time just getting through the first few chapters of The Spiritual Life by St. Theophan (I recommend it...it's good once you get past the introductory metaphysics).
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2004, 08:31:03 AM »

I don't want to get into this discussion, because I don't want to judge Fr. Alexander, especially since he was a priest. I'll just say that when Fr. Seraphim Rose spoke of "renovationism from the left" he had fellows like Fr. Alexander in mind. There are lots of articles out there on the internet (including some by people respected across jurisdictional lines) that critique Fr. Alexander's liturgical, historical, and other beliefs.
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2004, 08:35:03 AM »

I don't want to get into this discussion, because I don't want to judge Fr. Schmemann, especially since he was a priest. I'll just say that when Fr. Alexander Seraphim Rose spoke of "renovationism from the left" he had fellows like Fr. Alexander in mind. There are lots of articles out there on the internet (including some by people respected across jurisdictional lines) that critique Fr. Alexander's liturgical, historical, and other beliefs.

Amen to that.  I do not like the views of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and I definitely did not like any of his books.  I read For The Life of the World about 4 years ago.  I got half way through and had to put it down.  I then tried his book called Of Water and the Spirit. I couldn't tolerate that either. They were in my opinion, dare I say, a little ecumenist? His views come across as wishy-washy and undecisive.

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« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2004, 10:18:47 AM »

Like a lot of SVS books it's a good read for Western Catholics - mind-blowing, almost Zen while remaining Orthodox. It's like Vatican II but better - says a lot of things that are true but in shocking ways so it needs a lot of prep reading/explaining or else it's dangerous.

At the most Fr Alexander was like the old Western Catholic liturgical movement (his Parisian brand of Russian Orthodoxy and it had a symbiotic relationship) - he wanted people to think about the Liturgy in a different way and love what they have, not radically change Russian Orthodox practice +á la Novus Ordo (a betrayal of that old movement).
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« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2004, 05:00:59 PM »

I haven't read this one, but I have read his posthumously published Eucharist, which I found challenging, but worthwhile.  I appreciated his comprehensive effort to get us to think of the Divine Liturgy as a whole and not to think of certain moments within the Liturgy as being more important than others.  I understand that some more traditionalist Orthodox found certain things Fr. Schmemman had to say about the "development" of the Divine Liturgy over the centuries disturbing.

I don't know very much of Fr. S's life beyond the basics, but I do know that my parish priest, who was a member of one of the last classes to go through St. Vlad's during Fr. S's tenure, speaks of his former Dean with the greatest respect and affection.
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« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2004, 05:04:55 PM »

I do not like the views of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and I definitely did not like any of his books....They were in my opinion, dare I say, a little ecumenist? His views come across as wishy-washy and undecisive.

Cap'n:
How so?  

As for my own opinion of Schmemman's views/books:
I like 'em.  Lots.  In fact, they were one of the major factors in my converting to Orthodoxy.  It's entirely possible I was and am unaware of some unhealthy factor in the views/books, but, to me, they paint a beautiful picture of what it means to live within the Orthodox sacraments.
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2004, 05:30:53 PM »

As a relatively new Orthodox (3 years) it is easy for me to state that For the Life of the World was one of the "clinchers" for me to convert.  I found it to be literally life changing.

It's sad that we view almost everything today through an either/or lens:  red/blue, liberal/conservative, traditionalist/progressive.  Again one of the things that drew me to Orthodoxy was the existence of a non-dualistic either/or world view.  I found something other than the western Christian mind vs. body schism.  

Isn't Father Alexander a reason why weekly communion is the norm now?  The way I understand it communion was only taken around Pascha.  Please correct me if this is wrong.

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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2004, 10:38:05 PM »

I am a big fan of Fr. Schmemann.  His works were among the most influential on me when I was inquiring and during my discernment process.  It saddens me that so many Orthodox do not embrace more of his approach.  He was brave enough, and bright enough, to be able to simultaneously demonstrate where Western Christianity had gone wrong in comparison with Orthodoxy, but also where Orthodoxy itself -- while preserving its forms rather well -- had grown away from a true understanding of those forms, and had instead replaced that with popular folk beliefs.  He was such an honest person, intellectually ... he was not afraid to criticize where he believed critique was called for, even when that meant criticizing the practices and attitudes of the Orthodox Church which he so loved.  

In any case, I was fortunate that the priest I contacted when I was inquiring was a student of Fr. Schmemann and a big advocate of his approach to Orthodox practice.  It certainly meshed very well with where I was coming from before I became an "inquirer" per se.

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« Last Edit: November 21, 2004, 10:41:45 PM by Brendan03 » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2004, 10:52:39 PM »

Reading Fr. Schmemman (sp? - never can remember how to spell his name) opened up a whole new world for me.  For the Life of the World literally blew me away.  

I think what I found most profound was his assertion that Christianity is not a 'religion.'  

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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2004, 10:55:25 PM »

Reading Fr. Schmemman (sp? - never can remember how to spell his name)

An easy way to remember is that it is 2 Ms followed by 2 Ns.

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« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2004, 11:07:25 PM »

"For the Life of the World" was useful for me in college, when (as one who grew up in an Orthodox home) people would come by trying to convert me to protestantism.  It really helped me see that Orthodoxy wasn't just ancient belief and practice, but could be life itself.  I think his writings are very abstract, though.

I actually think I'm jealous of Fr. Alexander sometimes, since for him, life seemed to be one joyous communion with God.  Life hasn't been that easy for me, and a lot of times, I have trouble seeing God during tough times.  It's useful to know that if we persist, maybe we can see life like Fr. Alexander.

Yes, I think he was the reason for weekly, or more regular, partaking of Holy Communion.  People used to receive about once a year -- during Lent -- which is why people went to confession once a year -- before their annual Holy Communion.  There was a big hulabaloo when he instituted the "general confession" which was a way to get Orthodox into the practice of more regular Holy Communion.  But then some Orthodox bishops in the OCA have called general confession, really "no confession at all."  The bottom line, I think, is the more frequently you receive Holy Communion, the more frequently you should go to confession.

I actually found Fr. Alexander Schmemann's private journals more interesting than his books.  After his death, his wife translated his private journals from 1973-1983 into English (from the Russian or French he would usually write in I think).  It was published by St Vladimir's Seminary in 1999 or so.  He has daily thoughts on issues that face still today, like Orthodoxy and women's ordination, homosexuality, parish life, etc., and on various political issues during the 70's and 80's.  Very compelling.  Yet through all this, he still seemed to see life as one huge gift from God.  

I think he was definitely a boon to Orthodoxy in America.  I was aware that Fr. Seraphim Rose disagreed publicly with Fr. Alexander on a lot of issues, but, before Fr. Seraphim's death (he died in 1982, and Fr. Alexander in 1983), Fr. Seraphim was at SVS in New York and prostrated himself before Fr. Alexander asking forgiveness.  How much more moving can it get?
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« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2004, 09:26:27 AM »

---"...Fr. Seraphim was at SVS in New York and prostrated himself before Fr. Alexander asking forgiveness.  How much more moving can it get?"

Huh, I never heard that. I don't know specifically what Fr Seraphim Rose wrote about concerning Fr Alexander, but I'm sure Fr Seraphim was not in agreement with Fr A's views on the ascetical life.

I read For the Life of the World when I first became Orthodox. I liked it very much, but now I see its limitations. I think Fr John Romanides' works are a much better beacon for Orthodoxy.

Gregory

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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2004, 01:54:11 AM »

I am re-reading what I consider a great book by Schmemann: "For The Life of The World".

I have heard that the more traditional Orthodox don't care too much for him. Why is that?
 

I think it's a great book too.  Some on this thread have spoken of the book's "limitations."  I'm sure I don't know what they mean.  It is an amazing wellspring of creative thought, a real gem.  In his writings Fr. Alexander seems to articulate things in a way that had never been done in quite the same way before, especially when speaking of liturgical theology.

I have my own theories about why some "conservative" Orthodox people are not keen on Fr. Alexander.

I think that some "traditional" Orthodox don't care too much for Schmemann for a number of reasons.  One reason relates, I think, to what Jennifer said elsewhere here:  Fr. Alexander's insistence that Christianity is "religionless religion", or "in a very profound sense, the end of all religion."  Herein is something that is irritating to some conservative types.   Fr. Alexander does not see the liturgy as being "cultic" in any way, ie the liturgy is not some separate thing set aside on its own for its own sake, that is divorced from the reality of our lives.  Rather, for him the life of the Church in a very real way flows from the liturgy, and the liturgy is the fount of theology as well.  There is, I think, in slavic Orthodoxy in particular, a great temptation to almost worship the form of the liturgy, instead of seeing the ritual as icon that has reality in itself, but which also leads to a greater reality.  This is linked to the temptation to accept "tradition" as "Tradition."  (That is to say, "if my great grandfather did it this way in czarist Russsia, then it must be right.")  

Another reason has to do with the fact that Fr.  Alexander was always exhorting Orthodox in the Western world to avoid the temptation and trap of narrow triumphalism.  In many of his writings, (for example: "Church, World Mission") he advocated a balancing act in which we should learn about things that the West has done well and embrace these things, but reject other things.  I'm not speaking of theology here, but culture and other trappings of modern life.  He thought that there was a lot that we could learn from the West.   He definitely seemed to believe in the kind of ecumenism where Orthodox could bear witness to the Truth without compromising their Orthodoxy.  He was a true pioneer of the idea of American Orthodoxy and instrumental in promoting the autocephaly of the OCA.  I don't have to tell you how all of this might be unnerving to some conservatives.  

I have heard, and this is only hearsay, that Fr. Alexander and those in his circle could be scornful of monasticism in some respects.  If this is true, you might see how this would ruffle the feathers of any Orthodox, not just "traditionalist" ones.

Bob

PS Oh yes....as has already been alluded to, Fr. Alexander was a great believer in frequent communion for the laity.  Some (though by no means all) conservatives are still not too enthusiastic about this.

PPS Can't forget that he didn't seem to have any great love for the old calendar.
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2004, 06:11:13 PM »

Okay, people, please.  Is this all that anyone has to say about the writings of Schmemann?   Whatever your opinion of him, you can't deny that he's had a major impact on the Church.   Please, I would like to know what others think.  

Hectering in love,

Bobba-Jim
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« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2004, 08:49:51 PM »

I am kind of stunned that that's all anyone has to say about Schmemann, on a forum like this.  I would expect a lot of enthusiastic and some negative comments.  Is that really all you guys have to say?

HELLO?
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« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2004, 10:51:58 PM »

Some would say that Fr Alexander's views deny the influence of God in the development of liturgy but instead leave it to a haphazard development that can be "reformed."

I read his journals and found him to be extremely judgmental.

He had some very important influences on the Orthodox Church, though, and I appreciate many of the things he did.

Anastasios
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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2004, 01:56:01 AM »

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/searchresults.aspx?kw=Schmemann
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« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2004, 02:31:40 AM »

Fr. Schmemmann was instrumental in recovering some of the right practices of the Church that had been lost to the "traditions" of groups of people. Critics of him then railed against frequent communion and english language in the Liturgy. But today, we recognize both as wonderful!  He is a large reason of why people take communion as often as they are prepared and why (I think) we are growing in such large numbers in America as people come to Liturgy, hear it in English, and are converted.  As someone who is related to several priests who were students at SVS during the last years of Fr. Schemmann's life, I have to say that I have heard nothing but good about this remarkably dedicated man.  I also think that while there is a great deal of good info at orthodoxinfo.com, I take much of what is presented there with a grain of salt. There is much that is NOT of Orthodoxy as well, imho.
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« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2004, 04:02:49 AM »

I'm a big fan of Schmemmann. I think he was very insturmental in bringing Orthodoxy where it needs to be here.  I have read some of his books and have found them to be very intruiging. I really don't get what people have against him also in some Orthodox circles.
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« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2004, 02:29:00 PM »

Some interesting posts.  Thanks, everyone.    

 (I tried to put a smiley face here, but it doesn't seem to be working! Oh well.)

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