Friday, February 4, 2011

For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann

I received For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann. The book explains what the Orthodox teach about the sacraments (sort of) and how the liturgical experience of the Orthodox Christian should govern his understanding of the world around him.

I was disappointed in the sections dealing with the Eucharist. Schmemann did a good job showing the problems with all attempts to explain exactly what happens in the Eucharist. He did an excellent job explaining what is wrong with the theory of transubstantiation. But he never gets around to talking about the basic Scriptural teachings regarding the Eucharist--that is for the forgiveness of sins. I expected the author to speak of the Eucharist as the medicine of immortality but I didn't find that either.

On the other hand, what Schmemann does speak of is worth reading. He does an excellent job of showing how the Eucharist is not a distraction or hindrance to the mission of the church but in fact is the mission of the church. He also convincingly argues that the Eucharist should never be considered separate from the liturgy. Probably the best parts of the book deal with secularism. He shows the folly of ecumenical movements that join together to battle secularism. (With things like the Glenn Beck rallys this is especially relevant in our day.) He shows that when these groups cast aside their differences to fight secularism they end up with a set of values that don't look much different from that of secularism. We should not alter are worship to be more secular and attract the secularists. When people realize that there is something wrong with secularism, it doesn't do any good to say, "Hey, I've got more secularism over here for you." We need a rediscovery of the power of historic liturgical worship so we have something to offer that is significantly better than what secularism has to offer.

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