Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repose of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann. This short meditation will not be about his life. It will not try to expound on the man’s legacy or attempt to contextualize his importance within the Orthodox Church. In honor of Fr. Alexander, let us instead speak of Liturgy and the Eucharist – the center of Christian Life and Worship
In his book For the Life of the World Fr. Alexander writes, “The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom… [Our] entrance into the presence of Christ is an entrance into a fourth dimension which allows us to see the ultimate reality of life. It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.”
The Divine Liturgy opens with the words “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!” In the Eucharist we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven – the perfect Kingdom – made present here on earth in the Church by the presence of the crucified and risen Christ.
We are formed by entrance into the Kingdom to be temples of God celebrating the Heavenly Liturgy in the holy place of the heart. In eating the Body and Blood of Christ the new Adam, offered up in Thanksgiving on behalf of all and for all, we become truly human. The life of the true human, the redeemed human, is to give praise and thanks to God. In the words of Fr. Alexander, “The only real fall of man is his non-eucharistic life in a non-eucharistic world.” (ibid)
The Divine Liturgy is a synergy between the three churches – the three kingdoms. The paradigm – the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church – the community of the faithful, and the person – the temple and alter of God. Brothers and sisters, it is not enough to ponder on this. We must gather as church and enter into the kingdom. Let us offer praise and thanksgiving – the Liturgy.
Ponder the words of John the Evangelist in the context of our meditation and see how the scriptures may be illumined through the Liturgy:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” John 14:16-20