Saturday, March 21, 2009

ALSH #10: Standing in the Temple

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann (+1982), prolific author, beloved priest, and dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary

Just as he did a thousand years ago, so today the simple believer goes to church in order primarily to "touch other worlds" (Dostoevsky). In a sense, he is not interested in worship, in the way in which experts and connoisseurs of all liturgical details are interested in it. And he is not interested because "standing in the temple" he receives all that for which he thirsts and seeks: the light, the joy, and the comfort of the Kingdom of God, that radiance which, in the words of the agnostic Chekov, beams from the faces of the "old people who just returned from the church."

What use could such a believer have for complex and refined explanations of what this or that rite represents, of what the opening or closing of the royals doors is supposed to mean?

He cannot keep up with all these symbolisms, and they are unnecessary for his faith. All he knows is that he has left his everyday life and has come to a place where everything is different and yet so essential, so desirable, so vital, that it illumines and gives meaning to his entire life.

Likewise he knows that this other reality makes life itself worth living, for everything proceeds to it, everything is related to it, everything is to be judged by it - by the Kingdom of God it manifests.

And, finally, he knows that even if the individual words or rites are unclear to him, the Kingdom of God has been given to him in the Church: in that common action, common standing before God, in love and unity.

Father Alexander Schmemann, "The Symbol of the Kingdom", in Orthodox Synthesis: The Unity of Theological Thought, ed. Joseph J. Allen (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1981), 45-46.

1 comment:

Clint said...

I really enjoy Fr. Schmemann's work. So far everything I have read from his pen has been a nugget of gold.

I suppose that I just connect with him very much.