Friday, December 13, 2013

30th Anniversary of Fr Alexander Schmemann's Repose

Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Today is the 30th anniversary of the repose of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who died on this date in 1983.  The OCA website has as its lead article today a nice summary of Fr. Alexander's life and accomplishments.  Fr. Alexander was both a brilliant mind and a charismatic personality.  

I had the honor of studying at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York while he was the dean and still a healthy and dynamic presence on campus.  (I graduated in 1981 and Fr. Alexander became sick with the cancer that would take his life in 1982).  I studied Liturgical Theology with Fr. Alexander for,  I believe, two years, and I had other courses with him.  

My approach toward liturgical theology and the Liturgy more specifically has once and for all been shaped by Fr. Alexander. He was a very great presence in the chapel as he loved to serve as the chief celebrant often during Saturday night vigils, the Liturgy and many of the Feast Days. Serving the paschal Liturgy with Fr. Alexander my last Pascha at the seminary while I was a deacon, was one of the great "highlights" of my three years at St. Vladimir's.  

When Sophia was born, he made a point of visiting our modest apartment in Yonkers that was off campus, spending some time with us and giving Sophia his blessing.  

Regardless of his flaws and faults, I consider him to have been a great man who had a profound vision of the potential of Orthodox Christianity in North America, and who imparted that vision to his students in a lively and inspiring fashion.  

I have never met a person who seemed to enjoy life to the extent that Fr. Alexander did.  But this was always in the context of an Orthodox worldview that he grasped organically and intuitively. He may have been the key figure behind the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970.  

I made a point of returning to New York for Fr. Alexander's funeral at St. Vladimir's.  This, too, was an extraordinary and unique experience.   When I said good-bye to one of his daughters before leaving for my return trip home, and commenting to her on the over-all effect of the funeral service, she smiled as she said that it was just like Pascha!  There is a fourteen-minute youtube video of his funeral, and many more resources that can be accessed from the OCA website.

I would highly recommend his books to you, if you have yet to read anything  that he has written.  The starting point would be his classic For the Life of the World...

-- Fr Steven

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