Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Remembering Father Alexander Schmemann: 'The Mission of Orthodoxy'

Dear Parish Faithful,

Here is a bit more on St. Herman but now combined with the commemoration of Fr. Alexander Schmemann who died on the same date as Fr. Herman - December 13. Some very nice comments below by Matushka Deborah Belonick, writing on behalf of St. Vladimir's Seminary. The contrast she draws between the "saint" and the "man of God" is fascinating, revealing a deep sense of "diversity" in the best sense of that word. 

I have also included a link to a fine documentary based on Fr. Alexander's life following his death in 1983. The documentary has some excellent commentary on Orthodoxy with the voice of the late Fr. Thomas Hopko supplying most of it. You will also see and hear Fr. Schmemann in the documentary.

Remembering Father Alexander Schmemann: 'The Mission of Orthodoxy'

by Deborah Belonick, Director of Institutional and Advancement Communications, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Christ is among us!

This evening in our seminary Chapel—according to “liturgical time,” beginning with Great Vespers—we will commemorate the repose of St. Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America, which occurred December 13, 1837. This evening also, our chapel clergy will serve a panikhida in remembrance of the repose of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, dean of St. Vladimir’s from 1962–1983, which occurred on December 13, 1983.

These two men were so far apart in their life’s circumstances—one monastic, the other married with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; one whose simple life on Spruce Island in Alaska was known mostly only to local inhabitants, the other a cosmopolitan, cultured man whose incisive books and words touched not only seminarians but also thousands of Orthodox Christians and people of many faiths globally; one a severe ascetic, the other a person who enjoyed walking the streets of New York City, taking in its sights, sounds, and energy—and yet, they shared deeply two things: love for Jesus Christ and love for the New World in which they both found themselves after resettling in North America.

I remember, as a seminarian, Father Alexander saying one day in class, “You know, sin is so boring, because ‘sins’ are always the same. But, saints—saints—are endlessly interesting because there is always such variety among them.”

This evening, when I think of St. Herman and Father Alexander—this saint and this man of God—I reflect upon how the varied ways in which they presented the gospel in their adopted land affected thousands and thousands of people, in endlessly interesting ways. Natives of Alaska witnessed astounding miracles and felt the warmth of “Apa” (Father) Herman caring for them; while first, second, and third-generation Orthodox Christians and those of other faiths seeking Truth soaked in Father Alexander’s words as he opened their eyes to the liturgical tradition of the Church and the power of a sacramental life.

On this day, when we are blessed to remember these two distinct servants of Christ, I’d like to share with you one of Father Alexander’s speeches, originally adapted from a lecture given at the 1968 National Conference of Orthodox College Students and printed in Volume III, No.4 of CONCERN, a youth-oriented magazine no longer in publication. Titled, “The Mission of Orthodoxy,” this ever timely presentation summarizes Father Alexander’s thoughts on the still-burning issue of the intersection between faith and culture, as it addresses the question of how to be “truly Orthodox yet fully American.” (Read the entire presentation on our Seminary’s Synaxis Blog.)

Holy Father Herman, pray to God for us! And, may Father Alexander’s memory be eternal!

SVS Press books authored by Father Alexander Schmemann may be found here. And, SVS Press’s beautifully illustrated and charming children’s book titled, North Star: St. Herman of Alaska may be found here.

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