Friday, November 30, 2018

'He is Life itself and, therefore, my life...'

Dear Parish Faithful,

We concluded this year's Fall Adult Education Class last Monday evening. It was one of our better classes, in my humble opinion, primarily based on Fr. Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World. The discussions were lively and helpful for everyone in the group.*

Of the group, we had many participants over the course of six weeks, and for the most part everyone was quite impressed by the range and depth of Fr. Schmemann's "vision" for Orthodoxy in the contemporary world. I have brought that vision to our parish for the course of almost thirty years now, and I hope it will continue well into the future. 

Fr. Alexander helped us understand the centrality of the Eucharist for each and every Orthodox community, and how that eucharistic experience is the foundation for our mission to the world. That ascension to the Kingdom on the Lord's Day is what sets us apart from being just one more "religious community." It is the very content of who and what we are.

One particular paragraph stood out for me from the final chapter, "Trampling Down Death By Death." I would like to share it with everyone in the parish:

To be Christian, to believe in Christ, means and has always meant this: to know in a trans-rational and yet absolutely certain way called faith, that Christ is the Life of all life, that He is Life itself and, therefore, my life. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men."
All Christian doctrines - those of the incarnation, redemption, atonement - are explanations, consequences, but not the "cause" of that faith. Only when we believe in Christ do all these affirmations become "valid" and "consistent." 
But faith itself is the acceptance not of this or that "proposition" about Christ, but of Christ Himself as the Life and the light of life. "For the life was manifested and we have seeing, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (I Jn. 1:2). 
In this sense Christian faith is radically different from "religious belief." Its starting point is not "believe" but love. In itself and by itself all belief is partial, fragmentary, fragile. "For we know in part, and we prophecy in part ... be tongues, they shall cease, whether there is knowledge, it shall vanish away." Only love never fails (I Cor. 13). And if to love someone means that I have my life in him, or rather that he has become the "content" of my life, to love Christ is to know and to possess Him as the Life of my life. (p.104-105)

If you have yet to read For the Life of the World, put aside your other reading for the moment, and immerse yourselves in a "classic" of Orthodox writing that will open up all kinds of new insights into the meaning of the Christian faith and life.

* Links to order the book, plus Fr. Steven's extensive class notes and discussion questions, as well as special resources on Fr Alexander Schmemann and related texts may be found on our parish website.

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