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For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy Paperback – Jun 27 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 151 pages
  • Publisher: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press; 2nd Expanded edition edition (June 27 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0913836087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0913836088
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 13.7 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #20,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
Occasionally one will stumble upon a book so filled with simple Christian wisdom as to take one's breath away. Such is the case with For the Life of the World by the late Orthodox writer Alexander Schmemann. Originally written as a study guide on the Sacraments for a conference, the impact was so great it was decided to make the study more widely available in book form. The decision to publish has certainly been vindicated - the book has been influential not just with the Orthodox but throughout the Christian world and has profoundly affected (for the better) the Christian understanding of the Sacraments.
From the first sentence we are taken into a view of the Sacraments immersed in the historic liturgy of the Church. For Schmemann, the Western Church commits a fundamental error in attempting to analyze the Sacraments as "objects" in isolation from the liturgical context that gives them meaning. Instead, the Sacraments are the act of the Church within its liturgy to transform the world through Christ by offering the world and ourselves to the Father. 
Each of the recognized Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are considered within the liturgical life of the Church. This incarnational understanding of the Christian Faith presents the world itself - created by God and declared good - as something to be redeemed through Christ. Rejecting both the semi-gnostic anti-Sacramentalism of some Protestants as well as the view of medieval Roman Catholicism that bordered on "magic", Schmemann returns to a patristic view of the Sacramental life.
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Format: Paperback
A friend recommended Alexander Schmemman's _For the Life of
the World_. I read it and thought it was wonderful. Being Reformed and Calvinist in my beliefs, I have had the notion of a "biblical world and life view" emphasized to me a great deal over the past seven years since first becoming a believer. I have been taught to think of the world, in its whole, as being inherently good, though now tainted with sin, and in need of redemption. All areas of life were, therefore, open and fertile ground for the believer to work.
I have slowly grown slightly less satisfied, though, with the way that most advocates of the 'biblical world and life view' advocate for this kind of activism. I think primarily, what bothered me, was when I felt like this kind of thing did indeed become activism, and the other devotional aspects of the faith were ignored. Too often, people - including myself - seemed to advocate for 'biblical world and life view' activism, yet do so in a way that diminished the importance of personal devotion to and communion with Christ. Sometimes I felt that this approach tended to take a somewhat encyclopediac approach to the Scriptures, attempting to find ways to make the Bible suit a particular ideology. What amazed me about Schmemman is that he seemed to me to be essentially struggling with these new, modern issues of the relationship between faith and life, and yet his "answer" - if you can call it that - was centered more on the liturgical and sacramental worship of the Church. Like other Reformed writers, Schmemman rejected the 'sacred/secular' dichotomy. He based some of his criticisms, rightly so, in the invention of a 'spiritual' sphere. He was more critical, it seemed, of "spiritualism" than he was of secularism.
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By far, this is Fr. Alexander Schmemann's best work. When I read it for the first time, I had no idea that this individual was so controversial within the Orthodox Catholic Church. Having read the work, I can definitely say that it has enriched my spiritual life incredibly, whether Fr. Schmemann is theologically correct or not. My copy of the work is highlighted throughout its pages, simply due to the almost aggressive way in which Fr. Schmemann forces one to think or rethink their Christian beliefs. In my mind, this work establishes Fr. Schmemann as a kind of Orthodox Christian version of the Nouvelle Theologie theologians of the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century. His bitterness towards tradition, as such, is definitely off-putting, to be sure. But his insight into the basic aspects of Christianity is profound, if not problematic at times.
I would think that this particular work is essential for the thinking Christian, be they Orthodox or not. If only one book of Fr. Schmemann is purchased, I would say that this should be it.
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Format: Paperback
Fr. Schmemann presents the meaning and connection of world and sacramental mystery in this beautifully articulated book that serves as one of the foundational texts for the English-speaking student of theology who has a concern for the relevance of the Church's rule of prayer as expressed in Her sacramental rythems.
He argues convincingly that it is through the gift of God's Church that we come to participate fully in the world, discovering what it means to be really human and created in the image and according to the likeness of God in Christ. The other reviewers say it better than I can say it, so I'll close with this quote from the book.
"Man was to be the priest of a eucharist, offering the world to God, and in this offering he was to receive the goft of life. But in this fallen world...his love is deviated from its true direction. He still loves. He is still hungry. He knows that he is dependant upon that which is beyond him, but his love and dependance refer only to the world in itself. He does not know that breathing can be communion with God."
Living Icons is also a book worth reading if you are intersted in learning more about Fr. Alexander's life and writings. Enjoy!
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