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

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 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: 4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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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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Format: Paperback
The Western World, especially Protestantism and to a slightly lesser degree Catholicism, have fallen into the idea that miracles are "supernatural" or rather, something other than natural, which is to deny the naturalness and completeness of us allowing God to interact in our lives and come into us. There is nothing "supernatural" about a miracle, argues Schmemann, it is only when we loose touch with the reality of God in our lives that such things seem to be other than natural. We only come to grips with our real nature when we are worshipping God and participating in the Eucharistic Lituragy, no other act of humanity brings us nearer to our true nature because we are using and offering back up to God, nature, God's creation, in the way it is meant to be used; to praise and worship Him.
Almost as good as "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" but for something which was originally just an essay for seminary students to read, it is truly excellent. Read after "The Orthodox Way" and before "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" since it will act as somewhat of a stepping stone for many people. Definitely worth the read though.
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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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