Friday, January 10, 2020

For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann

A Christian is the one who, wherever he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in him. And this joy transforms all his human plans and programs, decisions and actions, making all his mission the sacrament of the world's return to him who is the life of the world.
This book was literally pressed into my hands by my spiritual director and I read it slowly it over several months. The author was an Eastern Orthodox priest but any Christian can get a great deal of insight and inspiration from this wonderful book. He looks at the connection between daily life and the sacraments and liturgy of the church. As a result, we are repeatedly drawn into fresh realizations about how present God is in everyday life ... and how connected that is with the liturgy.

I realize that doesn't make it sound very exciting. But it is. Chalk it up to my inability to properly describe this book which gave me some revelatory moments. This is lengthy but gives a sense of the book.
Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him. To be sure, man is not the only hungry being. All that exists lives by "eating." The whole creation depends on food. But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from him. He alone is to respond to God's blessing with his blessing. ...

Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence. A meal is still a rite—the last "natural sacrament" of family and friendship, of life that is more than "eating" and "drinking." To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that "something more" is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.

It is not accidental, therefore, that the biblical story of the Fall is centered again on food. Man ate the forbidden fruit. The fruit of that one tree, whatever else it may signify, was unlike every other fruit in the Garden: it was not offered as a gift to Man. Not given, not blessed by God, it was food whose eating was condemned to be communion with itself alone, and not with God. It is the image of the world loved for itself, and eating it is the image of life understood as an end in itself.
This is one of the most inspirational books I've ever read. I may just begin again at the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Julie, I first read this book more than 20 years ago as a seminarian. It is still one the best books I know of on the intimate connection between the liturgy of the church and everyday life. Thanks for your review and I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the value this book.