Thursday, January 31, 2008

Alexander Schmemann's 'Introduction to Liturgical Theology': an Amazon review

My latest review on, of Schmemann's Introduction to Liturgical Theology:

"This is an introduction to liturgical theology.

Which is not a "theology of liturgy," as important as that is.

No, Fr. Schmemann here tries to introduce us to theology as we learn it from the liturgy, how the church's liturgies have taught us about our Savior, and how the Liturgy brings us into God's Kingdom.

Schmemann was Russian Orthodox, and this book reflects that background, and most of the book deals with the liturgies of Eastern Christianity. There are occasional references to Western liturgies and Western theology, but that's not the focus of the book. But this book is a fine introduction for anyone, western or eastern.

But if you're Western (like me) here's a warning: the book can be hard to understand, just because he's dealing with topics and aspects that were unfamiliar to me. But it bears careful reading, and a thoughtful reading rewards the reader. I've just completed my third reading of the book, and found treasures here that eluded me the first 2 readings. Future readings will probably bear similar fruit.

An earlier reviewer mentioned the author's use of Greek. I don't read Greek either, but the few instances here aren't difficult to parse out for anyone who has a passing acquaintance with the Greek alphabet. I, too, would have appreciated a bibliography, but I suspect Schmemann expected to write more, and perhaps left this book's references in a somewhat unfinished state. But almost anything that Schmemann wrote is worth reading, and this book is no exception."

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