Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review: Alexander Schmemann's 'Liturgy and Tradition'

A review today on

"Over 20 years ago, I was studying the theological writings of a young Presbyterian writer. That man recommended Fr. Schmemann's 'For the Life of the World.' I read the book, and it changed my life. What better recommendation can one give to a writer?

I am not Eastern Orthodox, and I am not Russian. But the truly ecumenical nature of Fr. Schmemann's work is that an American Lutheran layman like myself can grow, be challenged by, and profit from this man's writings. 'Liturgy and Tradition' is a collection of essays by (and several about) Fr. Schmemann and his work studying the nature of the church's liturgy and how our faith and theology grow from that liturgy. Published after Schmemann's untimely death in 1983, several of the essays here are slightly fragmentary, but the book is worthwhile and thought-provoking.

The book challenges the way most of us do theology, since we start with theoretical constructs and work toward the liturgy. Schmemann suggests that we would better work from the liturgy, and let our theology grow from that. I don't always think he's right, but one can't walk away from his work without being provoked to think through our conceptions of the church and God's word. I'd also encourage (in conjunction with this book) reading Schmemann's 'Introduction to Liturgical Theology,' which helps to flesh out and explain some of the material here."

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