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For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy
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For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy

4.45 of 5 stars 4.45  ·  rating details  ·  1,184 ratings  ·  103 reviews
An approach to the world and to life that stems from the liturgical experience of the Orthodox Church. Deals with the issues of "secularism" and Christian culture, viewing them from the perspective of the Church as revealed and communicated in its worship and liturgy.
Paperback, 151 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
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The Orthodox Church by Kallistos WareThe Orthodox Way by Kallistos WareThe Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos C. MarkidesOn the Incarnation by Athanasius of AlexandriaThe Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way by Anonymous
Best Eastern Orthodox Books
8th out of 115 books — 35 voters
The Orthodox Church by Kallistos WareThe Orthodox Way by Kallistos WareFor the Life of the World by Alexander SchmemannGreat Lent by Alexander SchmemannFacing East by Frederica Mathewes-Green
Eastern Orthodox Christian Reading
3rd out of 61 books — 21 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,130)
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Chris Wood
There are few books that I can point to as paradigm shifters. Perhaps Ridderbos' Paul, Van Til's Christian Apologetics, John Frame's Doctrine of God, and Mouw's He Shines In All That's Fair are the few that exploded my understanding of God's work in the world, both in terms of His work in creation and redemption. Schmemann's "For the Life of the World" has done just that for me.

For all of the material available on the subject of the sacraments, to my knowledge Schmemann's work alone analyzes the
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Jacob Aitken
This is the best book on worldview I have ever read. Hands down. I come from a protestant background but most protestants argue for worldview in gnostic categories. Even the most creational of them merely reduce the Christian faith to the intellectual. This is the oldest heresy the church faced: gnosticism.



Fr. Schmemann, on the other hand, demonstrates how the Christian worldview cannot be separated from the more "earthly" elements of the faith: the sacraments. For him, the world is sacramental
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Jack
Among books that should be required reading for priests entering sacramental ministry, this short book by Fr. Alexander Schmemann should be at the top of the list. To read Schemann is to discover a true sacramental vision of the world and Life in Christ. Seeing as Schmemann sees, one cannot but encounter the effects of secularism and harmful dualisms in one's own vision and thought. In that sense, reading Schmemann is akin to attending the sacrament of confession: to confess one's blindness in t ...more
Tim
This is my first contact with Alexander Schmemann. I am quite sure that I'll make some time to explore him further, for I found this little book to be both gloriously illuminating and but also a bit scary.

As to the illumination, Schmemann proposes a view of the world that is enormously compelling. He sees the world "sacramentally." I think what he means by that is that the world is God's creation and is both to manifest his presence and also to be fellowship with us. Sin, of course, destroys th
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Conor
Simply put, this is one of the greatest books of any genre I have ever read.

I am not sure how even to begin describing this incredible book. Ultimately it is about living all of life liturgically and understanding the world as sacrament. We come to know the world through the lived liturgy of the Church.

In this book, Schmemann rejects the false dichotomies between secular and religious, nature and grace, supernatural and natural. He orients the reader to living life liturgically.

I feel as if I
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David Kern
This relatively slim volume belongs on any short list of theological classics, particularly modern works. It's up there with MERE CHRISTIANITY, say, or ORTHODOXY.

"The church is the sacrament of Kingdom - not because she possesses divinely instituted acts called 'sacraments', but because first of all she is the possibility given to man to see in and through this world the 'world to come', to see and to 'live' it in Christ. It is only when in the darkness of this world we discern that Christ has a
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Brad Davis
Nov 30, 2008 Brad Davis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all who are becoming disastisfied with evangelicalism.
The final sentence says it all..."A Christian is the one who, wherever s/he looks, finds Christ and rejoices in Him. And this joy tranforms all his/her human plans and programs, desicisons and actions, making all his/her mission the sacrament of the world's return to Him who is the life of the world."
Joshua
Outside of Scripture, the first 10 or so pages of this book are the most important words I've ever read.

I'd join the Orthodox Church, but that would be so Protestant of me that it seems wise to stay put.

Steve
Read in 1994, 2012 and now in 2014 amd it just gets better.

e.g.
Alexandr Schmemann: “The cross of Christ signified an end of all “natural” rejoicing; it made it, indeed, impossible. From this point of view the sad “seriousness” of modern man is certainly of Christian origin even if this has been forgotten by the man himself. Since the gospel was preached in this world, all attempts to go back to a pure “pagan joy”, all “renaissances”, all “healthy optimisms” were bound to fail”…. And it is this
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Adam Ross
A simply brilliant book. Occasionally he ventures into Eastern Orthodox doctrines that I, as a protestant, disagree with. Marriage as sacrament is one of them, but even Protestants must say that marriage is sacramental, though it is not a sacrament. All in all, a wonderful book the goal of which is to destroy the pesky dichotemy of "religion" and "secular." Instead, he wants to paint reality as a unified whole, and that before we can understand life, we must understand the Life that was "for the ...more
David Withun
Fr. Alexander Schmemann delves deeply into the sacramental nature of reality in this book. Arguing against the modern distinction between "sacred" things on the one hand and "secular" on the other, Schmemann returns to an earlier Christian conception of the world as sacrament, as the presence of God waiting to be revealed and communed with.

His constant emphasis is on the priesthood of each human being. It is the work of each to take up the things of this world and offer them to God to be redeeme
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Elissa
For years, every Sunday morning I think of Fr. Schmemann's assertion that the liturgy begins when the faithful climb out of bed and wash their faces, get dressed and begin to journey to church. In this way and in so many others, he elucidates the sanctification of all creation through the Eucharist. I love this book.
Tim
"Man is what he eats," and if he eats the Body and Blood of Christ found in the Eucharist, he eats unto himself eternal Life.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann (of Blessed Memory) was a prolific scholar and exegete of the Orthodox Christian faith. Being at the crossroads of both Eastern and Western Christianity (i.e. belonging to the Eastern church, yet residing in the West for most of his life), it should come as no surprise that he would be able to dissect the problems that are particular to 'Westernize
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David
I loved wrestling with the ideas worked out here, though I was less fond of sifting through some of the prose. Still, a fantastic vision of seeing the entire creation--and not just "churchy things"--as sacramental.
Ryan


A really good look at Liturgy, sacrament, and worldview from an Orthodox perspective. This book deserves to be read again.
Jamie Cain
Apr 14, 2014 Jamie Cain rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jamie by: Cameron
Astonishing.
Becky Pliego
The parts I loved in this book are simply amazing (it reminded me of R. Farrar Capon's style). But I had a hard time with some sections that pertain more to the Orthodox way of doing life.

It is important not to forget that Schmemann's book is like a guided walk through the Orthodox liturgy specifically; meaning that you will encounter things that belong to this particular trail (like marriage being a sacrament, or the view of Mary).

I read this book because my children read it in college and sug
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Eric Chappell
Let me preface this brief review by saying: other than some of the Cappadocian Fathers, I've not really read anything from the East. Honestly, I think that's unfortunate. I find it deeply enriching to read resources from other brothers that are out of my small context and on a completely different branch of Christianity. That said, it made this book somewhat difficult to evaluate. For one, Schmemann's sacramentology is significantly different than classical Protestantism both in number and empha ...more
The Chestertonian (Sarah G)
Great stuff here, in this short little book on sacramental theology, treating of Christian life and worship within a holistic liturgical framework! Schmemann writes from an Orthodox perspective, but much of what he says is instructive for all Christians, especially those of us not in the habit of thinking with a truly sacramental vision. And though Schmemann's characterizations of "Western" theological attitudes and categories tend to be oversimplified (i.e., he seems to include all of non-Ortho ...more
David Holford
Like so many other reviewers, I also have to say that this is the most important book I have ever read. This a a worldview-changing book. I read this 13 years before I was received into the Orthodox Church and even after I left the East and returned to the West. This is not simply about the importance or meaning of sacramentalism in the Church. It is about the sacramental way of life. If what we do in church on Sunday doesn't change - even transform - what we do every other day in every other pl ...more
Jennifer
Amazing. I want to read more about Orthodoxy. I don't take notes when I read; however, so much of this book made sense to me that I found myself writing. I did disagree with his portrayal of gender in Chapter 7.

Favorite quotes:

"To be truly man means to be fully oneself. The confirmation is the confirmation of man in his own, unique "personality." It is his ordination to be himself, to become what God wants him to be, what He has loved in me from all eternity. It is the gift of vocation."

"Beauty
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Aaron Rice
This is not as much a review of the book as it is my thoughts and what I gained from it:

This book expanded my understanding of the meaning of sacrament. The western understanding has been poisoned by a dichotomy between symbol and that which is signified as well as by a removal of the "sacrament itself" from its proper liturgical context. The symbol (i.e. Bread and Wine) do not point to an invisible grace that is not really present. Rather, being a sacrament (mysterion), it is a revelation (epip
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Matthew Colvin
Like Zizioulas and other theologians of the Eastern churches, Alexander Schmemann writes with a philosophical viewpoint, not an exegetical one.

Sometimes he says penetrating and acute things, as for instance (p. 27-28) that the Christ whom we preach is, after his resurrection, no longer recognizable to his own disciples until they have had their own consciousness changed by entering into the new reality which is the resurrection. This is both a claim about reality – that the resurrected Christ i
...more
Jeff Rickel
Why is the world the way it is? Why does heartache, destruction, and death exist? Is there a remedy?

In Western Christianity there is a simplistic answer that is focused on a misreading of Augustinian theology. Catholics and Protestants alike came from the same tree, both embracing the West's scholasticism and, in so doing, spawning the Christian heresy known as secularism. Truthfully, they also both embrace another heresy known as "religion".

Yet both have left the teachings of the Apostles, espe
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Chris
A good introduction to a sacramental theology of Eastern Orthodox liturgy and to their worldview. I found its charge against secularism very good and on terms utterly foreign to the secularist. I was not persuaded by its critique of "Western" theology. It was no surprise to me to hear the critique that Protestantism is functionally gnostic or at least docetic. The tendency is there but the Protestant critique of tradition is still valid, evidenced by Schmemann critique of his own traditions wand ...more
Greg
This is a great book on liturgy. It challenges Western views of worship, and does so from such a different way of thinking to me that I needed to read it slowly and often re-read sections as I went. I found it to be fresh and very helpful.

Schmemann is writing from Orthodox position, but I believe much of what he has to say is extremely helpful to all traditions within Christianity. It is for this very reason that it has attracted such a wide readership and has become a classic since it was firs
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Beth
Oct 11, 2007 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: christian
Fr Nicholas gave me a copy of this book to read as I am now a catechumen in the Eastern Orthodox Church ((YAY!)). It's an explanation of what the sacrements of the Church are and what they mean. Schememann's definition of what the liturgy is--specifically the Eucharistic liturgy--really stuck with me:

The Eucharist is a liturgy. And he who says liturgy today is likely to get involved in a controversy. For to some…liturgy is esthetic and spiritual deviation from the real task of the church…But thi
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Shaun Brown
An excellent short volume written by Alexander Schmemann, a priest and professor within the Orthodox tradition. Originally given as a series of presentations to the National Student Christian Federation in 1963, it was later made into a book. Despite being five decades old, the book holds up well and speaks powerfully to our contemporary context. It is written accessibly and so readable for interested lay people, but also a deep book that can be appreciated by scholars and pastors alike.
Dwight Davis
This is one of the most perfect works of theology I've ever read. Schmemann brilliantly explicates the meanings of the sacraments and relates them to how Christians should live in the world today. Although his musings on the Eucharist and Baptism were really great, what really stood out to me were his chapters on marriage and the priesthood. Even though Schmemann comes from a very different theological tradition than my own, I found myself agreeing more with him and being challenged more by him ...more
Michael Culbertson
A very interesting look into the function and meaning of sacraments and liturgy in the Greek Orthodox tradition. Schmemann goes through the Orthodox liturgies of the Eucharist, the church calendar, baptism, matrimony, and burial, highlighting how they draw the worshipper into connection with the Lord, Jesus Christ, source of life. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Eucharist, time, and baptism, since they explored the richly interconnected network of symbolism that all harmoniously points to ...more
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Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann was a prominent Eastern Orthodox theologian and priest of the Orthodox Church in America.
More about Alexander Schmemann...
Great Lent: Journey to Pascha The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom Of Water and the Spirit: A Liturgical Study of Baptism The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983 Introduction to Liturgical Theology

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“The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom. We use the word 'dimension' because it seems the best way to indicate the manner of our sacramental entrance into the risen life of Christ. Color transparencies 'come alive' when viewed in three dimensions instead of two. The presence of the added dimension allows us to see much better the actual reality of what has been photographed. In very much the same way, though of course any analogy is condemned to fail, our entrance into the presence of Christ is an entrance into a fourth dimension which allows us to see the ultimate reality of life. It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.” 12 likes
“Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence...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.” 11 likes
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