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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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,217 Ratings  ·  169 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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Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Brad Davis
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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."
Chris Wood
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
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
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.

Ian Caveny
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, masterworks
Long understood as one of the decisive texts for both late-modern sacramental theology as well as one of the foundational texts for the current antisecular Charles Taylor-inspired theological movement (see, for instance, Hauerwas, Wells, Smith, et al.), Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World is a masterful, albeit all-too-brief, monograph thoroughly mapping the contours of both the ontology of the sacraments alongside the history of secularism that result from the Church's misunderstand ...more
Matthew Colvin
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jeff Rickel
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Douglas Wilson
Feb 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Very good.
Steven Wedgeworth
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great spiritual-devotional read. And the secret is that it's Evangelical!
Isaiah the Ox
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to reread.
Alex Stroshine
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book on Eastern Orthodoxy and that tradition's understanding of the sacraments. Fr. Alexander Schmemann presents a holistic understanding of the world as sacrament and of Man's original role to be a priest of Creation and to bless God through recognizing God's Creation as a gift and offering it back to Him in praise. Schmemann discusses the Orthodox sacraments, such as the Eucharist, baptism and chrismation, marriage, penance, etc...and also explains how the Orthodox view th ...more
Aaron Rice
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah (Gutierrez) Myers
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
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
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
David Kern
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orthodoxy, theology
This is one of the best books I have read. Period. Fr. Schmemann elucidates sacramental theology and how in its very essence its purpose is to transform the world. I thought his argument that both secularism and religion are distortions of Christianity is also quite illuminating.

This is nonetheless and difficult book to read as Schmemann forces his reader to truly grapple with these ideas and to reconcile the reader's own life to them. To help me understand this book better, I read a chapter a d
David Galloway
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: orthodox
This is one of the books that first got me to seriously consider Christianity. While the subject revolves around Sacramental theology, it's real treasures are the philosophical insights from Fr. Alexander.

" 'Man is what he eats.' { the German philosopher Feuerbach wrote.} Feuerbach was expressing, without knowing it, the most religious idea of man. For long before Feuerbach the same definition of man was given by the Bible. In the biblical story of creation, man is presented, first of all as a
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A classic and one of the greatest Christian works ever, in my view. Schmemann humbly but assuredly expresses the Truth of the Sacramental life against all imposters, putting the Liturgy, Church and Theology largely in their proper place. This is one to read and reread- a point made on the back of the book by no less than Thomas Merton.

The books balancing act of refined scholarship and accessibility to laypeople is an achievement and is a testament to Schmemann.

However, the book does suffer fro
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Read in 1994, 2012 and now in 2014 amd it just gets better.

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
Jesse Harris
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An awesome recalling of the purpose and meaning of the liturgy, Schmemman is stands as a giant of liturgical exegesis in opposition to the reductionist liturgical theologies espoused by many in modern times. This book is so dense with insight and inspired commentary that I feel I could start over and get as much out of it again. The recalling of the church to the truth of the liturgy as symbol and reality is much needed in the western Christian church that too often separates the mystical from t ...more
Adam Ross
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
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
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The second reading of this book is somehow much better than the first, even though I found myself deeply impacted by my first reading of it. Schmemann lays out how the liturgy of the church--in which he explores the Eucharist, baptism, marriage, and death--is the means by which we ascend into the presence of Christ to share in the kingdom and then come back with the reflected light of this kingdom, with its joy, and that this light and joy is first and foremost lived in the presence of and for t ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Wonderful insights on the meaning of Christian liturgy and stimulating presentation of the Christian sacramental worldview. Unfortunately, in parts there is excessive disparagement of Christians who do not share this view, implicit supersessionism, an overly dismissive attitude towards modern liberal theology, and sometimes a tendency to ignore the importance of social action. Nevertheless, still very much worth reading.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: orthodox
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.
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 Handermann
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Highly influential on my thinking about life, church, and what Christians are supposed to be doing here. Good thoughts on following the church calender.

Also, he neatly destroys the whole secular/sacred distinction that is common among many American Christians.
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Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann was a prominent Eastern Orthodox theologian and priest of the Orthodox Church in America.
“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.” 22 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.” 19 likes
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