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Schmemann on Eucharist and Mission

The purpose of this book is a humble one. It is to remind readers its that in Christ, life – life in all its totality – was returned to man, given again as sacrament and communion, made Eucharist. And it is to show – be it only partially and superficially – the meaning of this for our mission in the world. The Western Christian is used to thinking of sacrament as opposed to the Word, and he links the mission with the Word and not the sacrament. He is, moreover, accustomed to consider the sacrament as perhaps an essential and clearly defined part or institution or act of the Church and within the church, but not of the church as being itself the sacrament of Christ’s presence and action. And finally he is primarily interested in certain very “formal” questions concerning the sacraments: their number, their “validity,” thier institution, etc. Our pourpose is to show that there exists and always existed a different perspective, a different approach to sacrament, and that this approach may be of crucial importance precisely for the whole burning issue of mission, of our witness to Christ in the world. For the basic question is: of what are we witnesses? What have we seen and touched with our hands? OF what have we partaken and been made communicants? Where do we call men? What can we offer them?

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press, 1973), 20-21.


  1. D.W. Congdon wrote:

    Schmemann is always worth reading. Though I think Jüngel’s strong reservations regarding the language of the church as sacrament are worth hearing in conversation with Schmemann here.

    Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 4:54 am | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    If understanding the church as sacrament in any way eclipsed Christ as the sacarament of God, then I would agree that it is problem. Though I definately think that the church is the sacrament of Christ to the world in the same way that Christ is the sacrament of God (Bonhoeffer).

    Lately, I’ve been thinking that contiguity is a good term for thinking about the relationship between Christ and the Church and proper way to understand how the church is both identified with and distinguished from Christ.

    Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

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