For the Life of the World

I have been reading through a great little book called For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann, and thought I would post a quote and some questions. Schmemann, in the midst of talking about food (of all things), says this:

We can interupt here for a while this theme of food. We began with it only in order to free the terms ‘sacramental’ and ‘eucharistic’ from the connotations they have acquired in the long history of technical theology, where they are applied almost exclusively within the framwork of ‘natural’ versus ‘supernatural,’ and ‘sacred’ versus ‘profane,’ that is, within the same opposition between religion and life which makes life ultimately unredeemable and religiously meaningless. In our perspective, however, the ‘original’ sin is not primarily that man has ‘disobeyed’ God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for Him and for Him alone, ceased to see his whole life depending on the whole world as a sacrament of communion with God.

It is this last aspect that I am most interested in, particularly in light of the discussions concerning the “sacred” and “secular” dichtomy. Schmemann goes on to say, “The fall is not that he preferred the world to God, distorted the balance between the spiritual and material, but that he made the world material, whereas he was to have transformed it into ‘life in God,’ filled with meaning and spirit.”

Schmemann goes on to offer something of a critique of the Western mission, claiming that the Western Christian pits sacrament against Word, linking mission only with the concept of Word. He continues by saying that the Western Christian,

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.”

So what are your thoughts about Schmemann’s use of sacrament as he seeks to parse out what he considers to be a false dichtomy between the “sacred” and the “secular?” What about his re-focus on the issue of materiality as the problem, opposing that to his idea of sacrament?

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