Saturday, 9 May 2009

Schmemann on Religion

"Christ was killed and is being killed by religion. Religion is the organ in us which, strange as it may seem, is at the same time intensifying and hiding from us our deepest passions and our deepest sin."

Comment: Following on from the Meyendorff quote, it seems appropriate and beneficial to delve into the rather unorthodox Orthodox thought of Fr Alexander Schmemann, Meyendorff's fellow Russian theologian from the so-called "Parisian school" of Russian Orthodoxy that emanated from the circle of emigre theologians associated with the St Sergius Theological Institute of the Russian Eparchy in Western Europe. Schmemann was also Meyendorff's colleague "across the pond" from France in New York at St Vladimir's Seminary. This quote is taken from his "Journals, 1973-1983".

I mean no disrespect to Schmemann by calling his theology "unorthodox Orthodox", as he is certainly most orthodox from a catholic, ecumenical point of view (i.e. subscription to the catholic and ecumenical Creeds, setting the filioque aside for the moment). But from within Orthodoxy I gather many look upon him as "untraditional", which is perhaps the most damning epithet one can use in that most traditional of confessions.

Take these remarks on "religion", for example. There is probably no Christian church body on earth which strikes the Evangelical Lutheran as so taken up with the ephemera of "religion" as is Eastern Orthodoxy, which seems to absolutise even the minutiae of liturgical practice, such as to give the impression that the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom was handed down from the holy apostles rather than being the incrementally developed product of pre and post-Constantinian Christianity that it clearly is. To staunch adherents of traditional Orthodoxy, Schmemann, with his antithesising of Faith and "religion", is most likely to appear to be an outre rebel rather than the loyal critic that he saw himself to be.

The Evangelical Lutheran, on the other hand, is likely to discover a fellow spirit, maybe even a crypto-Lutheran, with this wholesome emphasis on Faith that one finds distributed through Schmemann's more informal writings. It is possible, as both Schmemann and Luther discovered, that religion can act as a veil which prevents the light of Christ from penetrating and illuminating our hearts and minds.

More 'crypto-Lutheran' Schmemann:
It is totally impossible to solve anything with the world’s fixation on “rights.” . . . Christianity consists in being right and conceding, and in doing so letting victory triumph: Christ on the Cross and “truly, this is the Son of God".

Alexander Schmemann, Journals, 1973-1983, p. 55.

Comment: Theology of the Cross.

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