Winter 2021

Why We Need Alexander Schmemann

David W. Fagerberg

The question “why do we need Fr. Alexander Schmemann?” elicits a question in response: “who are we?” That is, who are the ones who could benefit from Schmemann’s insights? It turns out in this case that it is not only the readers of Communio, because Schmemann is also beneficial to scholars and laity, liturgical studies and theological studies, the academy and the Church, Eastern and Western Christians, for having effected a paradigm shift in the understanding of liturgical theology. Instead of treating liturgy like an object, Schmemann recognizes liturgy as a source. Prior to his influence, liturgy tended to be treated as one among many objects of study—for history first and theology second—but for Schmemann liturgy is “the ontological condition of theology, of the proper understanding of kerygma, of the Word of God, because it is in the Church, of which the leitourgia is the expression and the life, that the sources of theology are functioning as precisely ‘sources.’”1 This was a Copernican revolution.


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1. Alexander Schmemann, “Theology and Liturgical Tradition,” in Liturgy and Tradition, ed. Thomas Fisch (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), 18.