The Past and Future of Liturgical Theology: Celebrating the Legacy of Father Alexander Schmemann


Fr. Alexander Schmemann Ancient Faith Radio (AFR), in partnership with St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVS), is offering podcasts of the lectures from the international academic symposium titled “The Past and Future of Liturgical Theology: Celebrating the Legacy of Father Alexander Schmemann,” held on the seminary campus January 30–31, 2009. Fr. Alexander served as the dean of SVS from 1962 until his death in 1983, and his seminal work in the field of liturgical theology is recognized throughout the globe. His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and a student of Father Schmemann during his years as a seminarian at SVS, attended the symposium and offered the concluding remarks.

Renowned liturgist The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, S.J. presented the keynote titled “The Liturgical Enterprise Twenty-five Years after Alexander Schmemann (1921–1983): The Man and His Heritage”—the centerpiece of the colloquium and this year’s Father Alexander Schmemann Annual Memorial Lecture—to a capacity crowd on Friday, January 30, 2009.

Remembering Fr. Alexander as protagonist for the discipline of liturgical theology, Fr. Taft honored him as an "informer," not a "reformer," and as a "'kerygmatic theologian'... who was able to bring out of the liturgy its true meaning and make it live for people as a joyous event, which is the life in Christ."  Fr. Taft emphasized the enduring and phenomenal "shelf life of Fr. Alexander's oeuvre" and termed his overall work a "landmark" in the field of liturgical theology. He also identified areas of scholarly progress in that field since Fr. Alexander's death, which will elucidate and guide the future of the academic study of liturgical theology.

Fr. Taft is a founding member of both the North American Academy of Liturgy and of the Association of Jesuit Liturgists, and a member of the U.S. National Committee for Byzantine Studies, of the Society for Armenian Studies (retired 1999), and of the International Societas Liturgica. He was a member of the Governing Council of the latter society for ten years (1979–89), and its President from 1985–87.

Moderators and speakers (from left, bottom row) included The V. Rev. Archimandrite Robert J. Taft, SJ, who gave the keynote address, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and The V. Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean of SVS; (middle row) Dr. Michael Aune, Dr. Paul Meyendorff, SVS Faculty, Dr. Bryan D. Spinks, and Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin; and (top row) The V. Rev. Dr. Daniel Findikyan, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, The Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel, SVS Faculty, The Rev. Stefanos Alexopoulos, The V. Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of SVS, The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Job (Getcha), and Dr. David Fagerberg.

Other preeminent scholars from Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions, from major universities, also honored the memory of Fr. Alexander, both lauding and critically evaluating his work:

  • His Grace the Rt. Rev. Maxim (Vasiljevic), Bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America; "Opening Episcopal Remarks"
  • Dr. Michael Aune, Dean of the Faculty, Dean of the Chapel, Professor of Liturgical and Historical Studies at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, and Core Doctoral Faculty in Liturgical Studies at General Theological Union; "The Current State of Liturgical Theology: A Plurality of Particularities"
  • The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Job (Getcha), former Dean of St. Sergius Theological Institute, Paris; "From Master to Disciple: The Notion of 'Liturgical Theology' in Father Kiprian Kern and Father Alexander Schmemann"
  • KEYNOTE by The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ; "The Liturgical Enterprise Twenty-five Years after Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983): The Man and His Heritage"
  • Dr. Bryan D. Spinks, Professor of Liturgical Studies, Yale Divinity School; "From Liturgical Theology to Liturgical Theologies: Schmemann's Legacy in Western Churches"
  • The Rev. Dr. Stephanos Alexopoulos, Professor at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies, Athens, Greece; "Did the Work of Father Alexander Schmemann Influence Modern Greek Theological Thought? A Preliminary Assessment"
  • Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin, nun of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad; currently teaching Liturgical Studies at the University of Vienna; "Father Alexander Schmemann and Monasticism"
  • Dr. David W. Fagerberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame; "The Cost of Understanding Schmemann, in the West"
  • The Most Blessed Jonah (Paffhausen), Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Orthodox Church in America; "Closing Episcopal Remarks."

Dr. Paul Meyendorff, the Father Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology at SVS, and The V. Rev. Dr. Daniel Findikyan, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, introduced the speakers; and The Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel was the main organizer of the highly educative and engaging symposium.

Retreat participants were able to celebrate the patronal feast of the seminary chapel with a Vigil and Divine Liturgy commemorating the Three Hierarchs, Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. Both the Dean of St. Vladimir's, The V. Rev. Dr. John Behr, and the Chancellor of the seminary, The V. Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, expressed their gratitude and joy for the speakers and guests who made the celebration of the feast and the liturgical symposium "a spectacular event." They also thanked those who underwrote the event through their generous donations: Dr. George and Brenda Farha, Wichita, KS; Louis and Helen Nicozisis, Lancaster, PA; John and Cina Daskalakis, Baltimore, MD; and Michael G. Herzak, Cleveland, OH.

Podcasts may be found on the Web site of Ancient Faith Radio.

Additionally, the papers presented at the symposium will comprise a future issue of the seminary's theological journal, St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly.