"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Liturgy of Death

Two years ago this month I was invited to the Wilken Colloquium at Baylor University, where I gave a lecture on contemporary eschatological heresies in light of Byzantine liturgical tradition. I have, before and since, remained very interested in how our culture treats death, and how Christians should respond to that, noting over the years some of the problems with contemporary funeral practices and the strange, curious new practices that are supplanting some older ones.

It was, then, with great interest that I received notice from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press of a new publication of recently discovered lectures by the great Orthodox liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann, on whom I have often commented on here over the years: The Liturgy of Death (SVS Press, 2017), 234pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In these previously unpublished talks, Fr Alexander Schmemann critiques contemporary culture s distorted understanding of death. He then examines the Church s rites for burial and her prayers for the dead. Though they are often misunderstood, at the heart of the services Fr Alexander finds the paschal proclamation: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
For the Orthodox Church, the time has arrived not to reform the liturgy of death, nor to modernize it (God forbid!), but simply to rediscover it. To rediscover it in its truth and glory means in its connection with the faith of the Church, with the meaning for the dead, for us, for the whole world and the entire creation of Christ s deathless death, and in connection with baptism and Eucharist, with Lent and Pascha, with the whole life of the Church and each one of us, her members. This rediscovery is needed first of all by the Church, but also by our secular culture, for which, whether we know it or not, we are responsible. How are we to rediscover it?
Introduction by Alexis Vinogradov
Chapter 1 The Development of Christian Funeral Rites
Chapter 2 The Funeral Rites and Practices
Chapter 3 Prayers for the Dead
Chapter 4 The Liturgy of Death and Contemporary Culture
The Order for the Burial of the Dead

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