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The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy - Fr a Schmemman

The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy - Fr a Schmemman

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Published by: ikonographics on Apr 29, 2010
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10/26/2011

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Excerpts from the
The Historical Road
of Eastern Orthodoxy”
 
By Alexander Schmemann
Translated by Lynda W. Kesich
(Please get the full version of this book at your bookstore)
Content
:
 
 2
 — 
 
1. The Beginning of the Church.
Acts of the Apostles.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is the cornerstone of Church history. Written by the
evangelist Luke as the sequel to his own Gospel, it tells us of the Church‟s first years, of the in
i-
 
 3tial events in her life.
1
It describes the first Christian community in Jerusalem and its persecutionby the Judean authorities, the preaching of the apostles
 — 
especially that of St. Paul
 — 
and final-ly the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. The historical value of this account hasoften been challenged; indeed, at first sight it may seem remote from the modem conception of the functions and methods of history. There are many
blank pages
in Acts, many things passedover in silence. Sometimes it is more like a commentary than a simple narrative of events. But inreading it we need to remember that, just as the content of the Gospels is not exhausted by thedescription of the life of Christ, so Acts was not intended to be merely a historical chronicle.This account, later a book in the New Testament, was written at a time when the Church,after emerging from the first stage of her development and establishing herself in many majorcenters of the Roman Empire, was already fully conscious of her mission and was beginning tocrystallize in writing her earliest experiences. St. Luke, more than all other New Testament writ-ers, may be called a historian in our sense of the word; nevertheless, he did not focus his atten-tion on history alone, or on history as such. His theme is the Church, as the culmination of theNew Testament, as the fulfillment in the world
 — 
that is, in human society and in history
 — 
of the work Christ has accomplished. The subject of Acts is not simply the history of the Church,but her essential nature and living image as they were revealed in the very first years of her exis-tence. The book also contains the first doctrine of the Church, with the facts of her life as illustra-tions; it therefore includes only facts that are of service to this teaching and vital to its under-standing. All succeeding generations of Christians have interpreted this book doctrinally, for they
have seen in the community at Jerusalem, in the apostles‟ preaching, and in the life and teaching
of St. Paul the pattern that set the standard of Church life for all time, and the inspiring beginning
that laid the foundations of the Church‟s entire subsequent history.
 Acts begins its account with events which, for the historian, are still only on the thresholdof Church history: the
Ascension and Pentecost. But in St. Luke‟s perspective the Church is
based on these events; they are what gives meaning to her existence, which the succeeding chap-ters of Acts portray.A small group of disciples
 — 
fishermen (
simple men, without learning
as St. Luke de-scribes them), women, a few relatives and friends of the Master
 — 
here in its entirety was the
little flock 
left behind after Jesus of Nazareth. What is it that will make them fearless preachersand lead them to the ends of the world? It is the descent of the Holy Spirit, the mysterious trans-formation after which all that Jesus did and taught will become their own strength. Thereafter HeHimself will act through His disciples and in them His presence on earth will continue.But what is the content of this witness? Before beginning the actual history of theChurch, we should recall to mind
 — 
in very general terms, of course
 — 
that Gospel, or
goodnews,
which is the basis of Church life and Christian preaching to the world. In the days of Hisearthly ministry Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God to men. And the meaning of His preach-ing and His works was this: that His coming is also the beginning of this kingdom, that the Sonof God has come to reveal the kingdom to men and bestow it upon them. Although they havebeen torn away from God by sin, have been subject to evil and death, and have lost their true life,
1
Since pronominal references to the Church in the major languages other than English are usual-ly feminine, a compromise was effected in the style of this work, wi
th the Church as “she” in itsearliest period, and “it” starting with its growing incarnation and institutionalization. Cf. “The
Church and the Greco-
Roman World,” pp. 25 and following. (Editor‟s Note.)
 

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