Sunday, March 4, 2012

Margaret Barker's Fr Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture

Metropolitan Jonah, President of St Vladimir's Seminary, New York, 
presents Dr Margaret Barker with an icon 
of Christ the High Priest in gratitude for her lecture.

In May last year I drew attention on this blog to Margaret Barker, a Cambridge theologian and Methodist, whose writings are acknowledged across the Christian traditions. Visit her home page HERE. In July 2008 Margaret Barker was awarded a D.D. by the Archbishop of Canterbury "in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research." On January 29, 2012 Dr Barker gave the 29th Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, New York. Her topic was OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST: THE CHURCH AS THE NEW TEMPLE. I share it with you as a wonderful introduction to her work which helps us to grasp the meaning both of the New Testament and Christian worship. 

. . . I am greatly honoured that you have invited me to give this lecture in memory of Fr. Alexander Schmemann. 

I was raised in the Protestant tradition and have for many years been studying the temple in Jerusalem, trying to recover the world view and the beliefs that it expressed. It was not until 1999 that I was first present at an Orthodox liturgy, and I had expected it to be very strange. In fact it was rather familiar. What I saw was the liturgy of the temple, much as I had imagined it from my scholarly reconstructions. Not exactly, of course, but the movements, the general ‘feel’ of the service. But I was watching from outside, so to speak. 

When I began to read the work of Fr. Alexander, I was able to glimpse, in small way, what the liturgy meant from the inside, and reading his Journals, I caught something of the Orthodox world view. I managed to find again a couple of sentences in his 1965 book Sacraments and Orthodoxy which link closely to what I have prepared for today. ‘The liturgy of the Eucharist is... the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom... ‘Dimension’... seems the best way to indicate the manner of our sacramental entrance into the risen life of Christ’, p.29. 

It has been a pleasure to compile this lecture to honour the memory of Fr. Alexander, reconstructing something of the temple-world that has shaped so much of our Christian worship and world view, the journey into the dimension of the Kingdom. 

The writer of Hebrews described Jesus as a great high priest, and assumed, in his exposition, that the temple — its worship and its furnishings — had foreshadowed the work of Jesus, and was therefore the best framework within which to describe the person and work of our LORD. 

First, let us look at the temple itself. It is important to distinguish . . . Continue Reading . . .


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