Human life is the expectation of that which is at the end, and at the end is the joy of the bridal chamber, the joy of the Resurrection. At the end are Mary and John and all the saints; at the end is the wonderful fullness of life. When I see this end, I want to reach it, to move in its direction. I have to make an effort, and when I make an effort my whole life becomes an exercise. I meet a man in whom I am not interested, but I realize that this man has been sent to me by God and the encounter becomes meaningful. I have a meaningless job, but that job is the one by which my body, my spirit, my life are to be changed into expectation. Everything acquires a meaning, everything becomes sanctified, because everything is a step on that long journey to the top of Mount Tabor. — Father Alexander Schmemann
I had the privilege of studying with Father Schmemann for three years at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary. This quote captures beautifully what Father Schmemann did so well. Because his outlook on life and faith was shaped by the Liturgy, he was able to seamlessly weave together the eschatological vision and the present reality. The Liturgy is eschatological because it points to the future coming of God’s Kingdom. But the Liturgy is also the means of our present sanctification. The Liturgy is our weekly journey to Mount Tabor, the mount of transfiguration where Moses and Elijah and three apostles witnessed the glory of Christ.
There are two kinds of ‘end’. There is the literal end that comes to every life. But there is also the end, in the sense of the purpose and goal of life. Father Schmemann found endless ways of expressing life in the here and now, but colored and given depth by the vision that lies at the end – at the end of Liturgy and at the end of time in eternity. He is saying in this quote that everything has meaning. Every encounter, every activity, even a job that you might not like – everything has its place in the journey to transfiguration, and then further still to the eschaton, the final end. Every moment of our lives has eternal meaning and significance.
No priest in my experience ever carried the gifts of the Bread and Wine in the Liturgy more reverently than Father Alexander. For him, the Bread and Wine in the Liturgy are the representation of life as gift – gift from God to us and our gift back to God. “Your own of your own we offer to you” are the words at the most solemn point of the Liturgy. Life is a gift, and we are to live it fully – because only by living our lives fully can we offer our lives as offerings of holiness and thanksgiving. As we are deprived of the Bread and Wine in these days of coronavirus, let us make that offering of the Liturgy a daily reminder that we are always at Liturgy, always on the path to Mount Tabor. “Your own of your own we offer to You!” Life as Liturgy; Life as Eucharist.