Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Preface from "Guide to Orthodox America"

"Their voice is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

– Liturgy of Pentecost

ON SEPTEMBER 24, 1794 eight Russian monks landed on Kodiak Island in Alaska (then a Russian territory) marking thus the official implanting of Orthodoxy on the American continent. Today Orthodox churches and communities flourish in virtually every state of the union, in every Canadian province, and millions of Americans confess the faith which for centuries was confined to the Eastern part of Christendom, was all but ignored in the West, which, however, claims to be — in the words of one of its creeds — "the faith of the Apostles, the faith of the Fathers, the faith of the Universe." This is not an empty claim. For Orthodoxy is indeed the Christian faith as it was "accepted by all, always and everywhere" before the fateful schism of 1054 separated the West from the East. It still has no other norms and creeds but those promulgated by the truly universal Ecumenical Councils of the first millennium, no other foundation but the one laid by the universally venerated Saints and Fathers, no other worship but the Catholic liturgy of the undivided Church. To this universal tradition Eastern Orthodoxy has added nothing and from it nothing has it subtracted. It is, to be sure, an old Church and an ancient tradition but it claims that truth never grows old and is a source of life for all who drink from its eternal spring.

Numerically the Orthodox Church in America is still far behind the other "major faiths." Its importance, however, is not to be evaluated in terms of numbers. It represents — truly makes present — in the West, the spiritual world which in the past has expressed itself in the heavenly beauty of St. Sophia of Constantinople, in the paschal joy and majesty of the Byzantine liturgy, in the writings of Greek Fathers; in the light and depth of the Russian icon, in the spiritual message of innumerable Saints. And this world — which for so long seemed so strange and so alien — is now here, solidly rooted in the American soil, a genuine and permanent part of America itself. It is highly significant that in America all national expressions are represented: the Greek, the Russian, the Serbian, the Romanian, the Bulgarian, the Syrian, the Ukrainian, the Albanian... As if God wants us to manifest here, in this land of freedom, both the wonderful richness of the various "incarnations" of Orthodoxy and its organic unity in faith and life, in continuity and growth.

Of all this the precious Guide composed with such love and patience by Miss Anastasia Bespuda is a wonderful illustration. To the Orthodox it reveals the tremendous potential of American Orthodoxy if it learns how to transcend all division, all provincialism and self-centeredness and to fulfill its God given unity. As to the non-Orthodox, it may help him to discover right here, in his own state or city, a spiritual tradition, a teaching, a life which, from now on, is to become an integral and active part of American destiny.

The Very Rev. Alexander Schmemann, S.T.D.

Dean , St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary

Guide To Orthodox America , St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, N.Y., 1965, pp. 5-6