Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

The fourth liturgical week at St Sergius in Paris

(A Letter from Paris)

The "Week of Liturgical Studies" organized every year since 1953 at St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Academy in Paris, have become an important yearly event for liturgiologists of various countries and denominations. In fact, the "week" is an unique opportunity for specialists working in the same field, though separated by confessional barriers, to come together and discuss their problems, achievements and plans in a wonderful spirit of academic unity and Christian charity. Benedictines from Maria Laach, Beuron, Mont Cesar and Chevetogne, professors of the Pontifico Instituto Onentale of Rome, and Dominicans from Le Saulchois and Montreal, members of the Church of England, Theologians of the Reformed Church of France and Germany, Lutherans from Sweden – all are sitting in the same room vested in their various robes and gowns and participating in the same fraternal discussion which ultimately has but one object: the understanding of the "lex orandi"– the law of worship of the Church. The discussion is not "ecumenical" in any specific sense of the word, no common statements will be issued, no "agreements" and "disagreements", it is rather a technical and purely academic discussion. And yet, a wonderful feeling of fellowship, of real belonging to each other, emerges from these sessions as if this common interest for the mysterious reality of the "Ecclesia Orans", the Church in worship and in prayer is in itself a token of unity and understanding.

This year, the "week" was devoted to one general theme, "The Liturgical Year". It began on Monday, July 1 with the opening address of His Grace, Bishop Cassian, rector of St. Sergius Academy and then convened twice a day to hear and discuss 13 papers. Five of them were read by Roman Catholic Scholars: Dom Bernard Botte, O.S.B. of Mont Cesar, Belgium, "The Cult of the Old Testament Saints in the Christian Church"; Dom J. Capelle, O.S.B., "An Old Version of the Anaphora of St. Basil"; Dom Burkhard Neunheuser from Maria Laach, "The Presence of the Work of Christ in the Ecclesiastical Year in the Light of the Conceptions of O. Casel"; Fr. Balthasar Ficher of Trier, "The Role of the Psalm ‘Qui Habitat’ (Ps. XC) in the Roman Liturgy of the Quadragesima"; Fr. Alphonse Raes, S.J., "The Structure of the Armenian and Coptic Liturgical Year" and Dom Olivier Rousseau from Chevetogne, "The Liturgical Year and the Theology of Time in the Fathers". The Protestants were represented by the Rev. Allan MacArthur (author of the "Origin of the Liturgical Year") from Glasgow, "The Christian Year and the Lectionary Reform" and Prof. Harold Riesenfeld from Uppsala, Sweden, "The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day in the New Testament and the Ancient Church". The Rev. E. C. Varah, London, of the Church of England spoke on "The Liturgical and Ecumenical Implications of the Proposed World Calendar". The Orthodox presented four papers: Prof. Andre Grabar of the College de France spoke on "The Byzantine Iconography of the Liturgical Year"; Bishop Cassian, "The Benediction of Water in the Light of the New Testament"; The Rev. Alexander Schmemann, "The Origin of the Liturgical Year, the Liturgical dualism of the Primitive Church" and Prof. T. Spasky, "The Antefeast of Christmas".

About forty people were invited to attend the sessions of the "Week", among them – Prof. F. L. Cross ofOxford, Fr. J. P. Audet, O.P. from the Institute of Medieval Studies in Ottawa, F. E. Lannes from Chevetogne, Fr. Dumont from "Istina", Fr. Danielou, Canon Martimort (one of the leaders of the French Liturgical Movement), and many other leading representatives of contemporary liturgiology. All meals were taken in common at the Refectory and conversations and discussions continued through afternoons among the trees and flowers of St. Sergius’ Academy campus.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary was represented by Fr. William Schneirla and myself and this contact with St. Sergius Academy, which for some of us will forever remain the "alma mater", was extremely pleasant. The Rector, the Dean and the Faculty received us with love and friendship which we will not easily forget. The Director of the "week", the Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Cyprian Kern who is to be fully credited for the success of the conference, honored our Seminary by asking me to chair one of the sessions. I can but express my hope that this "week" will strengthen the unity and cooperation of our schools, and that a greater number of Orthodox from America will attend the "week" next year.

A. Schmemann