Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann





December 13, 1983


St. Vladimir’s Seminary (914) 961-8313


Dean Alexander Schmemann


Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, and a leading Orthodox theologian, died today at the age of 62.

Born in 1921 in Estonia to a family of Russian emigres, he spent his youth in France, where he received his secondary and university education. He also completed theological studies at the Orthodox Theological Institute of St. Sergius in Paris, which was then the center of Russian Orthodox scholarship following the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in 1946, he taught church history at St. Sergius until 1951, when he was invited to join the faculty of St. Vladimir’s in New York. He was quickly recognized as a leading exponent of Orthodox liturgical theology, which sees the liturgical tradition of the Church as a major sign and expression of the Christian faith.

Besides teaching at St. Vladimir’s, Fr. Schmemann held positions of adjunct professor at Columbia University, New York University, Union Seminary and General Theological Seminary in New York and was a popular guest lecturer at many universities throughout the country. He was also active as a representative of the Orthodox Church in the ecumenical movement, and held positions in the Youth Department and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.

Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary since 1962, he was instrumental in educating a generation of Orthodox priests. During his tenure, the Seminary achieved wide recognition as a center of Orthodox theological studies.

In 1970, he was active in the establishment of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, which at that time became officially independent from the Russian Orthodox Church, and dedicated itself to the unity of Orthodox ethnic jurisdictions in this country.

While committed to the cause of an Orthodox Church which would be united and American, Fr. Schmemann always remained concerned with the fate of believers in the Soviet Union. For 30 years, his sermons were broadcast in Russian on "Radio Liberty" and gained Fr. Schmemann a broad following across the Soviet Union. Alexander Solzhenitzyn, who while still in the Soviet Union was one of his auditors, remained his friend after emigrating to the West.

Fr. Schmemann published over a dozen books which received wide circulation, including For the Life of the World; Introduction to Liturgical Theology; Ultimate Questions; Church, World, Mission; and numerous articles and tracts. For the Life of the World, a popular volume on Christian faith as reflected in liturgy, was translated into eleven languages and remains one of the most popular works on Christianity for the general public. He completed a major study on the Eucharist only weeks before his death.

Fr. Schmemann held honorary degrees from Butler University, General Theological Seminary, Lafayette College, Iona College, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He is survived by his wife Juliana, former headmistress of Spence School in New York and now teaching at the Brearly School, a son Serge, who is a New York Times Correspondent in Moscow; two daughters, Anne Hopko and Mary Tkachuk; and nine grandchildren.


Wednesday, Dec. 14 - Memorial Service, 7 p.m. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel

Thursday, Dec. 15 - Burial Vigil Funeral Service, 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 16 - Divine Liturgy 9:30 a.m. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel followed by departure for St. Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA for Burial.