Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

Freedom and Joy

Veselin Kesich, Professor of New Testament

A eulogy delivered during the funeral services on December 15, 1983

Fr. Alexander with Professor Kesich

I am truly grateful to Metropolitan Theodosius for asking me to say a few words in remembrance of our dear Fr Alexander. It was my good fortune to have known Fr Alexander for many years, to have him as a dean and a friend and father confessor.

The community that I know, the community in which I have lived here in America, is St Vladimir’s Seminary community. It is a community that is shaped, molded and inspired by one particular man — the man around whose body we gather together. This community is a caring community; we care for each other. It is a loving community. It is a trusting community. And all these characteristics came through his inspirational leadership.

It is very difficult for me to understand and to answer one simple question: why this community in which he lived for the last 28 years was never plagued by strife, by competition and by jealousy. The only answer that I can give, the only answer that I cant find, is the answer in the personality of the dean, the personality of the priest, the personality of the man who tirelessly worked for this community. He never compared one with another; he never encouraged us to compare ourselves with anyone else, but encouraged us to see ourselves in the light of the Church and its needs. And as we saw ourselves in the light of the Church and its needs, strife, jealousy and unhealthy competition were never known in this community.

Fr Alexander is known for his writings, and I would say that in his writings there are two themes permeating everything else: the themes of freedom and of joy. And not only in his writing but also in his own life. He was a free man in Christ; he was a man full of joy. I would say that his humor, that Metropolitan Philip mentioned, had its source in his freedom in Christ, in his joy of life, in his joy of being Christian. His humor and his stories always had a liberating effect.

This afternoon I met some of his students and it was a real pleasure to listen to them telling what they remember, the stories that they recalled, the stories that they liked to tell. His humor, his stories and very often-prophetic utterances liberated us from our narrow conclave and pushed us through new barriers and led us into new freedom, which Christ made for us.

We shall remember him for the sake of the community in which he lived. We shall remember him for his care, for his stories, for his humor and his joy of being Christian.

He taught us many things. But there is one thing that he didn’t teach in lectures, that he didn’t teach us in his books, but that he taught us in his life for the last year and three months — day in and day out; he taught us one of the most difficult lessons in our life — the lesson of how to go through suffering, how to bear suffering, what kind of attitude to have in suffering. He taught us a lesson on how, in suffering, the power of the eternal God may be revealed. He taught us a lesson about power in weakness. My dear friends, to teach this particular lesson — power in weakness — is the fundamental lesson: that is the Gospel. The Gospel is nothing else but power in weakness. The One who was sacrificed in weakness was raised by the power of God.

Fr Alexander taught us this basic Christian experience; we are grateful to him. We give thanks to God for giving him the opportunity, for giving him power to teach us the most difficult lesson in our life: the lesson of how and what to do in suffering. We shall remember him as a witness of the power in suffering and the entire St Vladimir’s community is thankful for him.

Not one or two men in this community understood the meaning of the words of Apostle Paul, but the whole community understood what the apostle meant when he said: " . . . we have a treasure in earthen vessels so that the power of the transcendent God may be manifested."

Dear Fr Alexander: we shall remember you for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of the community for which you worked so tirelessly.

St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1984, pp. 41-42