Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

‘Concern’ Publishes Solzhenitsyn’s Letter

About Father A. Schmemann

Fr. Alexander and Solzhenitsyn

NEW YORK–A long-standing and creative communication between Russia’s great writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and one of America’s foremost Orthodox theologians, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, was confirmed in a recent personal letter by the Nobel laureate to a western friend.

"Here is the one whose church and whose services I would like to attend," writes Solzhenitsyn about Fr. Schmemann, in the letter which appears in the winter issue of "Concern" magazine. (The letter first appeared in Russian without either Fr. Alexander’s or Solzhenitsyn’s knowledge in a New York Russian-language daily newspaper.)

For 20 years Fr. Schmemann, the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, has broadcast weekly religious sermons into the Soviet Union over the powerful facilities of Radio Liberty to an invisible but spiritually receptive flock.

In his letter Solzhenitsyn expresses his joy at the realization that the sermons by a "Father Alexander", which he said he had long listened to, were by the Fr. Schmemann whose article about his works had reached and encouraged the writer. That article, "On Solzhenitsyn," appeared in the winter, 1971, issue of "Concern."

"…For a long time, with spiritual delight I have been listening on Sunday evenings, whenever possible, to the sermons of Father Alexander (his surname was never given) over Radio Liberty," wrote the novelist. "And I was amazed how genuine, how truly contemporary and of what high order is his art of preaching.

"Never a note of falsehood, not an iota of rhetoric, without empty recourse to obligatory form and ritual which causes a listener discomfort and embarrassment for the preacher or for himself. Always a deep thought and profound feeling....

"And then, quite recently, it was ‘deciphered’ to me that this is Father Schmemann!... His article about me ... explained me to myself and also explained Pushkin and why I always felt such an affinity with him...."

The letter is accompanied in the current issue of "Concern" by Fr. Schmemann’s latest article about the novelist, "A Lucid Love," which deals with Solzhenitsyn’s current best-selling book "August, 1914." Fr. Schmemann describes the novel as "a new feast in Russian literature" in his important critique.

The winter issue of "Concern," the quarterly publication of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission and the Campus Commission, also has a report about Contact ‘72, a voyage around the U.S. by a trio of dedicated Church workers, an evaluation of the Orthodox ecumenical effort by Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos, a look at the Orthodox Youth movement by our young international student Deni Melligon, an inspiring discovery of Christ as "The Great Discomforter" by the Rev. J. Barrie Shepherd, a campus chaplain, plus other features and articles.

The issue is available to all new subscribers immediately. Send $3.00 ($4.00 outside North America) for each subscription to "Concern," 8 East 79th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.

The Orthodox Church, January 1973, p. 1.