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Returning the World to God
Father Alexander Schmemann


Contrary to our secular experience of time, the liturgical day begins with Vespers, in the evening. This is, of course, the reminiscence of the biblical "And the evening and the morning were the first day" (Genesis 1:5). The vesperal service [in the Orthodox Church] does not begin as a religious "epilogue" of the day. It begins at the beginning. and this means in the "rediscovery," in adoration and thanksgiving, of the world as God's creation. The Church takes us, as it were, to that first evening on which man, called by God to life, opened his eyes and saw what God in his love was giving to him, saw all the beauty, all the glory of the temple in which he was standing, and rendered thanks to God. And in this thanksgiving he became himself.

Praise the Lord, 0 my soul. Blessed art thou, 0 Lord,
0 Lord, how marvellous are thyworks: in wisdom hast thou made them all.
The earth is lull of thy riches.
I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live;
I will praise my God, while I have any being (Ps. 104).

And it must be so. There must be someone in this world which rejected God and in this rejection, in this blasphemy, became a chaos of darkness -there must be someone to stand in its centre, and to discern, to see it again as full of divine riches, as the cup full of life andjoy, as beauty and wisdom, and to thank God for it. This "someone" is Christ, the New Adam who restores that "eucharistic life" which I, the old Adam, have rejected and lost; who makes me again what lam, and restores the world to me. And if the Church is in Christ its initial act is always the act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God.

Reprinted with permission from The Time of the Spirit Readings through the Christian Year, George Every, Richard Harries and Kallistos Ware, editors, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York 10707.

Editor's Note: The words "Eucharist" and "eucharistic" refer' to the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion and are used in the liturgies of the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches. They come from the Greek "eucharisto" which means "thank you."

The importance of biblical creation is very highly emphasized in the worship of the Orthodox Church, as is evident from the above selection. Fr. Alexander Schmemann (1921-83) was a Russian Orthodox theologian and Dean of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary.

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