Reading and Book Club

The Eucharist

The Eucharist is the crowning achievement of the well-known liturgical scholar, Alexander Schmemann. It reflects his entire life experience and thoughts on the Divine Liturgy, the Church’s central act of self-realization.

 About the Author: Alexander Schmemann (+1983) was a prolific writer, brilliant lecturer, and dedicated pastor. Former dean and professor of liturgical theology at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, his insight into contemporary culture and liturgical celebration left an indelible mark on the Christian community worldwide.

Fr Alex has ordered several copies for the church.  Please contact him for a copy.  He will be reading the book aloud and then we will follow it with a weekly discussion.  A wonderful way to hear the faith filled words of Fr Schmemann and get great insights and knowledge into the Divine Liturgy that we celebrate each Sunday.

If you want to order the book separately, the best place to get it is St Vladimir Seminary Bookstore.

Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm – Join online at
Pages 11-26
Chapter 1 – The Sacrament of the Assembly
  1. The Liturgy is not “just one” of the Sacraments.  It is THE sacrament of the Church.
  2. Everyone altogether celebrates the Liturgy. We are all concelebrants.  There can be no such thing as “private parts” of the service. All the parts are for everybody.
  3. The priest says the prayer and the people seal the prayer with the “Amen.”  We are all working together.  The priest cannot celebrate without the people.  All are praying, not just the priest. The Liturgy is not a symbolic show.  The words of the service explain what the meaning of the service is.
  4. The building where the worship takes place is meant to reinforce the idea of the Liturgy as THE sacrament of the church, the assembly. The iconostasis is not meant to be a wall separating Clergy from laity.
  5. We do not come to the Liturgy for individual prayer but to be the Church. Not coming to Liturgy excommunicates one from the Church (in theory).  Any understanding of “coming to church” for “special services” is completely foreign to the mindset of the church.
  6. The People are an image of the Body of Christ and the priest is an image of the head of the body.  The priest is not separate from the body but part of the the body and the presider of the body.
Pages 27-43
Chapter 2 – The Sacrament of the Kingdom
  1. The purpose of the Liturgy is to participate in the Kingdom of God.  And so we begin by announcing the Kingdom. “Blessed is the Kingdom…”  Liturgy is not to receive communion.  Receiving communion within the Liturgy is to bring us into the Kingdom.  
  2. “Illustrative Symbolism” is not the way we should understand the Liturgy.  The parts of the Liturgy do not represent certain things as in a play, but rather we enter the reality of what we express in worship.
  3. This understanding (which is western in origin) looks at worship as a different reality rather than entering the reality of God that always exists.
  4. The real meaning of symbol and symbolism is not to illustrate something else.  In the Orthodox world, a symbol is something that helps us enter the reality of something else:
    1. The bread and wine for the Body of Christ.  
    2. Holy Unction brings us the grace of the Holy Spirit.
    3. When we understand symbol in this way, we can begin to see all of creation as symbol – a means to enter the Kingdom of God.
  5. Our faith and worship are about our present reality as well as the future Kingdom.  The age to come is already in our midst.  The church is an experience of a new life.
  6. Everything we are talking about is accomplished in and through the Holy Spirit.
  7. The real meaning of symbol.  The symbol does not illustrate something but rather it manifests something and communicates what is manifested. A symbol makes no sense without faith.  The Spiritual participates in the Physical through symbol.
  8. The Kingdom of God is the content of our Faith.  Jesus began his ministry by announcing that the Kingdom has drawn near.  The Kingdom of God is unity with God.  It is eternal life.  The Kingdom of God is now.  Many seem to think of the Kingdom as something only after we die.
Pages 43-58
Chapter 2 – The Sacrament of the Kingdom

09. The best symbol (manifestation and participation) of the Kingdom of God is the Eucharist, The Divine Liturgy.  With the weakening of the original meaning of symbol came growth in “Illustrative symbolism.”
10. Even with the development of unnecessary illustrative symbolism and allegories, the temple and iconography continue to manifest the Kingdom.  A simple faith does not need the additions.  Standing in the temple is standing in heaven.
11. By beginning the Liturgy with “Blessed is the Kingdom,” we acknowledge the Kingdom as our goal, our greatest value.  We have entered a “new” time, the time of the Kingdom.

Chapter 3 – The Sacrament of the Entrance

01. In the Liturgy, the Church ascends and enters into the Kingdom.  The “Little Entrance” was originally the beginning of the Liturgy, our first movement into the Kingdom.  It does not represent anything else such as Christ’s beginning to preach. Originally the Great Litany was after the Entrance.  The Antiphons were processional hymns on the way to the Church.  The Trisagion was the Entrance Hymn as all entered the Church.

02. This is not just of historical significance but shows the the Liturgy begins with Entrance – a movement into the Kingdom.  We separate ourselves from the world and enter the Kingdom.

03. The Great Litany

  • We pray in Christ – as Christ prayed to the Father so now we are in Christ praying to the Father.
  • God’s peace is given and we must accept
  • May this peace spread
  • The Church is witness in the world
  • Unity is the aim of creation
  • The condition of our genuine participation
  • The unity of the faithful manifests the Body of Christ
  • Our prayer extends and embraces the entire world
  • Everything is commended to Christ, our life

04. The Antiphons – The Little Litanies and the three prayers, usually said now by the priest quietly.  Originally read aloud.

Pages 58-73
Chapter 3 – The Sacrament of the Entrance (cont)

05. The Little Entrance

  • Originally the beginning of the Liturgy
  • Original sense is the entrance of the people, not just the clergy.
  • Also originally it was the entrance into the Church, not the altar. 
  • The prayer (usually said quietly) of the entrance gives the full meaning of entrance into heaven.

06. The altar is a symbol of Christ and his Kingdom.  Throughout the Liturgy there will be a movement towards the altar.  An ascent towards Christ.  In the Liturgy, we ascend to Christ, not Christ descending to us.  We ascend to heaven.  The descent is at the end of the Liturgy when we return to the world to witness to the Kingdom.

07. The Trisagion

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: God is Holy – The service does not explain what holiness is but reveals God’s holiness to us. We stand before the Holy.

Continued movement:

  • Outside to church doors
  • Church to inside
  • Inside to altar
  • Altar to high Place

Chapter 4 – The Sacrament of the Word

01. The Liturgy has always been 2 parts

  • The Word
    1. With reading of the scripture
    2. Preaching
  • Eucharist

We ought not separate “Word” and “sacrament” as if the Eucharist is the only part that is sacrament and not the reading/preaching.

02. Originally, the area of the celebration of the Word was not at the altar but in the Nave, where the people gather.  The Altar was reserved for the Lord’s Supper only. The Clergy generally stood on the amvon area at all services except for the eucharist itself. The Gospel Book is a verbal Icon of Christ. Just as before the Eucharist, we have the offering of the gifts, before the reading we have the appearance of the Gospel in the Entrance.

03. Prokeimenon – Currently 2 or 3 verses from the Psalms.  Originally the whole Psalm sung antiphonally.  The Psalms hold a special place within the Old Testament.  We see the Psalms as not only the prayers of David but the prayers of Christ.

Pages 73-88
Chapter 4 – The Sacrament of the Word (cont)

04. Epistle Reading

  • Earlier Old Testament readings were read as well.  These have been reduced and moved to Vespers
  • Readings are arranged with the understanding of daily services hence most of Bible not heard in weekend services
  • Without an understanding of the Bible, all our services will remain incomprehensible
  • Alleluia – Praise God – Sung to welcome the Gospel reading
  • Censing and Prayer before Gospel (Epiklesis)

05. Homily

  • Connected to scripture reading
  • Proclaiming the Good News
  • Assumes people are filled with the Holy Spirit to hear
  • Tradition as the reading and hearing of the Scriptures in the Holy Spirit
  • Amen

Chapter 5 – The Sacrament of the Faithful

01. Augmented Litany 

  • Often omitted
  • Simultaneously directed to the whole and to the personal
  • Originally, augmented Litany was changeable based on current needs (now seen in Great Entrance prayer list)

02. Prayers for Catechumens

  • Those preparing for baptism
  • Usually baptisms were on the eve of Pascha
  • Because of lack of catechumens, the litany and prayer has been omitted
  • These prayers show the church as a missionary Church
Pages 88-103
Chapter 5 – The Sacrament of the Faithful (cont)

03. The Faithful

  • Closed Assembly
  • The ordained – Clergy and Laity
  • Participation?
  • Wrong to identify Church with Clergy
  • The Authority of Christ and the Obedience of Christ
  • Laity are ordained to the ministry of Christ in the world

04. Antimension (Antimins)

  • Connected to Bishop
  • Permission to serve
  • Unity of the Church
  • What began as the exception became the rule
  • The fulness of the parish is in conjunction with other parishes

Chapter 6 – The Sacrament of the Offering

01. Thirst for God and desire for Sacrifice

Pages 103-118
Chapter 6 – The Sacrament of the Offering (cont)

02. Sacrifice

  • Sin is a rupture from God
  • Fallen life cannot heal itself
  • We are saved by Christ’s sacrifice
  • We do not offer a new sacrifice
  • Our Lives are a sacrifice as we offer ourselves to God

03. Proskomedi

  • Preparation before Liturgy
  • What is the meaning?

04. Proskomedi

  • Originally whole Church participated
  • Received by deacons
  • A sacrifice of love

05. Offering

  • We can serve the Liturgy only because the sacrifice has already been offered
  • The bread and wine are referred to the Sacrifice of Christ

06. Commemorations

  • Restoration
  • Commemoration – 
    • Not just remembering a few people
    • we immerse those we commemorate into life and forgiveness

07. The Order of the Great Entrance

  • The Prayer
  • The censing (and Ps 50)
  • The Cherubic hymn
  • The transfer (the entrance itself)
  • The commemorations
  • Placing gifts on the Altar
  • Prayer of the Offering

08. The Prayer

  • No one is worthy…
  • Prayer for the priest
  • Offered to Christ
  • Priest is an image/icon of Christ
  • False dichotomy between “validity” of sacrament and holiness of priest
  • Priest is dependent on Christ and ought to seek grace
  • The Priest must be aware of his unworthiness

09. Censing

  • Discos not simply holding bread
  • Not simply people in the assembly
Pages 119-132
Chapter 6 – The Sacrament of the Offering (cont)

10. The Hymn of the Offering

  • The Cherubic Hymn is the most common
  • A Royal Doxology
  • Triumphant Royal Entrance
  • With Jesus’ sacrifice, he establishes his reign
  • We enter into the Glory of the age to come

11. The Great Entrance

  • Bishop does not take part
  • Only priest (or Bishop if present) places the gifts on the altar
  • Deacon’s role gradually taken up by priest hence the participation of th priest in the Great Entrance
  • Perhaps we could connect the collection with the offering since money is the usual sacrifice of the congregant
  • Movement of bread and wine to altar is our movement to the table of the Lord
  • It is the offering of each of us and so the entrance passes through the congregation
  • What we offer is received by Christ and taken up into the Kingdom

12. The Lord God remember you…

  • Prayer that God would remember is the heartbeat of worship
  • Remembrance more than remembering an event
  • We have forgotten the theology of memory

13. The Lord God remember you…

  • Memory – man’s capacity to resurrect the past
  • Discovery of its absence in the present
  • But God’s memory of something makes it real
  • It is when we remember God that we live
    • God’s remembrance of man is a gift of life
    • Man’s remembrance of God is the reception of that gift
  • Sin – when man forgets God
  • If memory is lifegiving, than forgetfulness is death

14. The Lord God remember you…

  • Gradual restoration of our memory
  • God’s remembrance of man fulfilled in man’s remembrance of God
  • Christian faith – to remember Christ and keep him in mind – to be aware of his presence
  • Remembrance of Christ is not a remembrance of the past but being with Christ now
  • Worship is this remembrance

15. The Lord God remember you…

  • And thus we remember each other in the Great Entrance as well as what is offered on the discos
  • Whoever is in God’s memory is alive
  • So we remember each other and offer them to Christ
Pages 133-148
Chapter 7 – The Sacrament of Unity

01. The Kiss of Peace

  • Let us love one another…
  • From action to exclamation only
  • Christian Love
    • Love enemies
    • Love directed outward
    • Love is revealed in God
  • We go to church for love
  • Love transforms the stranger into a brother

02. The Creed

  • Originally found in the Baptism service
  • In theory, only the faithful are present and recite the Creed
  • The eucharist is the Sacrament of Unity, a manifestation, like the creed, of our unity

03. An individualist approach to faith is so common that people have lost the sense of the importance of unity

04. Why has unity ceased to be important?

  • Faith replaced by spiritual feeling
  • Faith is an inner struggle
  • Religious feeling currently is most common
  • Religious feeling does not want struggle, change, transformation
Pages 148-161
Chapter 7 – The Sacrament of Unity (cont)

05. Fall of the word

  • We need not the definition of words but the salvation of words
  • The flaw of contemproary theology
  • Faith precedes words

06.     An important word – Unity

  • A divine word –    God is trinity
  • Faith is the partaking of unity from above
  • Today’s greatest danger is to substitute it with unity from below

07.     Unity from below

  • Life comes from God.  
    •   A unity from below is devoid of life.
    •   A unity from below is an idol
  •   Whereas unity from above shines on what is below, unity from below actually continues to divide
  • We must convert from the unity from below to the unity from above

08.     Confession of Faith – The Creed

  • I believe…- The naming of the unity from above
  • Also a judgement

Chapter 8 – The Sacrament of Anaphora

01.     Let us stand aright…

  • Is the anaphora the “chief part” of the Liturgy?
  • To see the liturgy this way is a reduction of the Liturgy
  • Everything is sacrament, not simply this portion of the service
  • Liturgy is a single (though multifaceted) rite

Past Readings

Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica by Ana Smiljanic

by Ana Smiljanic and Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

“Love little things, and strive for that which is modest and simple. The Lord watches over us, and He is pleased that you long for His peace. Until the soul is ready, He will only sometimes allow us to see that He is present everywhere and fills all things. At these moments the soul feels such joy!… But then the Lord conceals Himself from us again, in order that we might long for Him and seek Him with our hearts!” —Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica was one of the most renowned spiritual guides of Serbia in the twentieth century. As a novice he lived in obedience to Elder Ambrose of Miljkovo Monastery, a disciple of the Optina Elders. From him Fr. Thaddeus learned the Prayer of the Heart and the selfless love that came to characterize his whole ministry to the suffering Serbian people.

Born in 1914, Elder Thaddeus lived through all the suffering endured by Serbia in the twentieth century. Over the course of two World Wars, during the Communist takeover, and through the nato bombings of 1999, he co-suffered with his people. He taught, counseled, and prayed for all who came to him in pain and sorrow. His words of love and hope provided spiritual balm for people from all classes of society.

In 2002 Elder Thaddeus reposed, leaving behind a large collection of his teachings, preserved by his faithful spiritual children. His life, teachings, and spiritual conversations are here presented for the first time in English.

Pages 13-31
Part One
The Life of Elder Thaddeus
Pages 31-50
The Life of Elder Thaddeus (cont)
Pages 51-74
The Life of Elder Thaddeus (cont)
Part Two
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
1. On Thoughts
Pages 75-90
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
2. On Family Life
3. On Humility
Pages 91-107
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
4. On Serving God and Neighbor
5. On Monasticism
6. On Repentance
Pages 107-121
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
7. On Prayer
8. On Love
Pages 123-145
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
9. On the Fallen World
10. On Spiritual Struggle
Pages 147-162
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
11. On the Faith
12. On Inner Peace
13. On the Spiritual Realm
Pages 163-181
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
14. A Homily on the Dormition of the Mother of God
15. Repentance Is a Change of Life
Pages 183-206
The Teachings of Elder Thaddeus
16. Collected Sayings of Elder Thaddeus

Ordinary Wonders: Stories of Unexpected Grace by Olesia Nikolaeva

The Deceitful Onion Bulb. A Blessing to Smuggle. The Conjuror of Rain. In this collection of stories as whimsical as their titles, award-winning author Olesia Nikolaeva poignantly recounts life for Christian believers in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. In a manner reminiscent of the bestselling Everyday Saints these tales reveal a common theme – the subtle, sometimes imperceptible movement of Divine Providence at work in the lives of saints and sinners alike. Her writings bring us to what the ancient Celts called “thin places” where the boundaries of heaven and earth meet and the sacred and the secular can no longer be distinguished.

About the Author: Olesia Nikolaeva is an award-winning author, poet, and essayist. She has been writing since her early youth and was first published at the age of seventeen. Bishop Tikhon (Shevkhunov), author of the 2011 bestseller Everyday Saints, called her “a trailblazer in Russian Orthodox prose.”

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Pages vii – 17
In Liew of an Introduction
The Conjuror of Rain
The New Nicodemus
Two or Three Days
Flowers for the Shroud
Monk Leonid
Pages 17-35
Another Source
How I Battled the Gypsies
Non-Komsomol Gingerbread
At Blessed Xenia’s
The Hunger Striker
“A Little Piece of Wood”
Pages 35-52
The Gypsy
Martyr Tryphon
The Queens’s Pendants
Pages 52-71
About Love
“You Do Not Know What You Ask” (Mk 10:38)
Wishes Come True
Pages 71-89
More Than Enough or Nothing Extra
Come and See
Bring Back my Husband
Pages 89-107
The Apple of My Eye
The Thrill Seeker
An Experiment
Quid Pro Quo
Pages 107-124
Confession to the Prison Guard
One Wave after the Other
The Sound of Trumpets
Pages 125-137
Our “Boys” and “the Germans”
Five Months of Love
Mysteries Beyond the Grave
Pages 137-156
The Lord Gave and the Lord Took Away
Pages 156-172
The Deceitful Onion Bulb
How I Lost My Voice
Money for Sabaoth
Pages 173-189
Good Material for a Television Series
A Blessing to Smuggle
Pages 189-206
The Delusional One
How the Vatican Shod Our Bishops
Pages 206-226
The Little Cloud
The Late Husband of Mother Seraphima
Pages 227-245
The Angel
Heavenly Fire
Corfu (Part 1)
Pages 245-263
Corfu (Part 2)
Pages 263-280
Corfu (Part 3)
Pages 280-293
Corfu (conclusion)

The Blessed Surgeon by Archdeacon Vasiliy Marushchak

The Blessed Surgeon by Archdeacon Vasiliy Marushchak
Childhood and Youth,
University and Early Work
1917: First Ordeals
“Doctor, you must become a priest!”
The Trial of the Doctors
First Arrest
Imprisonment and Exile (Part 1)
Imprisonment and Exile (Part 2)
Return to Freedom
Second Arrest and Exile
Return from Second Exile. Temptations
Third Arrest and Sentencing
Third Exile and War
Ministry at the Krasnoyarsk See
Ministry at the Tambov See
Ministry at the Crimean See (Part 1)
Ministry at the Crimean See (Part 2)
Ministry at the Crimean See (Part 3)
Cases and Miracles
Towards the End
The Archbishop’s Repose
The Glorification of the Archbishop and the Uncovering of his Relics

The Archbishop by Tihon Hieromonk

Chapters 1 & 2
Chapters 3 & 4
Chapter 5
Chapters 6 & 7
Chapters 8 & 9
Chapters 10 – 12
Chapters 13 & 14
Chapters 15 & 16
Chapters 17 & 18

Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

Chapter 1 – The Absence of God
Chapter 2 – Knocking at the Door
Chapter 3 – Going Inward (Part 1)
Chapter 3 – Going Inward (Part 2)
Chapter 4 – Managing Time
Chapter 5 – Addressing God, Chapter 6 – Two Meditations

Ascetics in the World

Part 1, Chapters 1-4
Part 1, Chapters 5,6
Part 1, Chapters 7-9
Part 1, Chapters 10,11
Part 1, Chapters 12, 13
Part 1, Chapters 14, 15
Part 1, Chapters 16, 17
Part 1, Chapters 18, 19
Part 1, Chapter 20
Part 2, Chapters 1-12
Part 2, Chapters 13-28
Part 2, Chapters 29-45

The Holy Angels by Mother Alexandra

Book 1, Section 1, Chapter 1 through Book 1, Section 2, Chapter 5
Book 1, Section 3, Chapter 1 through Book 1, Section 4, Chapter 3
Book 1, Section 4, Chapter 4 through Book 1, Section 5, Chapter 5
Book 1, Section 5, Chapter 6 through Book 2, Section 1
Book 2, Section 2, Chapter 1 through Book 2, Section 4, Chapter 2
Book 2, Section 4, Chapter 3 through Book 2, Section 6, Chapter 4
Book 2, Section 6, Chapter 5 through the middle of Book 2, Section 8
Middle of Book 2, Section 8 through Book 3, Section 2, Chapter 1
Book 3, Section 2, Chapter 2 through Book 3, Section 3, Chapter 5
Book 3, Section 3, Chapter 6 through Book 3, Section 3, Chapter 9
Book 3, Section 3, Chapter 10 through Book 3, Section 4
Book 3, Section 5, Chapter 1 through Epilogue

Pearl of Great Price by Sergei Hackel

Opening through page 19 including chapters 1 and 2 (Deprivation and The Straightening of the Way)
Pages 20-36 including Chapter 3 and a portion of Chapter 4 (Monasticism and The House at Rue de Lourmel)
Pages 36-49 concluding Chapter 4 (The House at Rue de Lourmel)
Pages 50-68, Chapter 5 (Orthodox Action)
Pages 69-84, Chapter 6 and a portion of Chapter 7 (The Second Commandment and Forebodings)
Pages 84-97, concluding Chapter 7 (Forebodings)
Pages 98-113, beginning Chapter 8 (War)
Pages 113-130, concluding Chapter 8 and a portion of Chapter 9 (War and Martyrdom)
Pages 130-149, concluding Chapter 9 (Martyrdom)

Wounded by Love by St Porphyrios

1-25 (The Path to the Holy Mountain, The Holy Mountain – Kavsokalyvia)
25-48 (Evia)
46-69 (The Polyclinic Hospital in Athens)
70-95 (Saint Nicholas at Kallisia, The Holy Monastery at the Transfiguration at Milesi, Kavsokalyvia, On the Church)
96-112 (On Divine Eros)
113-133 (On Prayer)
134-157 (On Spiritual Struggle)
158-179 (On the Monastic Life, On the Mystery of Repentance)
180-194 (On Love for One’s Neighbour, On Divine Providence)
195-217 (On the Upbringing of Children, On Dispositions of the heart)
218-247 (On Creation, On Illness, On the Gift of Clear Sight)

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