29 January 2012 • 29th Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture • By Deborah (Malacky) Belonick
I am greatly honored that you have invited me to give this lecture in memory of Father Alexander Schmemann...When I began to read the work of Father Alexander, I was able to glimpse, in a small way, what the liturgy meant from the inside, and reading his Journals, I caught something of the Orthodox world view. I managed to find again a couple of sentences in his 1965 book Sacraments and Orthodoxy, which link closely to what I have prepared for today: "The liturgy of the Eucharist is...the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom...'Dimension'...seems the best way to indicated the manner of our sacramental entrance into the risen life of Christ."
With these words, our guest speaker Dr. Margaret Barker commenced the 29th annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture, transporting her audience into the liturgical world of the first Jewish Temple—a world remarkably familiar to Orthodox Christian worshipers. Her lecture was titled "Our Great High Priest: The Church as the New Temple." The audience listened with intense interest as Dr. Barker described with vivid imagery the furnishings, appointments, and keepers of that temple—the anointing oil, cherubim, bread of the presence, seven-branched lampstand, Melchizedek priest-king, and so forth—as they were drawn deeper and deeper into its ancient liturgical life.
As Dr. Barker focused on the structure of the first temple and on the figure of the high priest within that temple, she led her audience along "the trail that leads from Solomon's Temple to the Christian Church," her premise being that both the first temple and its high priest were restored by the coming of Jesus Christ. "The Christian community was the temple of the Messiah," she noted, "the original temple restored, and it was a living temple." Further on, she stated, "There is good evidence in the gospels that Jesus did see himself as the great high priest, and that his ministry was shaped by that ideal."
Upon her closing words, "Christians are the anointed ones of the restored temple, and our covenant is the eternal covenant entrusted to the ancient temple priesthood, renewed by our great High Priest [Jesus Christ]," the audience exploded with sustained applause in gratitude for her presentation. At the close of her talk, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), presented Dr. Barker with a beautiful icon of "Christ the High Priest."
Other hierarchs in attendance at the lecture were His Grace The Right Rev. Benjamin, bishop of San Francisco and the West (OCA), and His Grace The Right Rev. Maxim, bishop of the Western Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church of North and South America.
To get a sampling of Dr. Barker's research, and to hear her on YouTube, visit her website www.margaretbarker.com .