Father Schmemann begins this fifth chapter of The Eucharist Sacrament of the Kingdom: Sacrament of the Kingdom by looking at the antinomy between the universal and the particular that underlines the contrast between the Great Litany (at the beginning of the Liturgy) and the Augmented Litany which completes the first part of the Liturgy but which has lost its proper meaning and has consequently been omitted in the Greek practice. While the Great Litany calls us to focus on the whole, the personal and concrete find their place in the Augmented Litany.
the antinomy of Christianity consists in the fact that it is simultaneously directed to the whole – to the entire creation, the whole world, all mankind – and to each unique and unrepeatable human person. … The Christian faith can say that the world was created for each individual, and it can say that each person was created for the world, to surrender himself “for the life of the world.” (82-83)
However, when the proper balance between the common and the private is lost in the liturgy, we find a profusion of “services of needs.” While these are indeed a contradiction in terms, as Archimandrite Kyprian Kern pointed out, “this essentially correct accusation remains fruitless as long as the balance between the common and the private is not within the liturgy itself…” (84)
Next follows the litany for the catechumens, which is another anomaly in contemporary practice, given the lack of catechumens who depart at this point. Here Father Schmemann takes issue with those who omit, or recommend omitting this part of the service. While agreeing that “nominalism can have no place in church life,” he goes on to ask “how nominal these petitions are and what is the proper meaning of the ‘relevance of the service to real needs’?” (85) He warns of the danger of taming the tradition according to our own perceptions and asks: “what must we see in the prayers for the catechumens – only a dried and withered limb … or an essential part of the very order of Christian worship?” (86-87) He sees them as the latter and argues that
the prayers for the catechumens are above all a liturgical expression of a fundamental calling of the Church – precisely the Church as mission. … Is not mission again in the center of church consciousness? And is it not a sin against this basic calling when the Church, the ecclesial community, locks herself in her “inner” life and considers herself called only “to attend to the spiritual needs” of her members and thus for all intents and purposes denies that mission is a basic ministry and task of the Church in “this world”?…
Thus, while preserving its direct meaning, the prayers for the catechumens must become for us a constant reminder of judgment: what are you doing – what is your church doing – for Christ’s mission in the world?
With the dismissal of the catechumens, we come to the liturgy of the faithful which marks a turning point in the service. However, we have lost the sense of the closed nature of the liturgical assembly and this is linked to having lost the consciousness of the liturgy being served by the whole assembly. This is also linked to confusion about the relationship between the clergy and the laity in contemporary discussions. Instead of a dead-end conflict between pure clericalism and a peculiar form of ecclesial democracy, Father Schmemann argues that we should rather consider the relationship between the Church and the world. The Church is nothing if it is not the Life of Christ Himself and it has no other business than the incessant acquisition of the Holy Spirit who is given without measure. Therefore,
the hierarchical structure of the Church itself, the distinction between priests and laymen and all the multitude of her ministries has no other purpose than the growth of each and all together into the fullness of the body of Christ. The Church is not a religious society in which God rules through the priests over the people, but the very body of Christ, with no other source and content of her life than the divine-human life of Christ himself. This means that in the Church no one submits to another (as laity to clergy), but all together submit to each other in the unity of the divine-human life. In the Church the authority of the hierarchy is indeed “absolute” – but not because this authority is granted to them by Christ. Rather, it is because it is the authority of Christ himself, just as the obedience of the laity is the obedience of Christ. For Christ is not outside the Church, he is not above the Church, but he is in her and she is in him, as his body. (91)
The Church is constituted as a royal priesthood – and we are all ordained in baptism – because she has a priestly function in relation to the world in that she fulfils the priesthood and the intercession of the Lord himself.
Such, in the end, is the meaning of the exclamation “let us, the faithful.” Through it the Church separates herself from the world, because, being the body of Christ, she is already “not of this world.” But this separation is accomplished for the sake of the world, for the offering of Christ’s sacrifice “on behalf of all and for all.” …
And, finally, with this exclamation we are reminded that the meaning of the liturgy is not that in it the priest serves for the laity, or that the laity participates in the service each “for himself,” but that the entire assembly, in the mutual submission of all ministries one to another, constitutes a single body for the realization and the priesthood of Jesus Christ. (93)
With the unfolding of the antimension on the altar we arrive at the end of the liturgy of the word and the beginning of the liturgy of the faithful. While the antimension has a complex history and various layers of meaning, its central significance is its connection with the bishop. The development of ecclesial life so that the bishop was not longer the usual celebrant of the eucharist in any given community meant that the parish no longer contains the fullness of the Church.
Not only administratively, but mystically, spiritually, it is a part of the greater unity, and only in union with the other parts, the other “parishes,” can it live in the entire fullness of the Church. Consequently, the calling and mystical essence of the episcopate consists in ensuring that no one community, no single “parish” becomes self-contained, shut up in itself, and ceases to live and breathe by the “catholicity” of the Church. (96)
In identifying the bishop with something beyond the local community, the Church sought to avoid the danger of identifying herself too much with the place, and given that this development occurred during the period when Christianity was becoming a state religion it served as a reminder of the otherworldly, universal calling of the Church.
However, even when separated from the bishop, the Eucharist remained intrinsically linked to him, and this is expressed by the antimension.
From any truly deep point of view (and not reduced to only administrative or even canonical categories) the eucharist is today, always and everywhere accomplished by the commission of the bishop, or, speaking in juridical language, by the authority delegated by him. But this is not because the bishop bears authority as an individual. In the early, pre-Nicene Church he exercised his authority precisely with his “council” or “presbyterium,” and the expression “monarchical episcopate,” used so frequently in church history textbooks, very poorly expresses the spirit and structure of the early Church. The issue here is not “authority” but the nature of the eucharist as the sacrament of the Church, as an act in which the unity of the Church and her otherworldly and universal nature is fulfilled and realised. Not only “quantitatively,” but “qualitatively,” ontologically, the Church is more than the parish, and the parish is the Church only to the degree that it partakes of the fullness of tserkovnost’, that it “transcends” itself as a parish and overcomes the inner, natural “egocentrism” and narrowness peculiar to everything “local.” (97-98)