Schmemann: Christ’s sacrifice is the life of the church
Only God can save—precisely save—us, for our life needs salvation, and not simply help. Only he can fulfil that concerning which all sacrifices remain an impotent plea, of which they were all expectation, prefiguration and anticipation. And he fulfils this in the ultimate, perfect and all-embracing sacrifice in which he gave his only-begotten Son for the salvation of the world, in which the Son of God, having become the Son of man, offered himself as a sacrifice for the life of the world.—Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist, trans. Paul Kachur (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 103-04.
In this sacrifice everything is fulfilled and accomplished. In it, above all, sacrifice itself is cleansed, restored and manifested in all its essence and fulness, in its preeternal meaning as perfect love and thus perfect life, consisting of perfect self-sacrifice: in Christ “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” and in Christ man so loved God that he gave himself totally, and in this twofold giving nothing remains not given, and love reigns in all—“the crucifying love of the Father, the crucified love of the Son, and the love of the Spirit triumphing through the power of the cross” (Filaret Drozdov). In this sacrifice, furthermore, because it was made only through love and only in love, was forgiveness of sins granted. And finally, in it man’s eternal thirst for God was fulfilled and slaked: the divine life became our food, our life. . . .
The ultimate and most joyful mystery of all is that Christ gave this sacrifice to us, to the new humanity regenerated in him and united with him: the Church. In this new life, his life in us and our life in him, his sacrifice became our sacrifice, his offering our offering. “Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4). What does this mean, if not that his life, fulfilled by him in his perfect sacrifice, was granted to us as our life, as the only true life, as the fulfilment of God’s eternal design for mankind? For if Christ’s life is offering and sacrifice, then also our life in him and the whole life of the Church are offering and sacrifice—the offering of ourselves and each other and the whole world, the sacrifice of love and unity, praise and thanksgiving, forgiveness and healing, communion and unity.