+ A field expedient: Before there were compasses and the other navigational tools, the only way to determine direction faithfully was by observing the sun relative to the earth's rotation (the apparent movement of the sun in the heavens.) One may orient a map, or a determine a desired direction of travel, without a compass or other tools. First set up a stick so that it casts a shadow. Mark where the shadow tip falls. After a period of time when the shadow has shifted, mark the shadow tip again. Draw a line beginning at the first mark, through the second mark. Facing the direction of the line, you are now "oriented" (facing generally eastward). -- How much more should we mark our position and direction relative to God's Light? Compasses are not always true, GPS are not calibrated, but praise God for the Lights he has given in heaven which are true.
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
The tradition of praying to the east is ancient. It may be dated as early as the time of Solomon. The Temple was likely oriented toward the east. Josephus affirms this in Antiquities 8.3.2, and it is suggested in the placement of the Temple singers in 2 Chronicles 5:12 and the priests in 29:4. The Ark was placed furtherest east, with the altars before it.
Jews prayed toward the Altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, wherever they might be found. This tradition is recorded in in Solomon's speech at the dedication of the first Temple [1Ki8:30] and in Daniel [Daniel 6:10]. In the Gospels, Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple, which followed in AD70. Christians did not have the Temple to face anymore as the prophesy was fulfilled.
With the loss of the Temple, Christian began to pray toward the east, based on their understanding of the Scriptures:
Malachi prophesied the coming of the Sun of Righteousness in the last chapter of the Old Testament, saying: But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." From whence shall that Resurrection come? Jesus said, "For as lightning that comes from the EAST is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" And Zachariah sang, "The Day-Spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to those that sit in darkness."
Christian folk are by tradition buried face up with their feet toward the east, so that upon the Resurrection they will arise facing the coming of our Lord. For the same reason communion was taken facing the east (Let us break bread together with our face to the rising sun.)
A feeling for the importance to early Christians in the relation and application of the physical in the meditation on the spiritual may also be seen in the art of the day, and the hymns that they wrote. Compare these of Ambrose
Ambrose of Milan [390AD]
Eternal Glory of the Sky
The Dawn is Sprinkling in the East
The Day Draws on with Golden Light
O Christ Who art the Light of Day
Now that the Daylight Fills the Sky
Now the Sun in Gleaming Bright
The Morning Kindles all the Sky
O Splendor of God's Glory Bright
Now that the Daylight Dies Away
An afterthought on the symbolic importance of "orientation." The definition for "orient" is given below and is worthy of contemplation in regard to this ancient custom. Consider:
☀ As soldiers we "orient" + our maps so that we can navigate; how much more shall we orient our lives toward our "Dayspring on High"?
☀ We depend on our compass to guide us safely through desert places and along our chosen path; how much more shall we endeavor to ensure our "Moral Compass" is true and that we are indeed led by the Holy Spirit?
☀ When reporting to a new cohort we receive an "orientation," so that we might better fulfill our duties; how much more should our life's orientation be in the Word of God and his Church Militant?
☀ In our various countries, we face our flag or music as our national anthems play, and render obeisance in the form of a salute in respect for those symbols; how much more should our worship be oriented toward the symbolic direction of our Lord's promised coming; while our posture is reflective of our reverent fear and awe of our God according to our tradition and the season?Definition: Orient - Archaic. Rising in the sky; ascending. --o•ri•ent v. or•i•ent•ed, or•i•ent•ing, or•i•ents. --tr. 1. To locate or place in a particular relation to the points of the compass. 2. To locate or place (something) so as to face the east, especially to build (a church) with the nave laid out west to east and the main altar at the eastern end. 3. To align or position with respect to a point or system of reference. 4. To determine the bearings of. 5. To make familiar with or adjusted to facts, principles, or a situation. 6. To focus (the content of a story or film, for example) toward the concerns and interests of a specific group. --intr. 1. To turn toward the east. 2. To become adjusted or aligned.
The Order of Centurions | 20 Trinity
2007 updated Lent 2008