To the East
January 4, 2008
“It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the east. On the contrary, since we are composed of a visible and in invisible nature, of an intellectual nature and a sensitive one, that is, we also offer a two-fold worship to the Creator. It is just as we also sing both with our mind and with our bodily lips, and as we are baptized both in water and in the Spirit, and as we are united to the Lord in two ways when we Sacrament and the grace of Spirit. And so, since God is spiritual light and Christ in Sacred Scripture is called ‘Sun of Justice,’ and ‘Orient,’ the East should be dedicated to His worship. For everything beautiful should be dedicated to God from whom everything that is good receives its goodness.
Also, the divine David says: ‘Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth; sing ye to the Lord; who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, to the east!’ And still again, Scripture says: ‘And the Lord had planted a paradise in Eden to the east; wherein he placed man whom He had formed,’ and whom He cast out when he transgressed ‘and made him to live over against the paradise of pleasure,’ or in the West. Thus it is that, when we worship God, we long for our ancient fatherland and gaze toward it. The tabernacle of Moses had the veil and propitiatory to the East; and the tribe of Juda, as being the more honorable, pitched their tents on the east; and in the celebrated temple of Solomon the gate of the Lord was set to the east.
As a matter of fact, when the Lord was crucified, He looked toward the West, and so we worship gazing towards Him. And when He was taken up, He ascended to the East and thus the Apostles worshiped Him and thus He shall come in the same way as they had seen Him going into heaven, as the Lord Himself said: ‘As lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even into the west: so shall the coming of the Son of man be.’ And so, while we are awaiting Him, we worship towards the East. This is, moreover, the unwritten tradition of the Apostles, for they have handed many things down to us unwritten.” — St. John Damascene