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Author Topic: Facing a Certain Direction During Prayer  (Read 1516 times) Average Rating: 0
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Asteriktos
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« on: November 02, 2009, 02:15:15 AM »

Something I'm not quite sure I understand is why certain religious groups have their adherents face a certain direction during prayer. For example, Muslims face Mecca. Or for Orthodox Christians, they face the east because, at least according to St. Basil, they are supposed to be facing where the Garden of Eden was (On the Holy Spirit, 27).  But since the earth is (more or less) round, when you pray facing a certain direction, you aren't actually facing Mecca or Eden, but rather if you drew a straight line from where you're facing you'd be looking off into space. I guess it's just a symbolic gesture?
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2009, 02:17:58 AM »

But since the earth is (more or less) round, when you pray facing a certain direction, you aren't actually facing Mecca or Eden, but rather if you drew a straight line from where you're facing you'd be looking off into space.

Sometimes you just crack me up!  Cheesy

Actually, I have heard different things.  Orthodox Christians pray toward the rising sun, and I've also heard toward Jerusalem.  The sun is a symbol of the resurrection.  Who knows with Jerusalem.  Perhaps awaiting the New Jerusalem?
« Last Edit: November 02, 2009, 02:21:41 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2009, 02:24:31 AM »

Something I'm not quite sure I understand is why certain religious groups have their adherents face a certain direction during prayer.

Focus.
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2009, 02:29:43 AM »

Al
But since the earth is (more or less) round, when you pray facing a certain direction, you aren't actually facing Mecca or Eden, but rather if you drew a straight line from where you're facing you'd be looking off into space.

Sometimes you just crack me up!  Cheesy

Actually, I have heard different things.  Orthodox Christians pray toward the rising sun, and I've also heard toward Jerusalem.  The sun is a symbol of the resurrection.  Who knows with Jerusalem.  Perhaps awaiting the New Jerusalem?

I've heard similar, that it looks forward to the Second Coming.
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2009, 03:30:34 AM »

Quote
Focus.

« Last Edit: November 02, 2009, 03:30:49 AM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2009, 04:53:09 AM »

I've been taught the churches face East, if at all possible, because the Church was founded at Jerusalem; Constantinople, the First Throne of Orthodoxy is in the East (sorry all you +Bartholomew haters); and Orthodoxy is the Church of the East, from Alexandria to Russia.  (Admittedly, I face West in my personal prayers, because the best place in my apartment for my icons makes it necessary.)  Facing East, however, is not a matter of salvation. 

Even though the globe is round, geography has named locations of regions in the world; America in the Western Hemisphere; Jerusalem is in the Middle East (formally known as the Near East); the term "orient,"  which we use for the Oriental Orthodox Churches, means "East;" the Balkan States are in Eastern and Southeastern Europe; the Vietnam War was fought in South East Asia, etc.
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2009, 04:59:15 AM »

So then shouldn't those in the Far-East face west toward Jerusalem?  Of course then that ruins the sun analogies, but I'm still curious.  Do Orthodox temples in Japan and Korea still face east?
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2009, 07:37:03 AM »

St Basil writes; “we all look to the east in our prayers, because we seek our ancient fatherland, Paradise, which God planted towards the east.”

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=osco652hynIC&pg=PA235&lpg=PA235&dq=%22praying+facing+east%22+%2B+%22eastern+Orthodox%22&source=bl&ots=O_7ON1blis&sig=_Lb2yt-For830O_MceWLH_VoGjA&hl=en&ei=1MLuSqrtF9GOkQXVorScDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CA4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2009, 07:57:50 AM »

So then shouldn't those in the Far-East face west toward Jerusalem?  Of course then that ruins the sun analogies, but I'm still curious.  Do Orthodox temples in Japan and Korea still face east?

My church in Japan indeed faces east.
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2009, 09:30:43 AM »


Almost always Orthodox churches are oriented East - West, with the main entrance of the building at the west end.

This symbolizes the entrance of the worshipper from the darkness of sin (the west) into the light of truth (the east).  The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

Additionally, we await Christ’s coming from the East:
I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Rev. 22)

For this same reason it is preferred to hang icons at home on an eastward facing wall.

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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2009, 10:42:55 AM »

I've been taught the churches face East, if at all possible, because the Church was founded at Jerusalem; Constantinople, the First Throne of Orthodoxy is in the East (sorry all you +Bartholomew haters);

I never heard this as a reason for facing East.  Nor that

Quote
Orthodoxy is the Church of the East, from Alexandria to Russia. 

as Rome was Orthodox, and the First Throne of Orthodoxy when the practice arose (i.e. from Apostolic times). To give this as a reason of facing East denies the Church's Catholicity.

From those Apostolic times, the reasons given:
Quote
It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.

Since, therefore, God is spiritual light (1 St. John i. 5), and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness (Mal. iv. 2. ) and Dayspring (Zach. iii. 8, vi. 12; St. Luke i. 78.), the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East (Ps. lxviii. 32, 33). Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed (Gen. ii. Cool: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise, which clearly is the West. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland. Moreover the tent of Moses (Levit. xvi. 14) had its veil and mercy seat (Ibid. 2) towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East (Num. ii. 3) Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven (Acts i. 11); as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth, even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be (St. Matt. xxiv. 27).

So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.
St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, IV, xii.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf209.iii.iv.iv.xii.html


Quote
(Admittedly, I face West in my personal prayers, because the best place in my apartment for my icons makes it necessary.)  Facing East, however, is not a matter of salvation.

True, but unless absolutely impossible (and that does occur) having them East would be better.

Quote
Even though the globe is round, geography has named locations of regions in the world; America in the Western Hemisphere; Jerusalem is in the Middle East (formally known as the Near East); the term "orient,"  which we use for the Oriental Orthodox Churches, means "East;" the Balkan States are in Eastern and Southeastern Europe; the Vietnam War was fought in South East Asia, etc.
Not to be multi-cultural, but this is not the only way to look at things: i.e. China calls itself "the Middle Kingdom." But you are right: Anatolia means "where the sun rises," Europe is from the Semitic root 'ereb "to set" (of the Sun), and the Patriarchate of Antioch was built on the Diocese of the Orient. We have the Middle West, the West Coast, and then of course the International Date Line.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2009, 11:04:13 AM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2009, 11:41:32 AM »

Almost always Orthodox churches are oriented East - West, with the main entrance of the building at the west end.

True... and yet the brand-new Holy Trininity (GOA) church in London, Ontario actually faces South, with the main entrance on the north side.

Here's Origen (yes... the infamous Origen whose writings were infused with neo-Platonism) on praying East in his famous "On Prayer".

Quote
A few words may now be added in reference to the direction in which one ought to look in prayer. Of the four directions, the North, South, East, and West, who would not at once admit that the East clearly indicates the duty of praying with the face turned towards it with the symbolic suggestion that the soul is looking upon the dawn of the true light?

Should anyone, however, prefer to direct his intercessions according to the aperture of the house, whichever way the doors of the house may face, saying that the sight of heaven appeals to one with a certain attraction greater than the view of the wall, and the eastward part of the house having no opening, we may say to him that since it is by human arrangement that houses are open in this or that direction but by nature that the East is preferred to all the other directions, the natural is to be set before the artificial. Besides, on that view why should one who wished to pray when in the open country pray to the East in preference to the West? If, in the one case it is reasonable to prefer the East, why should the same not be done in every case?

I think this is one of the earliest patristic references to the practice. "On Prayer" influenced Evagrius Ponticus, who was an influence on more orthodox figures in church history.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2009, 11:43:07 AM by John Larocque » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2009, 12:29:41 PM »

To all of the above (of which only the "First See in Constantinople" thing is not of my opinion), I will add that Jesus himself was lebelled as the "raising sun".
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"Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace"
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2009, 05:52:29 PM »



For this same reason it is preferred to hang icons at home on an eastward facing wall.



Hmm... but when we have icon corners are we not to orient them such that we face east while praying? This would require the icons to face west, would it not?
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« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2009, 06:03:01 PM »

Hmm... but when we have icon corners are we not to orient them such that we face east while praying? This would require the icons to face west, would it not?

Yes, but facing us from the east.
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« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2009, 06:51:30 PM »

I don't know if this was the origin of the Christian custom, but Jews face Jerusalem because that's where the Temple stood.

Usually synagogues are built with the ark oriented so the congregation will be facing this direction. However sometimes this isn't architectually possible; if an exsisting structure is bought, depending on the layout of the lot etc. In these cases the congregation faces the ark even if it is not onthe eastern wall.
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« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2009, 10:32:11 PM »

If you read early Christian authors such as Tertullian in the West (Ad nationes 1,3 and his Apologeticum) and Melitos of Sardis and Clement of Alexandria, Christ is the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2 [echoed in the Troparion of Nativity]; Zachariah 6:1; Luke 1: 78-9) who illumines the world and frees it from the stain of the darkness.  And as we rise from sleep and depart from sleep, do we not pray that our days and nights are sinless and blameless?  The rising sun [anatole] ensures that such is so.
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