17 April 2008

Facing East

Some claim that we face east because Jerusalem is in the east. What a western perspective! Recently a participant in Sunday School mentioned this view to be the way it was taught to them. Well, what do Churches to the east of Jerusalem do? Do they face [or better, are they constructed] the west since Jerusalem is to their west?
Fr. Hunwicke turns on the light.


Richard Naff said...

Good evening, Chris! The topic of Eastward-facing can be a touchy one, and certainly there have been those who've gone a bit overboard in asserting either (1) it's required or (2) it's of the devil. But just as a counter view, I offer what JC Ryle wrote in his tracts against the Romanization of the CoE back in the 1800s.

In this case, I think JC Ryle "went overboard" his in assertions based upon implied correlation with other worship practices. However, there remains the fact that the Eastward-facing practice is a man-made invention, for whatever reasons, good, bad or indifferent. He is correct in that it is not scriptural nor was it practiced by the Temple Jews or early Christians.

If anything, as we understand the geography of the Temple and, depending on where inside the Temple they stood at a given moment, Aaron's priests would have likely faced any of the three cardinal compass points except eastward. (Showbread table on the north, incense altar on the west, lamp table on the south). And the scriptures are silent, so far as I know, on what the early Christians did in in their homes and gatherings in the fields or back alleys.

In my travels in eastern Mediterranean, I've seen basillica ruins from pre-500AD that are oriented in any covenient way.

CMWoodall said...
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