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St Luke Serbian Orthodox Church

10660 River Road
Potomac, MD 20854

WHY DO WE FACE EAST WHEN WE PRAY?

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Have you ever asked yourself why we have to turn toward the east when we pray, or why the altar in our Orthodox churches is placed on the east side, or why we put icons on the east wall in our homes, or why do we bury people facing the east? These and many other questions concerning our faith arise every day. Certainly, they need an explanation.

It is not without reason or by chance that we worship toward the east. Of course, we can pray to our Almighty God everywhere and all times, and God, who is everywhere, will hear our prayers, even though we are not facing the east. However, we know that some of the attributes of God are that He is spiritual light, “and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’(1 John 1:5), and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Mal 4:2).

“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory“ (Isa 60:19). Therefore, the east is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. Thus, we see that Christ is that light that comes from the east.

Every morning when we wake up and open our eyes, we see how the Sun rises from the east, bestows unto us the light of its rays, and adores us with splendid illumination, filling our hearts with happiness. In the same way, our Lord Jesus Christ shines as the light of the world He is the. Sun of Righteousness that shines upon us every day, and adore us with His blessings, illuminating our hearts. Once we experience joy of that light in our hearts, we will recognize Him as our Lord and Savior. We always face the east in order to gaze upon the beautiful face of Jesus Christ from Whom we receive every good gift. He is the ‘gladsome light of the heavenly Father' (a prayer from Vespers), by which we do not walk in the darkness of this world.

The Garden of Eden was also planted in the east. When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, God made them to dwell away from Paradise, which clearly is the west. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland - ‘the lost Paradise’. Also the tribe of Judah, as the most precious, pitched their camp on the East: “And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies." (Num 2:3).

Moreover Christ, when He was crucified on the Cross, had His face turned toward the west, and so we worship and pray facing the east, constantly striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven, He was ascending toward the east, and thus His apostles worship Him. He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going toward Heaven, 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” (Matt 24:27). In expectation of His Second coming, we worship toward the east; and we bury our reposed ones in the ground facing the East, for we hope and believe in the resurrection of the dead and His glorious coming from the East.

Remember, also, that before a person is baptized, he or she, together with their godfather, is facing the west and renounces Satan through the prayers of exorcism. After a person or the godfather (in case of the baptism of a child), denies Satan and his evil works, he or she has to turn toward the altar, (or the east), and declare being united with Christ. by reading the Nicene Creed.

Now, that we know why we Christians constantly face the East, we can understand why the Orthodox Church is called the Eastern Orthodox Church. This, of course, doesn’t apply to the geographical location of our Church, for even if we live in America (which is considered a western country), we belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is not geographically situated in one country or one place, but is spread all over the world: “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matt. 28:19).

Let the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ always shine before us so that we may clearly see the narrow path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.s

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10660 River Road; Potomac, Maryland 20854    tel: 301.299.2704    fax: 301.576.5664    web: www.svluka.org

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