To face or turn to the east”…
Since the Stone Age, the sun’s rising and setting were the two fundamental references. This was way before the north became the conventional reference point for direction.
Humanity in general is beholden to the sun for its life-giving powers, for its light and warmth, and for reckoning time.
That is why deep within us there is always a desire to gaze upon the horizon for the daybreak when the first rays of dawn signals the end of the night.
Thereby, our hope and hopefulness are inherently connected with the surging of the sun from the reign of darkness. And it brings us all joy and gladness, mirth and reason to celebrate.
From a religious-cultural perspective, the “East is the direction toward which the Earth rotates about its axis, and therefore the general direction from which the Sun appears to rise.
The practice of praying towards the East is older than Christianity, but has been adopted by this religion as the Orient was thought of as containing mankind’s original home. Hence, some Christian churches have been traditionally oriented towards the east.” [cf. “Orientation of Churches,” Catholic Encyclopedia; Peters, Bosco (30 April 2012), “Architectural Design Guidelines 1”]
Not only is Christianity “east-oriented,” but also Judaism and Islam which are religions cradled in the East, and a good number of Oriental beliefs.
Now, from a strictly Christian understanding, EASTER which celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, best captures the image of the rising of the sun from the East — Jesus being the “light of the world” and the “sun of righteousness.” This is the moment of triumph when light dispelled darkness, death became death’s demise, love atoned sin, and good vanquished evil.
The Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, thus, provides the ever-enduring foundation for the Christian faith. This is precisely what the Apostle Paul enthused to the Corinthians, and also to all Christian believers: “…if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). And with this faith grounded on the promised resurrection of the dead, Christian hope finds its proper reference and orientation.
Needless to say, however, we enter through the darkness of night and struggle with the forces that loom over us until dawn gives way to light. And so, we need such a dauntless determination “to turn eastward” for these same struggles with the dark forces are realities we experience, truths we ignore, challenges we face, temptations we entertain, and culpabilities we engage in even during the broad daylight.
And since Easter happens during springtime, we are lovingly invited and heartily reminded to always “orientate” ourselves — to start anew, to be responsibly converted and renewed, and to embrace the new life that Christ offers us through His triumph over sin and death.
Happy Easter to one and all!
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