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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning Worship towards the East.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XII.—Concerning Worship towards the East.

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 2377 is spiritual light 2378 , and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness 2379 and Dayspring 2380 , 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 2381 . Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed 2382 : and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise 2383 , which clearly is the West. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland. Moreover the tent of Moses 2384 had its veil and mercy seat 2385 towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East 2386 . 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 2387 ; as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth 2388 even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be 2389 .

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 2390 .


Footnotes

81b:2377

Basil, De Spir. Sanct., c. 27; Alcuin, De Trin. ii. 5; Wal. Strabo, De reb. eccles, c. 4; Hon. August., Gemma Animæ. c. 950.

81b:2378

1 John 1.5.

81b:2379

Mal. iv. 2.

81b:2380

Zach. iii. 8, vi. 12; St. Luke i. 78.

81b:2381

Ps. 68:32, 33.

81b:2382

Gen. ii. 8.

81b:2383

Text, ὃν παραβάντα ἐξώρισεν, ἀπέναντί τε τοῦ Παραδείσου τῆς τρυφης κατῴκισεν . Variants, ὃν παραβάντα, τῆς τρυφῆς ἐξώρισεν, and ὃν παραβάντα, τοῦ παραδείσου τῆς τρυφῆς ἐξώρισεν, ἀπέναντί τε τοῦ παραδείσου κατῴκισεν.

81b:2384

Levit. xvi. 14.

81b:2385

Lev. 16.2.

81b:2386

Num. ii. 3.

81b:2387

Acts i. 11.

81b:2388

Text, φαίνεται. Variant, φθάνει. The old translation gives occupat.

81b:2389

St. Matt. xxiv. 27.

81b:2390

Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, ch. 27.


Next: Concerning the holy and immaculate Mysteries of the Lord.

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