Sunday, July 1, 2012


I have a growing fascination with the word "orientation." This came as a result of reading Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's explanation of the word in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy. He notes that "Orientation" comes from oriens, "the East". "Orientation" means "east-ing", turning toward the east. (68, note 2).

Ratzinger explains, "Christians look toward the east, the rising sun. This is not a case of Christians worshipping the sun but of the cosmos speaking of Christ. The song of the sun in Psalm 19(18) is interpreted as a song about Christ when it says: '[The sun] comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber. . . . Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them" (vv. 5f). This psalm proceeds directly from applauding creation to praising the law'" (68).

He continues, "The east supersedes the Jerusalem Temple as a symbol. Christ, represented by the sun, is the place of the Shekinah, the true throne of the living God. In the Incarnation, human nature truly becomes the throne and seat of God, who is thus forever bound to the earth and accessible to our prayers." And, "Orientation is, first and foremost, a simple expression of looking to Christ as the meeting place between God and man. It expresses the basic christological form of our prayer."

Therefore, when we are oriented, it is because we are looking to Christ. It also follows that we are disoriented when we are looking away from, or disregarding, Christ.

This brief orientation on "orientation" opens lots of doors for application.

1. C. S. Lewis's story, The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' is well-oriented: it faces east.

2. When I feel disoriented, I might check to see whether I am focused on Christ.

3. When I give an orientation, I should make sure that it is Christ-centered.

4. The chancel of Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox churches typically face east: they are oriented.

5. We are invited, but not commanded, to pray toward the east.

That's just the beginning. I may keep adding to the list of applications.

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