Orientation – Aidan Nichols O. P.

There is the issue of orientation. In traditional usage, the altar is where possible placed at the east, on the solar axis. Facing the altar, one faces the rising sun, which overcomes cosmic darkness as Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension overcame spiritual. Orientation is a particularly neuralgic topic in contemporary Catholicism. The now widespread desire for a general return to versus apsidem celebration for the Liturgy of the Sacrifice (as distinct from that of the Word) constitutes an inescapable ‘head-on’ challenge to ‘Modernism’ – understanding by that term a stance that is at once architectural, liturgical, ecclesial, sacramental, and – by implication at least – eschatological.
The custom of orientation is biblical and it expresses the eschaton.

Aidan Nichols O. P., Lost in Wonder. Essays on Liturgy and the Arts, pp. 60-61)

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