Christ's Faithful People
|OF natural space we commonly predicate three
directions,--up, down, and beside. They indicate that in space there ;s order, and that it
is not a chaos. They enable us to conduct a mode of life and move about from place to
place, erect buildings and live in them.
In divine and supernatural space there is also this order of direction. It is grounded in a mystery.
Churches are built along the east to west direction of the sun's course. They face the east and the rising sun. The chord of the sun's arc runs through them. They are built to receive his first and his last rays. The sun of the supernatural world is Christ. Consequently the course of the natural sun, his symbol, governs all sacred architecture and determines all its forms and arrangements. At every line and point eternal life is kept in view.
At the reading of the Gospel the missal is moved over to the left, that is, since the altar always faces east, it is moved toward the north. As a matter of history the divine message proceeded northward from the Mediterranean region, and the memory of this fact is present. But the more profound symbolism is that the south is the region of light, and signifies the divine illumination, as the north signifies darkness and cold. The Word of God, who is the Light of the World, rises out of the light and shines upon the darkness and presses hard upon it in order to make itself "comprehended."
East to west, south to north. The third direction is from above down, from below up. When he is preparing the Holy Sacrifice, the priest lifts up first the paten, then the chalice. God is above; he is the All-Highest. "Out of the depths" the suppliant lifts up hands and eyes toward the holy hills. The bishop, when he gives his blessing, lowers his hand upon the head of the person kneeling before him; the priest, when he consecrates, upon the objects to be blessed. Creation is a downward act, blessing comes down from above, from the Holy One on High. This third direction of supernatural space is proper to the soul and to God. Desire, prayer, sacrifice ascend upward from below; grace, the granting of prayer, the sacraments, descend downward from above.
In accordance with these directions the worshipper faces the rising sun, and turns his gaze upon Christ, whom it symbolizes. The divine light streams westward into the believer's heart. West to east is the soul's orientation; east to west the rise and progress of God.
From the north the darkness looks toward the light of the divine word; and from the fiery heart of the south the divine word streams out upon the darkness in light and warmth.
From beneath upward, out of the depths toward the throne of God on high, the soul sends up her yearnings, prayers and sacrifices; and God's response in grace, blessing, sacrament, comes downward from above.