The glory of the Lord entered the temple by the eastward gate,Liturgy of the Hours, Presentation of the Lord, Office of Readings,
and the house of God was filled with his splendor.
Responsory from Ezekiel 43:5
Then he led me to the gate facing east, and there was the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east! His voice was like the roar of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the vision I had seen by the river Chebar—I fell on my face. The glory of the Lord entered the temple by way of the gate facing east. Then the spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court. And there the glory of the Lord filled the temple!Ezekiel 43:1-5
Significance of the East in Scripture
From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture looks to the East for the Messianic “sun of righteousness” to arise (Malachi 4:2 or 3:20). In the beginning, Eden, located in the east within the cosmic temple (Genesis 2:8), transmits paradisal light and life. In the Apocalypse, the visionary John saw an “angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God” (Revelation 7:2). Literally, in Greek, “East” means “from the rising of the sun.”
Worship Faces East
Traditional church architecture, shaped by Scripture, names the wall behind the altar the “east wall,” regardless of compass coordinates. As the ancient Jews prayed facing east toward Jerusalem, the apostles steered the ark of the Church eastward. From the narthex in the west to the Eucharistic altar in the east, pilgrims journey toward the New Jerusalem. Symbolically, Christians worship the Lamb of God ad orientem (“toward the east”).
Righteous Simeon, beholding the Infant Christ in the temple, publicly proclaimed the Messiah: “A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). Befitting a feast of such splendor, the blessing of candles and a lighted procession traditionally opens the liturgy of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as “Candlemas.” The second reading in the Liturgy of the Hours sheds light on our ancient tradition in honor of the “true light” from the East, which “enlightens everyone” (John 1:9).
From a sermon by Saint Sophronius, bishop
In honor of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.
The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.
The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.
Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.
Behold! The glory of the Lord comes from the East:
Our rising sun on this candlelight feast.
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With the dawn rejoicing, may the true light of the east enter our hearts and be reflected to all!