Having yesterday cleared up the unnecessary confusion concerning north and south, a comment made by another fine seeker of the precious infusion which is my unashamedly dogmatic Bible-teaching, raised a further valid point concerning ecclesiastic geography:
“I just think it's a good thing that in Christ there is no East or West, or I'd be really confused.”Now of course this is quite right, and all well and good for Christ, but when it comes to Eucharistic liturgy East and West are extremely important. After all, it’s not Him who becomes the subject of complaints to the Bishop from the Finicky Nit-Pickers Guild (and whether or not you know it, every parish has a branch) when you don’t Celebrate the same way as dear old Father Antediluvian did (who served in the parish for over eighty years, and finally died in the pulpit while half-way through his sermon – an event not noticed for another three Sundays).
Like GAFCON, however it’s all quite simple when you think about it. Churches are laid out along an east-west line, even if east and west are, for example, north-south. This is especially common in newer parishes where, because the diocese purchased the land from closely related property-developer, it’s not uncommon to find the church constructed on a block originally zoned as a carwash. And since aisles wider than they are long are rarely popular the compass needs a little creative shifting.
Consequently the altar is always in the east, and though much of history the Eucharist was celebrated to its west. More popular today, however is the West Position, in which the Priest stands to the east. If, as is increasingly common, a Communion Table is used, this is placed to the High Altar’s west, with the Priest to the east.
All of which is generally shunned by those of a lower-church persuasion, particularly those who admire the South, who prefer the north position at the altar’s south. The congregation, however remain in the west facing east, while visiting Prelates not celebrating are seated facing west. In this case any attendants would most probably be to the north until summonsed, at which point they would move west, to assist in the south, also in the north position.
Really, I’ll never understand why clergy aren’t in greater demand as navigators. Wouldn’t civil aviation be a lot more interesting if we were in charge of the maps? surely we'd be make unbeatable rally drivers?
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.