Traditionally, icons are placed on the east wall of a building. We can see it in Orthodox churches where the iconostasis is made in the eastern part of the church and divides the sanctuary from the nave. That’s because, in keeping with the established church tradition, the Orthodox believers face east during prayer.
Our forefathers Adam and Eve communicated with God directly in the Garden of Eden but then lost access to him due to the Fall. The Garden of Eden was situated in the east.
Beside that, the Lord is called the Dayspring (Luke 1:78), the Light (1 John 1:5), the Sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) in the Holy Scripture.
We have to mention that, according to a tradition, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ after which God shall judge all humankind justly, will also appear from the east. That is why the Orthodox direct their eyes to the east while praying. St. John Damascene writes, “As we anticipate His (that it, Christ’s – author’s note) Coming, we bow to the east. That’s the oral tradition passed on to us from the apostles. For they taught us a lot orally.”
It must be noted, though, that this practice is by no means peremptory and absolute. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus where to pray to God, willing to know the exact geographical point, either Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim, the Savior replied, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24). Holy Fathers take these Savior’s words to mean that isn’t the place where we serve God that is important; in fact, what is important is our heart and our spirit. Thus, Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt points out, “If you don’t pray in spirit, then you don’t pray in your heart; if you don’t pray in your heart, then you don’t pray at all.”
Therefore, the main criterion of our prayer isn’t in which direction we turn to while praying but what kind of inner spiritual disposition we have at that time. Even if our icon corner is on the west wall but we pray sincerely, that prayer will please God more than the ‘traditional’ prayer facing the east, if we do it as a mere formality.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds