Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Clockwise or Counter-clockwise?

Q & A with Fr Job:
Question: Why does the procession on the night of Pascha go counter-clockwise? In general, does going clockwise or counter-clockwise play any role in Orthodox rites?

Answer: Performing the procession, the Orthodox go out to meet the sun, inasmuch as the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, by the definition of the Church, is the Sun of righteousness. We go out to meet our Lord.


orrologion said...

Could you explain this to me? I've never understood what was meant by references to the sun when discussing whether processions go clockwise or counterclockwise, e.g., the Old Believer schism. I'm sure I'm dense, but I've never understood the sun reference. Perhaps it's clear to someone that hasn't lived their entire life in a city rather than on a farm.

Felix Culpa said...

I have to admit that I'm equally clueless. I generally assume my readers are smarter than I!

Help, anyone?

orrologion said...

My guess has been that it refers to the fact that the sun moves east to west along a line that tilts south, i.e., it isn't a straight line up and over from east to west. In the winter the path of the sun is lower towards the south and it is closer to the straight overhead line in summer. If we are in church facing east, then processing counterclockwise around the altar is moving in opposition to the curve the sun is following from the east (ahead) towards our right (south) ending in the west (behind).

orrologion said...

I know the Old Believers process clockwise and the Nikonian reforms following Greek practice process counterclockwise. "A history of Russia", Volume 3 by VasiliÄ­ Osipovich Kliu͡c͡hevskiÄ­, C. J. Hogarth refers to "the passage according to the sun" as meaning "from left to right according as the altar is faced". But, again, no explanation is given as to how the two are related.

Gabriel said...


I've always understood that it's simply moving in the same direction as a sundial (in the northern hemisphere at least). But beyond that, I don't know anything further.

I do know that a number of early Old Believers (I assume Avvakum is included in this group) spoke out against the change on the grounds that "going against the sun" (i.e., counterclockwise) was tantamount to going against Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. I've also heard a few pragmatic arguments for why clockwise is better, but I can't seem to recall them now.