Eastward position

EASTWARD POSITION. A term descriptive of the position used by a Priest who adopts the custom of celebrating Holy Communion facing the East, with his back to the people. There is a very great difficulty in ascertaining what the rubrics with relation to the Priest's position really mean, because the Altar itself occupied various positions at the time the rules were framed.

(1.) Position of Altar. "The Table. . . .shall stand in the Body of the Church, or in the Chancel," is the rubric of 1552. "The Holy Table shall be set in the place where the Altar stood. . . .saving when the Communion of the Sacrament is to be distributed, at which time the same shall be so placed in good sort (conveniently) within the Chancel," is the direction in the Injunctions of 1559.

By degrees, however, the custom of moving the Holy Table at the time of Communion, and placing it length-ways in the Church ceased, and it was allowed to remain at all times placed "Altar-wise" at the East End of the Church.

(2.) Position of the Priest. In the rubric of 1549 the direction was for him "to stand humbly afore the midst of the Altar," of course with his back to the people. In 1552 the present rubric, directing the "North-side," was introduced, but owing to the Altar's standing East and West then, the position of the Priest remained virtually the same as before. But when, through Laud's influence, the Holy Table was removed back to its original position, the question was whether the Priest was still to obey the letter of the rubric and stand at the "North-side," or rather what was now the "North end," or whether he too was to retain his old relative and original position. The matter has been further complicated by the insertion of the rubric before the Consecration Prayer in 1662, which seems to favour the Eastward position in directing the Priest to "stand before the Table," while, on the other hand, that very position renders it difficult to "break the Bread before the people," unless, as some maintain, the "before" does not mean "in the sight of," but "in front of."