The first meaning of “orient” is tied to the verb oriri, that is, “to be born, rise.” The sun is the oriens in the proper sense, because it is the star that rises. The rising of the sun orients the entire world, orients the day with its light. The very nature of the universe symbolically teaches man to orient himself, to begin and live the day knowing the direction of his path. The rising of the sun orients the time and space of the day until sunset. And they day that runs from the rising of the sun to its setting is a symbol of human life, stretched from birth to death. It is between these two poles that life must have its sense, its direction, and therefore it needs to be oriented.
… Before meeting the Lord, the Light of the world, our heart, life, ideas, relationships, all are confused. Let us just think of the confusion of thoughts and feelings in which the disciples of Emmaus found themselves… All, before meeting Christ, are disoriented, do not know where to go, even and especially when they think they are on the right road, like the Pharisees, like Saul of Tarsus. It is important to recognize that this confusion is present most of all in ourselves, in our communities. But one should not think that this feeling of disorientation is necessarily negative. …Even when everything is going well, it can be positive for a person or a community to pass through moments in which one must reorient oneself, because this means that one is on the path, that one is advancing. One who is always seated or lying down will never feel disoriented, but he does not move, does not walk. In all situations, when we need to escape from confusion, to rediscover the direction of our life’s path, it is important that this take place not through our turning to ourselves, or to worldly guides, but, as we sing every day in the Benedictus, to the “sun that rises to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death,” the one who alone knows how and is able to “direct our steps in the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79). From the first centuries, the orientation of churches eastward taught the faithful to live their prayer as an act of returning to the right direction of life. Christ is to return from the east. From the east Christ has already come, rising like the sun each day, after each night, also after the spiritual nights in which we lose the direction of our life. (Fr. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori Abbot General O. Cist.)