Narthex, part A:

The entrance to a cathedral always faces west -- West entrance to a cathedral

West Entrance


The door to a place opens unto its own world, its own realities. Life, of course, is a series of going through doors: life is a growing through the soul's entrances of birth, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age, and death. And we cannot see what is beyond each door any more than we could have suspected while in our mother's womb that we should soon be thrust into a new world of light and sound.

The cathedral's entrance is an enormous double door, for it is an enormous matter to go into the place of a prayerful soul, an awesome thing to know that the cathedral soul is bought with the price of God's own shed blood and resurrection. And if we are to enter rightly we must do so with trust. It is not a blind trust, but the faith that comes from having lived to see yet another day by His mercy.

He has only good ends and purposes for our lives as Christians and though we seldom understand the pain and death around us, He is to be trusted to guide us through this life and into the next. God does not promise that we shall do so unscathed, for Christians above all other mortals, must bear their crosses. We must realize that with Christ we suffer with Him and for His people's sake.

Though Calvary happened only once and for all time, it is in a sense timeless; every new generation of Christians is a part of His sufferings here. It is a divine mystery of mysteries that we are a part of His timeless sacrifice for the sake of the world: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory." (Colossians 1: 24-27)


The entrance of these doors is Providence, the sure and certain help of that Invisible Hand that guides us in this life to the next. William Cullen Bryant's "To A Waterfowl" comes to mind; I think only a poet can relate such an inexplicable mystery ("relate" not "explain", for explanation exceeds our mortal intellectual capacities). A poet speaks from soul to soul and the mortal mind hears the Eternal Silence that is hidden within the metered words:

Whither, 'midst falling dew,
	While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost  thou pursue
	Thy solitary way?

Vainly the fowler's eye
	Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
	Thy figure floats along.

Seek'st thou the plashy brink
	Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
	On the chafed ocean's side?

There is a Power whose care
	Teaches thy way along that pathless coast --
The desert and illimitable air --
	Lone wandering, but not lost.

All day thy wings have fanned,
	All that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not weary, to the welcome land,
	Though the dark night is near.

And soon that toil shall end;
	Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
	Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.

Thou'rt gone!  the abyss of heaven
	Hath swallowed up thy form; yet on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou has given,
	And shall not soon depart.

He who, from zone to zone,
	Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone
	Will lead my steps aright.


And above the Cathedral's doors is Christ and His disciples graven deep into the ancient stone that arches heavenward, whilst flanked about those doors are saints and angels ... for in His providence and through His wondrous predestination you are a Christian soul and to enter within at prayers is to be guided by a most humbling reality. We did not choose Him, but rather He chose us; but for His mercy we would forever inhabit the darkness in this life and the next. We do not merit the opened door but with bowed heads can only say, "Thou my God seest me!" Thou hast had mercy where Thou hast had mercy and all Thy ways are past finding out. (John 15: 16-17; Genesis 16: 13-14; Romans 9: 14-33)

Of our Cathedral's door what can I say but this: Christ Himself is the door and it is as though the opened wound that pierced His heart is our entrance to that which is Holy both in this life and the next. Water and blood flowed from it to recall the sacrament of baptism and the blood that bought our salvation. Hear Him then and enter in: "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheepfold. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. ... I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly!" (John 10: 7-9, 11)

Return to main article

Go to narthex Part B:

Back to Table of Contents