The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Narthex
May 2, 2021, 12:00 PM
NARTHEX (also, the Vestibule or Gathering Space)

The narthex (Greek for “giant funnel”) is the area in the church that you enter when you come in from outside but before you enter the nave. It can be one space or three different spaces. The narthex allows people to prepare for Mass before they come into the presence of the Lord. It is also a place where the congregation gathers to celebrate processions for special holy Masses, such as the Easter Vigil, Corpus Christi, and Palm Sunday.

The early Church emphasized the importance of being prepared and coming to the Mass ready to receive Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. The Christians of the early Church often met in homes of fellow Christians to celebrate Mass. The Eucharist was also celebrated in the catacombs, the burial places of those who led Christian lives and sometimes lost their lives for Christ. It was not until the fourth century, when Christianity became legal, that they started converting pagan structures into churches and constructing new buildings. You would find a covered porch at the entrance of those early churches, which would have been used as the entryway into the church.

We have been gathering as a Christian family for almost 2,000 years. When our Catholic community comes together at Mass, we truly are united, one body in Christ. As we enter the church through the narthex and walk with others into the nave, we can feel that community of belief. We are all coming for the same reasons: to be disciples of the Lord and to be as close to God as we can. We cannot be any closer to God this side of heaven than being present at the Mass, and there is no relationship more personal than that of Holy Communion.

“Therefore, the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but one primitive Church, (founded) by the apostles, from which they all [spring].” – Tertullian of Carthage (AD 200)