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Chapter - Liturgical Terms

Liturgy is a word used to describe a formula for worship within the church. This chapter consists of words, phrases and items that deal with the church and its practice of liturgical worship. From time to time, you will run across the word “liturgy” or “liturgical” in a definition. When it is used in this sense, it is referring to the specific liturgy followed by liturgical churches.

ALB – This is a white, ankle length garment worn by a priest when administering the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). The alb is made from one piece of cloth to symbolize the garment Jesus wore before his crucifixion (Luke 23:11).

ALTAR – 1. This raised structure, made of stone or wood, is used for Communion. It is usually highly ornate in decoration and carvings, and sometimes has phrases or verses carved on it. The altar is always in the most prominent place in the church sanctuary. Some altars sit atop three steps which signify faith, hope and love. These are the three attitudes which those participating in Communion should model. It is upon the altar that the elements of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) are placed. This is appropriate because our Lord’s death on the cross would be the last sacrifice required by God for the forgiveness of our sins. 2. When not used for Communion, the altar is left empty; or, it may bear a cross and two candles, one candle on each side of the cross. The empty cross represents the victory of Jesus over sin and death. The candles remind us that Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). In liturgical churches, the altar is to face east, towards Jerusalem, as a reminder of our Lord’s crucifixion and death.

ALTAR CLOTH – The altar cloth is a piece of cloth made of pure white linen and draped over the altar. This represents the white garments that Jesus was wrapped in when He was placed in the tomb.

ALTARPIECE – This consists of one or more panels either attached to or placed directly behind the altar. A single panel altarpiece is called a “largen” and a triple panel is called a “triptych”. If it has more than three panels, it is called a “polytych”. Altarpieces are often richly decorated.

AMEN – This word is said at the end of prayers and at the end of hymns and means “true”, “certain”, or “may it be so”. It is taken from the Hebrew word “amanl” which means “to strengthen”.

AMICE – This rectangular piece of white linen that was once worn on the head of the priest for warmth. It is now worn around the neck of the priest. The amice is often embroidered with a cross. It is symbolic of the blindfold placed on Christ during His mocking by the Roman soldiers in the Praetorium (Luke 22:63-65).

AMPULLA – This vessel holds consecrated oil. It is used in baptism, confirmation, coronation, holy orders and extreme unction.

ANALOGIUM – This is a reading desk.

ANTIPHONAL – Any form of responsive communication such as reading, singing or chanting done during a church service.

ASPERGES – Based on Psalms 51:7, this act of sprinkling holy water is used for cleansing the altar or for exorcising evil spirits from people.

ASPERSORIUM – This vessel contains holy water. The aspergillum (a special brush designed for holding water) is dipped into this container during the act of asperges.

BELLS – Bells are used for a variety of purposes. 1. The ringing of the bell before the beginning of the service calls the faithful to worship. 2. In Catholic churches, the ringing of the Sanctus bell represents the coming of Christ in Communion. 3. A bell can be used to call the faithful to prayer. 4. Tapping a bell (knelling) signifies the passing of a person’s soul into the next life.

BIRETTA – The biretta is a stiff hat with three or four ridges. If the biretta is black, it signifies the wearer is a priest. If it is purple, the clergy is a bishop. If it is red, the person is a cardinal.

BISHOP – “This word is derived from the Greek and means ‘overseer.’ A bishop is a clergyman who has been consecrated or ordained as a chief pastor, and usually appointed or elected to serve as the spiritual head and business administrator of a designated diocese, district or area of his church. In the Anglican church and related bodies, ordination as a bishop elevates a clergyman to a third order, ranking above priests and deacons. The Presbyterian churches have only one ministerial order, that of presbyter or elder. In the Roman Catholic church, a bishop is a priest consecrated and given authority to administer the sacraments of Ordination and Confirmation. His orders are not higher than those of a priest, but the powers which he can exercise are more extensive. In line with John Wesley’s opinions about primitive Christian orders, American Methodists regard the bishopric as an office and not an order. In the past, they have used both ‘ordain’ and ‘consecrate’ with reference to the ceremony of setting a minister apart for the work of the episcopacy. Apparently, the distinction between bishop and presbyter was not sharply drawn in sub-apostolic times.”1

CANDLE1. Candles play an extensive and often varied role in the church. One single candle can represent Jesus, who is the light of the world. This is based on John 8:12. Two candles on the altar can also signify this. 2. Three candles, in a variety of holders, can symbolize the Trinity. 3. In various liturgical traditions, seven candles can symbolize the seven sacraments. 4. A candle can symbolize prayer and devotions (used in shrines). 5. A candle symbolizes the coming of Christ in Communion. 6. A candle lit on Easter, called the Paschal candle, signifies that Jesus has risen again.

CANTICLE – This is a song (hymn) that is taken directly from the Bible for use in worship. It is taken from the Latin word canticum meaning “song”.

CASSOCK – The cassock is a long garment worn by a clergyman. The cassock’s color distinguishes the rank of the clergy. If the cassock is black, he is a priest; if purple, he is a bishop; if red, he is a cardinal; and if white, he is the pope.

CATECHUMEN – A catechumen is a person who wishes to become a member of a church and is required, in some traditions, to undergo rigid study of the Scripture and the doctrines of the church. In the early church, the process took up to two years to complete. During that time the catechumen received intellectual and moral training from catechists (teachers). Such stringent procedure was necessary because the danger of apostasy (falling from the faith) was very high. This was especially true during the formation of the early church. It was also a caution to prevent the accepting of some into the church fellowship who might turn around and betray the church and its members to the authorities. Catechumen were allowed to attend church worship services but had to leave the assembly before the administering of Communion.

The rigorous procedure would be lessened once Christianity became a legal religion under Emperor Constantine. The first reason for the change was the growing number of children being raised in the church. They were learning the doctrines of the church from birth making the catechetical process less necessary. The second reason was the lessening of persecution. The church elders did not have to worry about weeding out weaker members who might turn them in.

CATHEDRAL – This word is derived from the Greek word “cathedra” meaning “a seat”. A cathedral is a church were the ruling bishop resides. It is from this cathedral that the bishop oversees his diocese. A church being labeled a cathedral has everything to do with the location of the bishop, and nothing to do with the size of the church. Both large and small churches alike may bear the name cathedral. However, the importance of the bishop often led to the construction of magnificent churches, leading to the erroneous conclusion that all cathedrals are grand churches.

CATHOLIC – This word of Greek origin means “universal”. During the early development of the church, the word was used to refer to the entire Apostolic church. Every believer in Jesus Christ was a member of the catholic church. In 1054, the church would suffer its first split over the issue of images, causing the western part of the church to take on the full name of “The Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church”. The eastern part of the church then took on the full name of “The Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church”.

Today, the members of the Western church are known as Roman Catholics. When they use the word “Catholic,” it is spelled with a capital “C,” referring to the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the Eastern church are now referred to as Eastern Orthodox. Protestants, when using the word “catholic,” spell it with a lowercase “c.” This represents the broader use of the term, as referred to in John 10:16, where all believers who follow Jesus Christ are part of the catholic (universal) church.

CENSER – This cup-shaped container (sometimes highly ornate) has a perforated top to allow for the dispersion of the smoke from the burning incense within. The censer represents the meditations and prayers of the people. The smoke symbolizes the prayers drifting upwards to Heaven. The censer is suspended from a set of chains so that it might be swung back and forth, dispersing the incense throughout the church. The censer is usually carried by a lesser clergy. For this reason, the censer has become connected with the office of deacon.

CHALICE – This cup made of gold or silver is used to hold the consecrated wine for the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). The word chalice comes from the Latin word calix meaning “a cup.” The chalice should have a wide base usually in the shape of a hexagon or octagon, to prevent it from easily tipping over. The stem of the chalice should have a knob, so the priest may easily handle it. The chalice may be heavily decorated, engraved and inset with gems, so long as the decorations do not hinder the priest in the administering of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). Chalices made of glass, wood, copper or brass are not permitted.2

CHANCEL – This is the part of the church where the altar, pulpit, lectern and choir are located. The chancel is located just past the nave (where the congregation sits). It is separated from the nave by a chancel rail and an arch.

CHANCEL RAIL (screen) – The rail that divides the chancel from the nave (where the congregation sits).

CHASUBLE – A large vestment worn by Roman Catholic priests and bishops. . It is often highly ornate and decorative, often with a cross embroidered on the back. The chasuble varies in color depending upon the church calendar. The chasuble is symbolic of the purple garment worn by Jesus before Pontius Pilate. It is symbolic of the priest and bishop being a model of the charity of Christ.

CHOIR – The part of the chancel where the singers are located.

CHOIR STALLS – Seats where the singers sit, located on both sides of the chancel.

CHURCH 1. A building symbolizing the house of God. A church can be anything from a simple meeting room that serves multiple purposes during the week to an extravagantly decorated building designated strictly for the purpose of worship. 2. In a broader sense, a church being held in the hand of a particular saint symbolizes either the saint’s founding of the church or being a church father (someone who deeply impacted the church).

CIBORIUM – This vessel contains the altar bread for the laity. It is to be made of the same materials as the chalice, although the specifications are not as stringent for the ciborium as for the chalice. The ciborium is allowed to be richly decorated like the chalice. The ciborium should have a knob on its stem for easy handling. Its cover should be a pyramid or sphere and should be topped with a cross.

CINCTURE (Cord) 1. This is a piece of rope made of linen, wool or silk. It is tied around the waist, crossing the alb. It is symbolic of the scourging Jesus took before His crucifixion (John 19:1). Jesus used it to symbolize the preparation for serving God according to Luke 12:35. Paul called it the symbol of truth in Ephesians 6:14. During ancient times, it was worn over the outer clothing and served as a purse, as protection or as an ornament. 2. When worn by a prophet, it symbolizes humility and the prophet’s rejection of worldly ways. 3. When worn by monks, it symbolizes their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. 4. The cincture symbolizes chastity based on Proverbs 31.

CLERGY STALLS (Sedilia) – A place for the minister(s) to sit, located in the chancel near the pulpit and/or lectern.

COLLECT – This is a brief prayer composed of five parts: address, ground of the petition, petition proper, benefit desired and meditation. The prayer always ends by saying “through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

COPE – The cope is a cape in the form of a half circle. It is worn during processionals and special occasions. It is symbolic of innocence and purity. The cope often outdoes the chasuble in ornate beauty and intricate design. The color of each cope is dependent on the church calendar.

CORPORAL – This white, linen cloth is laid on the altar. On this linen, the bread and wine are consecrated.

COTTA – This is a short surplice. The word is derived from a Latin word meaning “coat”. It signifies innocence and purity.

CREDENCE – This small table or shelf is used to hold the Communion elements before consecration. Other items used during the service, such as the service book and offering plates may be placed there as well.

CROZIER – This highly ornate staff is carried by bishops and priests. It symbolizes church authority. It’s origins were based on the shepherd’s staff or walking stick carried by the apostles.

CRUCIFIX – This cross bears the likeness of Jesus Christ suffering on the cross. The crucifix is very popular in the Roman Catholic Church. The crucifix should not be used in evangelical church services, where the focus is on Jesus’ Resurrection, not His suffering. The “empty” cross should be used instead.

CRUET – This small vessel contains the wine and water for the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist).

DALMATIC – This outer garment is worn by a Roman Catholic deacon. It is a tunic, often made of silk, that descends to the knees. It has long sleeves and is worn over the alb. It is worn at Mass and also for processions and benedictions that are not considered penitential. The dalmatic is the symbol of the deacon who is a model of Christ as a servant/minister.

DEACON – This position in the church that often holds various meanings. The term deacon is taken from the Greek word diakonis, meaning “a servant.” In some churches, a deacon is nothing more than a steward of the church, helping to keep it maintained and running. Some churches ordain their deacons, giving them the ability to preach and teach the congregation. In liturgical churches, deacons assist the priest in carrying out various liturgical activities such as Communion. In the Roman Catholic Church the deacon can baptize, read and preach the Gospel, perform funerals, teach, assist the priest and bishop at Mass, and perform any service the pastor and bishop deem necessary.

DOSSAL, (Dossel, Dorsel) – A wall curtain placed behind and above the altar. It is often richly embroidered on gold cloth.

ELEMENTS – The bread and wine used in Communion.

EPISTLE-SIDE – The right side of the altar, as seen by the congregation. The epistle for the day is always read from the epistle side of the altar.

EVANGELICAL – A form of Christianity that emphasizes the authority of the Bible rather than the authority of the church. The name is taken from the evangelists who wrote the four Gospels. Evangelicals reject the ability of the church to create new dogmas. They also reject all but two of the sacraments; the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

FRONTAL – A highly ornate panel that covers the front of the altar.

GARTH – An inner garden or courtyard in the center of a church complex or cloister.

GLORIA PATRI – A praise usually sung at worship services, after reading from the Psalter. It is sometimes called the lesser doxology.

GOSPEL-SIDE – The left side of the altar as seen by the congregation. It is from this side that the Gospel passage for the day is read.

GRADINE – A shelf placed at the back of the altar on which candlesticks and the cross are placed.

HABIT – A specific type of dress of monks, friars and nuns.

HALO (Nimbus) – A circle of various sorts, placed around the head of a person. The halo means that the person is either a saint or divine. It is derived from the Latin word meaning “cloud”. SEE ALSO: Halos.

HOST – A piece of unleavened bread. It is often flat and round, and can be referred to as a wafer. It is the consecrated bread of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). The word “host” comes from the Latin word hostia, meaning “sacrifice.”

INTINCTION – This is the practice in the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) of dipping the bread into the wine so they can be served together. Various churches hold different stances on the topic, some accept it, some tolerate it and some condemn it.

INTROIT – A psalm of the day read preceding the commencement of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). In some churches, it is a song sung at the beginning of a worship service.

KNEELER – A low bench found on or under pews for kneeling in prayer.

KYRIE OR KYRIE ELEISON – “Lord have mercy on us.” This ancient Greek litany is used during the administration of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist).

LECTERN – A desk/stand/podium from which Bible passages are read during the service.

LECTIONARY – A collection of readings from the Bible for use in worship services.

LITANY – A form of supplication using brief prayers spoken by the pastor. Litany comes from the Greek word litaneia, meaning “prayer.” Litanies were first used as processional prayers targeting epidemic sickness in the fifth century.

LITANY DESK – A prayer desk facing the altar where the minister kneels to lead the congregation in the litany.

LITURGY – Set forms of public worship for the church. The word liturgy is derived from the Greek word leiton, meaning “public” and dergon, meaning “work” or “service.” In it’s most strict definition, the word liturgy applies to the ritual of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist).

LITURGICAL DRESS – Liturgical dress is garments worn by the clergy of churches who practice a liturgical form of worship. Catholics, Lutherans and Anglican/Episcopal are among such churches. The special liturgical dress can be traced back to third century Roman fashions. While Roman fashions would change, the style of dress remained the same in the church. There are two reasons why a specific dress code was adopted. The first deals with Biblical tradition. Exodus 28:2 speaks of making special clothes for Aaron, the high priest. These clothes set him apart from the average worshipper. The second reason a dress code was needed was based on the need for the clergy to have clean clothes during the worship service.

The order in which the clergy puts on the garments are as follows (first to last): cassock, amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole and chasuble.
During the Reformation, the reformers, in keeping with their break from the Roman Catholic Church, substituted the elaborate dress of Catholic priests with the simple university gown. Thus, in early American churches, the Protestant clergy wore plain, black gowns. Today the gowns are rarely worn among evangelical clergy.

LORD’S SUPPER (Eucharist, Communion) – The word eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistos meaning “to be thankful.” Its connection to Communion dates back to the early church’s practice of giving thanks to God before taking the elements. The Lord’s Supper is portrayed as grain and grapes or bread and a cup.

MANIPLE – A beautifully decorated band worn wrapped over the left arm. The maniple is symbolic of the cords used to bind Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The maniple is symbolic of good works, strength, endurance and penitence.

MANTELLETTA – A sleeveless outer garment that falls to the knees. It is worn by bishops, archbishops and cardinals.

MASS – Used in Roman Catholic circles, Mass is the common name for the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). It is taken from the final words of the Communion ritual “Ite, missa est”, meaning, “Go, dismissal is made.”

MENSA – The top or table of an altar.

MITRE – This is a tall, pointed headdress, somewhat cone shaped in appearance, with two flaps (fanons) extending down the back. The mitre is worn by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes and symbolizes authority. Mitres that are inlaid with precious gems and highly embroidered are to be worn on feast days and Sundays. A more common mitre, made from white linen or silk and unadorned is worn on lesser occasions; or, if permitted, mitres are worn by abbots. The two points of the mitre are symbolic of the two points of light that came from the head of Moses after receiving the ten commandments. They can also symbolize the Old and New Testaments. The two flaps (fanons) symbolize the letter and spirit of God’s promises found in the Old and New Testaments.3

MISSAL – A liturgical book containing the Roman Catholic ritual for Mass throughout the Christian year.

MONSTRANCE (Ostensorium, Ostensory) – A glassed-encased shrine in which the host may be viewed. Monstrance is derived from the Latin word monstro, meaning “show”. It should be made out of gold with a large base and knob on the stem for easy handling. The monstrance may be highly ornate; the ideal monstrance is in the shape of a sun with its rays shining in all directions.

MORSE (BROOCH) – A brooch is used to fasten a cope. It was originally an ornamented rectangular piece of cloth. This was replaced with a hook and eye fastener. These metal fasteners would become extremely ornate and valuable as they often were made of gold and silver with precious stones inlaid. Eventually the morse lost its functionality and became strictly ornamental.

MOZZETTA – This is a short cape with a hood that ends at the elbow and is open in the front. It is considered a non-liturgical garment which means that it is not to be worn during the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). The mozzetta is worn by the pope, cardinals and some abbots. When a cardinal wears the mozzetta, he wears it over the mantelletta. When a bishop wears the mozzetta, he wears it in place of the mantelletta and may only wear it in his own jurisdiction.

NARTHEX – This is an architectural term for the vestibule of a church. See image on opposite page.

NAVE – This is the main part of the church in which the congregation sits. See image on opposite page.

OBLATION 1. The bringing of an offering (an action) is called an oblation. 2. The offering itself (object) is called an oblation. Oblations are often connected with the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). The word is derived from the Latin word ob, meaning “against” and latus meaning “to bring”. In the early church, each participant in Communion would bring bread, wine and gifts for the ritual.

OFFERING – The bringing of gifts as an act of worship.

OFFERTORY – The musical number played in evangelical churches at the time the offering is taken. In liturgical churches, the offertory is a psalm read by the minister or sung by the choir during Communion.

ORDINATION – This is the act of establishing a person as a minister of God’s church. The Roman Catholic Church views ordination as a sacrament. Evangelicals ordain, but believe ordination is a simple act of consecrating a person for ministry and that ordination does not bring its own sacramental grace.

PALL – A white linen cloth covering the chalice.

PARAMENTS – Cloths used to adorn the altar, pulpit and lectern.

PARISH – A church district assigned to a minister. The minister is responsible for all parishioners in the district. The word parish comes from the Greek word paroikia, meaning “a neighborhood”.

PASCHAL LAMB 1. The Paschal Lamb is the lamb sacrificed during the Jewish Passover. The Paschal Lamb symbolizes the Old Testament. 2. Because it is a sacrificial lamb it symbolizes atonement (forgiveness) for sins.

PATEN – A metal plate used to distribute the consecrated bread during the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist). It is made from the same material as the chalice. Paten comes from the Latin word jiatena, meaning “a pan.” The paten should have no ornamentation on the concave side except for a small cross that may be etched on the edge.

PLAINSONG – A style of singing used in the early church. It consists of a droning, recitative character.

PRAYER DESK – A small kneeling desk used for prayer by the clergy in liturgical churches.

PREACHER – A person who preaches the Word of God.

PRIEST (Elder, Minister, Pastor) – “An ordained clergyman who has been employed to administer certain sacraments and authorized to preach and perform other ministerial functions prescribed by the law of the church to which he belongs. This name is used only in liturgical churches. In non-liturgical churches, its equivalent is elder. The Church of England and related bodies have three holy orders: bishop, priest, deacon. The Roman Catholic Church has three ‘major’ holy orders: deacon, priest, and bishop. Besides, there are two ‘minor’ orders: acolyte and lector. The Eastern Orthodox churches (Russian, Armenian, Greek, etc.) have five holy orders: bishop, priest, deacon, sub-deacon, reader. The word ‘priest’ is a contracted form of the Greek word ‘presbyteros’, meaning ‘elder.’ The Roman Catholic Church has a hierarchy of clergy with powers superior to priests, but it has no order above that of priest.”4 In evangelical churches, a minister or pastor takes on the roll of priest, as the ordained leader of the church.

PROCESSIONAL CROSS – A cross carried aloft and at the head of the procession into the church.

PROTESTANT – This is a name given to all believers who are a part of any Christian church which is separated from the Roman Catholic Church. The word is derived from the word protest referring to Martin Luther’s acts of protest against the Roman Catholic Church.

PULPIT – A stand in a church from which the sermon is given. The word pulpit comes from the Latin word pulpitum, meaning “a platform”.

PURIFICATOR – A white linen cloth used to clean the chalice after Communion.

PYX - A container for the altar bread. It can also be a small, sometimes highly ornate, box for taking Communion bread to the sick.

RELIC – Any item or bones associated with a deceased saint of the church. The relic is usually placed on display for veneration and remembrance.

RELIQUARY – A special container for both storing and exhibiting a relic. The reliquary is often built in the shape of the object it is exhibiting.

REREDOS – The highly ornate screen or decorated wall located directly behind the altar in liturgical churches.

RETABLE – A shelf or table that sits on the altar itself. Upon it are placed the cross and candlesticks.

RING – In Roman society, wearing rings was a way of symbolizing your social status. It was also the custom of pagan priests to wear gold rings. It is not surprising then that Christian priests as early as the fourth century also wore gold rings. Clement of Alexandria wrote that a Christian was allowed to wear a ring, as long as it bore a Christian symbol (fish, dove, etc.) and was worn on his little finger. Other church fathers such as Tertullian and Cyprian objected to the wearing of rings at all.

Today, rings are worn by the Roman Catholic hierarchy to symbolize their marriage to the church as well as the status of their ecclesiastical office. A nun wears a ring on the third finger of her left hand, or on the third finger of her right hand, to show her marriage to Jesus. This ring is usually a plain band, sometimes formed in the shape of a cross. A bishop wears a ring with an inset of any gem of his choosing except a sapphire. The sapphire is only to be worn by cardinals. A cardinal’s ring contains an inset sapphire gem and is received directly from the Pope at the time of appointment. On the inside of the ring is inscribed the coat of arms of that pope. The ring is said to be of small value.

The pope’s ring is made out of gold. It is placed on his finger at the time of his becoming pope. It is known as the fisherman’s ring because it has an engraving of St. Peter fishing. St. Peter, a fisherman, was the first bishop of Rome. One side of the ring is inscribed with the pope’s name. The ring is broken upon the pope’s death. The tradition of the papal ring dates back to 1265 A.D.5
ROBE – This is a black vestment worn by some Protestant ministers during the public worship service. Its history dates back to the Reformation when the reformers, in breaking with the Roman Catholic Church, settled on the simple black academic robe to replace the liturgical robes worn by Catholic priests.

ROCHET – This over tunic is made of white linen. It is often decorated with lace and its edges are embroidered. The rochet is similar to the surplice, however, where the surplice has wide sleeves, the rochet has very tight sleeves. The rochet is not a liturgical vestment in the sense that the clergy is not allowed to wear it while administering the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist).

ROSARY – “The rosary is a form of devotion to the Virgin Mary. This devotion consists of a series of meditations and prayers centered about events in the life of Christ and the Virgin. These meditations are known as mysteries and are divided into three series: the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious. The prayers of the rosary are counted on a string of beads. The rosary may be represented as a wreath of roses in which the color of the flowers; white, red, and yellow or gold, represents the mysteries.”6

RUBRIC – Written directions, usually printed in red, found in liturgical books on how to conduct various church ceremonies.

SACERDOTAL – “In the celebration of Holy Communion or the Eucharist in Catholic Churches, the priest is said to offer the bread, often called ‘the host’ (from the Latin hostia, meaning ‘victim of sacrifice’), and the wine as an ‘unbloody sacrifice’ upon the altar. In consecrating and offering these elements, it is believed that ‘the Real Presence’ of Christ enters both species. The power to bring this miraculous transformation to pass is said to be transmitted to the priest by ordination and is termed ‘sacerdotal.’ (The word ‘sacerdotal’ is derived from the Latin ‘sacer’, meaning ‘holy,’ and do, meaning ‘offer.’) In Catholic Churches, the Eucharistic rite is in the nature of sacred drama. The Doctrine of ‘the Real Presence’ is the chief feature that distinguishes the Catholic Mass from the Lord’s Supper as administered in evangelical churches, although there are other more or less important points of difference. Even the form of administration prescribed by John Calvin followed closely the usage of the early Catholic Church: the confession of sin; words of pardon and absolution; a Psalm, a prayer for grace; the Scripture reading; sermon; collection of gifts for the poor; prayer of intercession; the Lord’s Prayer; the Apostles’ Creed; consecration of the elements and Communion; post-communion hymn; thanksgiving; Nunc Dimittis; Benediction. The Methodist ritual for Holy Communion, in the main, follows the Protestant Episcopal form which, in turn, is based on pre-reformation usage. Thus it is apparent that the basic difference between the Evangelical and the Catholic administration of Holy Communion is concerned with the assumption of sacerdotal power. ‘Till the beginning of the third century, Christianity corresponded both in idea and spirit to the Judaism of prophecy, the entire sanctified people constituting a holy priesthood unto God. After the beginning of the third century, the idea and form of sacerdotal Judaism, which afterward characterized the Latin Church, were revived’.”7

SACRISTY – The room where liturgical vessels, such as Communion vessels, linens and other equipment, are kept.

SANCTUARY – Strictly used, the sanctuary refers to the area of the church were the altar and/or communion table is located. Sanctuary is derived from the Latin word sanctuarium meaning “holy place.” In liturgical churches, the sanctuary is separated from the chancel which is separated from the nave. This is in keeping with the tradition of the temple in the Old Testament. In this case, the sanctuary is considered the Holy of Holies and is a place that only the priest may stand. Evangelical churches almost always combine the sanctuary and the chancel.

SCAPULAR – The scapular is a single piece of cloth that hangs down from the shoulders on both the front and back of the wearer. Its width is the same width of a person’s torso between the shoulder blades. Its length usually extends well below the knee, almost to the foot. It is worn by many monastic orders. The scapular is symbolic of the yoke of Christ.

SEXTON – A person who is responsible for taking care of the physical church building and its facilities.

SKULL-CAP (Zucchetto) – A tight fitting cap with no brim. They are sometimes worn under the biretta or the mitre. The skull-cap is white if worn by the pope and red if worn by a cardinal.

STEEPLE (Spire) – A part of many church buildings, the steeple reminds all who gaze upon it to turn their thoughts toward God and Heaven. 1. If the steeple is topped with a cross, it symbolizes Jesus calling all to Himself. 2. If it is topped with a weather vane, it is a warning to watch the skies for coming storms and to prepare for them. 3. If a rooster tops the steeple, it symbolizes either humility or the Reformation. 4. If the church has two equal steeples, it represents the twofold nature of Jesus.

STOLE – The stole is a long band of cloth that is worn around the neck of clergy. It is usually adorned with three crosses, one located behind the neck and one on each end. The stole is a symbol of priestly dignity and humility. It symbolizes the yoke of Jesus Christ. It also reminds clergy that he stands in the place of Jesus. The stole is worn by deacons, priests, elders and bishops. When worn during the administering of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist), the stole is to be crossed over the clergyman’s breast. When worn for other purposes, it is not crossed. The stole, when worn by a deacon, is to hang over one shoulder and drape across the breast.

SURPLICE – This is a white, long sleeved linen tunic that extends down to the knee. It is worn over the cassock. It is different from the alb in that it is never girded. The surplice is ornate at the hem and at the sleeves, either with intricate embroidery or fanciful lace. The surplice is the most frequently used piece of liturgical garb. It is worn by the choir, worn during processionals and worn by the priest when he administers the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) and when he gives blessings. The surplice symbolizes being a renewed man, purified and holy.

TE DEUM LAUDAMUS – A hymn of praise to the Trinity. Te Deum Laudamus are the first words of this hymn. The hymn itself is written in the form of a creed. It was supposedly written by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in the fourth century. The hymn is frequently used during the Easter service.

THRONE – The liturgical chair of the bishop. Its proper name is the cathedra. It is located on the left side of the sanctuary. In ancient times, it was the place where the teacher would sit during the service. It was from this tradition that the throne evolved.

TIARA – The tiara is a non-liturgical headpiece worn only by the pope. It looks something like a beehive and consists of three stacked crowns topped with a cross. It is often covered in costly gems and pearls. The tiara is worn by the pope in processionals to and from church and to non-liturgical ceremonies. The tiara symbolizes the Trinity and the three estates of God’s kingdom.

TRANSEPT – In a church shaped like a cross, the transepts are the arms of the cross, the parts that project out north and south from the nave.

TUNICLE – A shortened version of the dalmatic worn by a sub-deacon during Mass. It symbolizes both joy and personal contentment.

VEIL – A piece of cloth connected to the headpiece of a nun. It symbolizes modesty.

VERSICLES – Short liturgical sentences to be said in alternation between the minister and the congregation.

VESTRY – The wardrobe where the vestments are stored.

WAFER – A small flat cake used for Communion. The cake is usually round and made from unleavened bread.

WIMPLE – A linen that covers a nun’s neck, cheeks and head.

WINE (sacramental) – In most liturgical churches actual wine (alcohol) is used. In most evangelical churches, unfermented grape juice is used.

WORSHIP – The engagement of believers in a corporate setting, in singing and exulting God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word worship comes from the Anglo-Saxon word weorth meaning “worth” and scipe meaning “ship.”

1. Stafford, Thomas Albert, “Christian Symbolism in the Evangelical Churches,” (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1942), p. 158.
2. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “Chalice”, available from; Internet; accessed 3 January 2007.
3. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “Mitre”, available from; Internet; accessed 3 January 2007.
4. Stafford, Thomas Albert, “Christian Symbolism in the Evangelical Churches,” (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1942), p. 168.
5. New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “Rings”, available from; Internet; accessed 3 January 2007.
6. Ferguson, George, “Signs & Symbols in Christian Art,” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 300.
7. Stafford, Thomas Albert, “Christian Symbolism in the Evangelical Churches,” (New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1942), p. 169-170.