Christian Glossary

See also: Forms of Address for Clergy ... Saints' Feast Days Calendar ... Religions of the World
Acolyte: A server: a lay assistant, often a boy, one of whose functions is to light and extinguish the candles on the altar before and after the service.
Alb: A long white linen vestment with straight sleeves.
Alms bason: A collection plate in which are collected the offerings of the people.
Altar: The Holy Table, the Communion Table.
Aumbry: A receptacle made either in the wall or attached to the wall of the chancel or sacristy to contain the consecrated elements, holy oils, or sacred vessels.
Amice: A vestment consisting of a linen neck piece or collar, which is worn with the alb.  Originally a covering for the head, as well as the neck.
Antependium: The hanging or screen in front of an altar: frontal. Sometimes used in reference to the pulpit cloth.
Apse: A semi-circular or polygonal termination of a choir or chancel.
Aspergillum: A liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water.
Baguette: A long, plain, or decorated band of wood suspended from a cornice to enhance the beauty of a dossal.
Baldacchino: A canopy, which covers the altar.
Baptistry: In liturgical churches, wherever the font is located; in Baptist, or other churches which practice immersion, usually a large tank in the very front of the church, set into the platform or behind a communion table or altar.
Bier: The carriage upon which the coffin is placed in the church.
Biretta: A stiff four-sided cap worn by the clergy.
Bishop's Chair: The chair (cathedra) in a cathedral, reserved exclusively for the bishop of the diocese.
Burse: The case for the corporal.
Canons: The laws of the Episcopal Church; also, the members of the chapter of a cathedral.
Cassock: The long under garment worn by the minister. It is usually black. There are two styles commonly in use: The Roman, which is buttoned down the front; and the Anglican, which is buttoned at the side.
Cathedra: The seat of the bishop of a diocese.
Catholic: Universal, worldwide ecumenical. The word refers to the ancient creeds of the whole Christian church; or the whole body of the church. The word is not the sole property of the Roman Catholic Church.
Cere-cloth: One of the three traditional cloths laid upon the top of the altar. It is a waxed cloth, designed to protect the fair linen from the dampness and moisture of the stone altar top.
Censer: A brass or silver pot in which incense is burned.
Chalice: The cup used at the Holy Communion.
Chancel: The east end, so called, of a church.
Chapel: A building or portion of one used for worship.
Chaplain: A clergyman responsible for spiritual administration in a household, institution, or organization.
Chasuble: A loose vestment with neck aperture and worn over the alb.
Chimere: A long garment of black or scarlet with armholes, but no sleeves, which is worn by bishops over the rochet.
Choir: The choristers; also, the part of the chancel between the nave and the sanctuary.
Ciborium: A covered cup to hold the Sacramental Bread; a canopy of wood or stone or marble, supported by four or more pillars covering an altar.
Cincture: The girdle of a cassock.
Clerestory: The wall above the arches and pillars in the church that has roofed-over side walls.
Cloister: A covered passageway, usually open on one side into a court. The passageway connects the church with a parsonage or a school building or a parish house.
Cope: A long cape-shaped vestment (originally another form of chasuble).
Corporal: A square linen cloth used upon the altar at Communion.
Corpus: The word means the body and refers to the representation of the Lord's body upon the cross.
Cotta: A short white garment occasionally used by choristers over the cassock.  It is not as long or as full as the surplice, although it is the same vestment.
Credence: A shelf, or a table on the epistle side of the altar, upon which the communion silver rests until used at the altar.
Crossing: The place where the transept crosses the nave.
Crozier (pastoral staff): The staff of a bishop, patriarch, abbot or priest.
Crucifer: The one who carries the cross.
Crucifix: A cross with a representation of our Lord's body (corpus) upon it.
Cruet or ampulla: The receptacle for wine and for water.
Crypt: A vault beneath a church.
Deacon’s step: The middle or second step approaching the altar.
Dossal or dorsal: A curtain of rich fabric behind the altar or communion table.
East end of a church: The end where the altar stands, even if it is not actually in the east.
Elements: The materials used in the Sacraments appointed by Christ: water, wine, and bread.
Epistle side: The side of the altar at which the Epistle is read, the right as the congregation sees it.
Eucharistic lights: Two candles placed at either end of the altar.
Ewer: The pitcher for holding the water for the font and for the lavabo basin.
Fair linen: The principal covering of the top of the altar. It hangs over the sides of the altar almost to the floor.
Flagon: A large covered glass or metal container for a reserve of wine, or grape juice depending upon the church.
Font: The receptacle of stone, metal or wood, which holds the water for the Baptism.
Footpace: The pavement or top step before the altar.
Frontal: A covering of cloth that hangs before the front of the altar, covering the entire front of the altar.
Frontlet or superfrontal: A short cover for the top of the altar frontal.
Girdle: A rope, usually made of white cotton, tied around the waist over the alb.
Gospel side: The side of the altar at which the Gospel is read, the left as the congregation sees it.
Gradine: A shelf behind the altar upon which the reredos sits. It is also called a retable.
Hood: A shield-shaped hood or panel at the back of a cope; also, the academic vesture given by a college in token of a degree.
Host: The consecrated bread or wafer of the Holy Communion.
ICTHUS: Greek letters that spell the Greek word for fish and are the initials of the Greek saying Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior. The Greek initials are ΙΧΘΥΣ. The Greek name for Christ is Ίησοῦς (anglicized as Christos, and note the Χ that gives rise to Xmas). The full Greek phrase is "Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ".
Lantern: The open tower above the crossing in a church.
Lavabo: A bowl of metal or glass used for the washing of the priest’s hands during the celebration.
Lay: Referring to members of a community (Christian or otherwise) who are not ordained or otherwise "official". For example, lay readers are members of a congregation other than clergy who read during services.
Lectern: A stand near the chancel on which rests the Bible.
Litany Desk: Very similar in shape to the prie-dieu, with a wider shelf and rest for litany hook.
Liturgical colors: The colors used in the church during the course of the year; white, black, red, violet, green, rose, ash and blue.
Maniple: A scarf which hangs from the left arm over the alb as part of the Eucharistic vestments.
Mensa: The top of the altar.
Missal: The book containing the Communion Service, Collects, Epistle and Gospels, sometimes referred to as the Altar Book.
Missal-stand: The desk on the altar upon which the missal rests.
Narthex: The vestibule or closed-in porch across the building at the rear of the nave.
Nave: The central division of the church in which the congregation is seated.
Office: An authorized form of worship: daily offices of Morning or Evening Prayer; an occasional office: Burial office.
Order: A religious fraternity.
Orders: In the Anglican and Eastern Church these three orders of the ministry – bishop, priest, and deacon; in the Roman Church – priest, deacon, and subdeacon.
Office lights: Candlesticks, sometimes used on the altar during the offices.
Orphrey: A wide band of decorated material originally used for covering seams of vestments. Now mostly used for decorative use on vestments and to embellish the dossal.
Pall: The linen cover for the chalice; also, the cover for a coffin.
Paraments: A word commonly used to designate the frontal of the altar and other hangings which may decorate a pulpit or lectern.
Paschal candle: A candle lighted on Easter Even and extinguished on Ascension.
Pastoral staff (crozier): The staff of a bishop, patriarch, abbot or prior.
Paten: The silver or gold plate for the bread at the Holy Communion.
Pectoral cross: A cross which hangs on the breast of a bishop.
Predella: A step or base beneath an altar.
Prie-dieu: The prie-dieu is more commonly called a prayer desk.
Processional cross: A cross affixed to the end of a staff which is carried at the head of a procession.
Protecting cloth: A cloth placed over the fair linen when there is not a service, designed to protect the linen from dust and dirt.
Purificator: A small linen napkin used to wipe the Sacred Vessels after Holy Communion.
Pyx: A covered receptacle for the Sacrament.
Rail: The altar rail between the choir and the sanctuary.
Reredos: A decorated panel behind an altar. It is usually of wood or stone. The reredos is often made elaborate with sculpture, carvings, and painting.
Retable: A shelf which supports the reredos.
Riddels: Curtains at either side of an altar.
Rochet: A long white linen vestment.
Rood: The crucifix, with figures of St. Mary and St. John.
Rood Screen: A screen with the rood upon it. A rood beam is a beam across a church with the rood on it.
Sacristy: The place where the clergy vest, and where the sacred vessels and vestments are kept secure.
Sanctuary: The sacred portion of the church in which the altar stands.
Screen: Carved open woodwork, or stone.
Sedilia: The seats for the clergy within the sanctuary, on the south side.
Server: An acolyte.
Stall: Individual seats in the choir are usually called stalls.
Stole: A long narrow band of silk or brocade worn over the shoulders of the clergy.
Subdeacon’s step: The first of the three steps to the altar.
Surplice: A white linen vestment worn by the clergy over the cassock.
Tabernacle: A locked safe used for the reservation of the Sacrament.
Tester: A flat canopy or covering over a pulpit, altar or tomb.
Tippet: A black scarf worn by the clergy.
Transepts: The arms of a cruciform church.
Triptych: A three-paneled painting or carving, usually behind the altar.
Veil: A covering for the chalice.
Verger: One who carries the verge or staff before a cathedral or collegiate dignitary. A custom in the Church of England. In the American Church usually an usher who is paid by the church, oftentimes the Sacristan.
Vestment: An ecclesiastical garment worn for church services; also, coverings for the altar.
Wafer: A thin disk of unleavened bread used in the Communion.

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