Ecclesiastical Glossary

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Each page contains all the entries for a single letter of the alphabet. Use the page controls at the bottom of each page to navigate: 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, etc.


calendar See Church Year Calendar.

candle Candles on the altar grew out of the practical need to give illumination for the conduct of the service. Today candles are an important element in worship symbolizing a) Christ as the Light of the World, b) the Light of God’s Word, and c) in general, the presence of God. Ceremonial candles are often lighted and presented to the newly baptized as a symbol of the light of faith. See also, Paschal Candle; Eucharistic lights.

canon A standard or rule, as used for a) Canon of Scripture; other uses are not popular in the Lutheran church: b) the canon of law, c) Canon of the Mass, d) the title of a member of the clergy attached to duties in a cathedral.

canonical According to the canon law, or order, of the church.

Canonical Hours Appointed hours of prayer; not widely used among Lutherans. See Daily Office.

canopy An overhanging of a rich fabric or of carved stone or wood over an altar or pulpit.

canticle Latin ‘little song’. A sacred song, comprised of chiefly Scripture texts, often arranged for chanting, and sung as part of the liturgy.

cantor A soloist who assists the presiding minister by chanting or singing various parts of the liturgy.

cassock A long garment reaching from the shoulders to the ankles, worn by clergy and sometimes by those assisting in the worship service; during the worship service, often worn with a surplice as an outer vestment.

catechism A book summarizing the teachings and language of the Christian faith, often in the form of questions and answers.

catechist one who instructs catechumens.

catechumen A student receiving instruction in the Scriptures and in the doctrines of the Church.

catechumenate A system for preparing individuals, usually converts, for baptism over a period of time. (In this system, post-baptismal instruction is called mystagogy and centers on the initiation rites, deeper understanding of the doctrines of the church, and reception of the Sacrament of the Altar.)

catholic/Catholic In the broader sense means universal. Sometimes used in the narrow sense as short-hand for the Roman Catholic Church.

celebrant Pastor who leads the congregation in the liturgy of the Sacrament of the Altar and administers the Lord’s Supper. An elder, deacon, or lay person may not celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar.

chalice Latin ‘cup’. Traditionally a gold or silver cup lined with gold; used to distribute wine at Holy Communion; may be made of ceramic, glass, or even wood.

chalice veil A square of rich fabric with matching burse, often in the color of the season, used to cover the empty chalice and paten.

chancel The area in a church building that directly surrounds the altar including the pulpit and lectern.

chancel rail A rail separating chancel from nave; distinct from a sanctuary or altar rail.

chant Latin ‘song’. The musical form used for non-metrical singing of Psalms, Canticles, and liturgical texts in the liturgy.

chapel A small church or room designated for worship or devotion, with or without an altar, often within a larger church or institution, like a school or hospital.

chasuble A large oval-shaped outer vestment, often ornately decorated and matching the color of the season, worn by the Celebrant at the Divine Service. Tradition says it represents the robe which the Roman soldiers placed on Christ after His scourging (John 19:2).

choir A group of appointed singers who assist in the liturgy; the section of the church interior where the choir sits.

Christmas The time of the Church Year that focuses on the Father sending the Son to save the world; includes the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Christ The title given to Jesus that means the “Anointed One”; Greek for Messiah.

Christian A person who believes in Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin, eternal death, and the devil.

Christian Church Year See Church Year Calendar.

Christian martyr A person who dies rather than denying his or her faith in Jesus Christ.

Christian name The name given and received at Baptism, usually the first and second (middle) name.

Christian Year See Church Year Calendar.

Christmas ‘Christ’s Mass’ or ‘Festival’. The Festival of the Nativity (birth) of Christ, fixed as December 25 in the Western Church. The time of the Church Year that focuses on the Father sending the Son to save the world. The Twelve Days of Christmas extend to January 6 (Epiphany).

Church The body of Christians, i.e., the the baptized body of Christ, gathered around Word and Sacrament; the communion of saints; a collective term used for for all of a denominations or organized group of Christians; an edifice dedicated to Christian worship.

Church Militant The church on earth, church at war; the body of believers (saints) in Christ as they struggle in this life against sin, death, and the devil.

Church Triumphant The church in heaven, church at rest; the body of believers (saints) who are now in heaven through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Church Year A pattern of the Sundays, saint’s days, and holy days that are appropriate to commemorate in corporate worship and daily devotion. It falls in two parts: 1. the festival half (Half-year of the Lord)–Advent to Trinity Sunday commemorating the life and work of Christ and great events in the life of the Church, and 2. the non-festival half (Half-year of the Church) the Sundays after Trinity setting forth the Christian life. See also, Church Year Calendar

Church Year Calendar The church’s calendar organized to observe the events in the life of Christ and the church; begins in Advent and has the pattern of the Sundays of the church year; sets the theme for each service. See also, Church Year.

ciborium A covered chalice or box, for holding the unconsecrated host (bread) for the Sacrament.

cincture A girdle of cloth worn by the clergy over the cassock.

circumcision The sign of God’s covenant with Abraham; it corresponds to the Gospel Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

clergy, cleric A collective term for those who are  ordained, as distinct from the laity; Clergyman one who is ordained.

clerical The shirt worn by the clergy designed to recieve a clerical collar.

clerical collar A stiff white collar which buttons in the rear, worn by clergymen

collect Latin collectio, ‘a gathering together’. Brief liturgical prayer of ancient form fixed or set by the Sundays or season of the Church Year (as in Collect for the Day); a short comprehensive prayer that collects the prayers of others present.

color, liturgical The colors designated and prescribed for the seasons and services of the Church Year.

commandment A command; one of the Ten Commandments, which is the Law of God.

commemorations Remembrance of the faithful dead who are set before the church as an example.

commission The act of giving authority; Jesus gives the Office of the Holy Ministry as He commissions His eleven disciples to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).

communicant A baptized member of the church who is eligible to partake in the Sacrament of the Altar regularly.

Communion, Holy Another name for the Sacrament of the Altar; see Sacrament of the Altar.

communion of saints The community that all believers have in the blood of Christ; all of the people who lived in faith in Jesus Christ who have died and are now living eternally in heaven.

communion rail A rail extending across the front of the altar or the front of the chancel, at which communicants come to receive the Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

communion table A table used for the communion service in non-liturgical churches.

communion wafer See host.

Compline The last of the canonical hours or prayer services of the day, said at the close of the day before retiring.

confession Admitting that you have sinned against God and desire His forgiveness.

Confession (of Sins) The act by which one admits and acknowledges sin(s) and the guilt of sin.

confiteor A prayer in which confession is made; a confession.

congregation A group of people gathered together in a church for a worship service or Bible instruction.

consecrate To dedicate a person or thing to holy service or us; to declare holy, as when Jesus’ words are spoken over the bread and wine during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

cope A long circular cloke of silk of other rich fabric, often varying in color according to the season of the Church Year, worn over the alb for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar.

cornice A decorative wooden strip above the back of the altar from which the dorsal is hung.

corporal A napkin of linen with a cross embroidered on the front. It is spread over the fair linen, and the communion vessels are placed on it. Derived from the Latin corpus, ‘body’, and further identifies the communion elements with the body and blood of Christ present in the Sacrament.

corpus  Latin corpus, ‘body’; the body of the Lord depicted on a cross, as on a crucifix.

cotta Latin ‘coat’; a short white linen or lace garment, similar to the surplice, worn over the cassock by members of choir, and acolytes.

crèche French ‘crib’; The crib or manger containing the nativity scene (tableau) of Jesus birth.

credence The shelf or table on the epistle side of the sanctuary where the elements and vessels used in the Sacrament are placed before use in the service.

creed Latin credo, ‘I believe’. A summary statement of what the Church believes. Authoritative statement of the Christian faith; refers to any of the three Ecumenical Creeds used in worship: the Apostles’ Creed, often used at Baptisms, funerals, and non-Communion services; the Nicene Creed, often used at services with Holy Communion; and the Athanasian Creed, often spoken on Trinity Sunday.

crismon Symbol for the names of Christ used as ornaments on a Christmas tree.

crosier (also crozier) A bishop’s pastoral staff, a symbol of leadership and pastoral authority

cross, the An instrument of shameful execution, which after Christ’s crucifixion became the symbol of Christ’s salvation work and symbol of the Christian faith.

crossing, the The portion of a cruciform church where the transepts and the nave intersect.

crown Symbol of victory and sovereignty.

crucifer Latin ‘cross-bearer’. On who carries the processional cross leading a religious procession.

crucifix A cross bearing the figure (body) of the crucified Christ upon it.

cruciform In the form of a cross. Often used when speaking of church buildings in the shape of a cross with the transepts forming the arms.

cruet Small vessel of glass or metal provided for unconsecrated wine or water to be used during the celebration of the Sacrament, placed on the credence before use.

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