Items of symbolic or decorative value in church, such as an altar cross, a processional cross, and altar candles. Church ornaments such as altar crosses and altar candles are present in virtually all Episcopal churches.
Cloth or tapestry hangings used to adorn the space for worship, especially those hangings at the altar, pulpit, and lectern. The term is derived from the Latin, "to decorate" or "prepare."
In the Nave
Long bench, typically with a back, for congregational seating in church. Seats were not provided for the congregation in the early church, and this practice continues today in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The use of pews in the naves of churches has been dated from the thirteenth century. Some pews have been elaborately carved, and some have served to separate the occupants from others in the church. Chairs are now used for seating in some churches because chairs allow greater flexibility in the arrangement of liturgical space. Chairs also may present less of an obstacle than pews for the gathering and uniting of the community for worship.
The term comes from the Latin fons, "spring of water," and designates a receptacle for baptismal water. Fonts in the early church were pools or sunken basins, often in the shape of a cross, in which candidates were immersed in running water. Many fonts remained large even after infant baptism became the norm, but they were raised above ground for convenience. Eventually the typical font was the size of a wash basin, and even adult candidates were baptized by pouring a little water on their heads. Today some new or renovated church buildings have a large font, suitable for immersion, located where the people can easily see it or gather around it.
A shell used to pour water over the head of candidates for baptism. The celebrant may use the shell instead of his or her hand to pour the water. The shell may be made of silver or other precious metal or pottery.
The term is from the Old English for "vessel." It is a small basin or container for holy water. It is placed near an entrance of the church. Those who enter the church may touch the water to their foreheads while making the sign of the cross. This gesture of personal piety may be done to recall baptism and the baptismal promises and as a sign of blessing.
Water that has been blessed for religious and devotional use. It may symbolize purification, blessing, dedication, and renewal of the baptismal covenant. An aspergillum (tube with holes) or a small branch of a tree or shrub may be used to sprinkle holy water during a church service or at other times. It is especially appropriate to sprinkle the congregation with holy water at the Renewal of Baptismal Vows at the Easter Vigil (BCP, p. 292) and at other times of renewal of the baptismal covenant. The asperges is the ceremony of sprinkling holy water over the altar, clergy, and people before the eucharist. Some parishes use a stoup, basin, or font to make holy water available to those who enter the church. Those who wish to participate in the pious custom of "taking holy water" may touch it with the fingers, placing a drop of it on the forehead while making the sign of the cross on the forehead, chest, and shoulders. Holy water has been known as "lustral water," reflecting its symbolic role in purification.
In the Chancel
A lectern, reading desk, or elevated platform from which the scripture lessons are read. The ambo may also serve as the pulpit for preaching.
A book stand or reading desk that holds the book used for reading scripture in public worship. It may also be used for preaching the Word, and it may hold the preacher's notes or sermon text. The lectern where the Word is read and preached is the focal point for attention during the liturgy of the word at the eucharist. The term "lectern" is from the Latin, "to read." Lecterns vary in design from plain stands to ornate representations of an eagle or a pelican with outstretched wings. Another term for a lectern is an ambo.
An elevated platform, usually enclosed with a railing or waist-high paneling and equipped with a reading desk. The pulpit is set prominently in the front of the church building to be the place where sermons are delivered. However, the altar rather than the pulpit typically occupies the central place at the front of the church. The term is from the Latin pulpitum, a wooden platform for dramatic performances. In the early church, an ambo was an elevated structure with steps at both ends. It was often longer than the typical modern pulpit. All liturgical readings were done from the ambo. In many cases it is virtually impossible to distinguish between pulpits and ambos. The terms are sometimes used as synonyms.
A circle of greenery, marked by four candles that represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent. An additional candle is lit as each new Sunday is celebrated in Advent. Advent wreaths are used both in churches and in homes for devotional purposes. The candles may be blue, purple, or lavender, depending on local custom. Some Advent wreaths include a white candle in the center known as the "Christ Candle," which is lit on Christmas Eve.
A large candle that symbolizes the risen Christ. It is often decorated with a cross, symbols of the resurrection, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, and the year. The term "Paschal" concerns Easter or Passover. At the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle is lit from the new fire. It is carried by the deacon, who pauses three times and sings or says, "The light of Christ," and the people respond, "Thanks be to God." The Paschal candle is carried by the celebrant if there is no deacon. After it is carried to the chancel, its flame may be used to light candles held by members of the congregation. This symbolizes the spreading of the light of Christ into the congregation and the world. It is customary for the Paschal candle to burn at all services from Easter through Pentecost (BCP, pp. 285-287). After the Easter season, the Paschal candle is typically placed near the font.
Candles in long holders or poles in stands that rest on the floor (or pavement) of the church. Pavement lights are free-standing. They may be placed near an ambo or the altar and lighted during church services.
A cross or crucifix mounted on a pole that is carried in procession by an acolyte or server.
Low railing or lattice-work that separates the chancel from the nave in a traditionally designed church. The term "chancel," a liturgical space near the altar for clergy and choir, is from the Latin cancellus, "lattice." The chancel was separated from the nave in medieval churches by a rood screen or choir screen. Orthodox churches still use screens to separate the areas of chancel and nave. Many western churches have done away with the chancel rail to emphasize that clergy, choir, and people are one community of prayer.
In the Sanctuary
Decorations behind or above the altar. The reredos is typically a wooden screen, hanging, or panel. It may consist of stone, wood, jeweled metalwork, or drapery. The reredos may contain biblical scenes, scenes from the lives of the martyrs, statues of apostles and saints, panels inscribed with the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, or other Christian symbols.
A large cloth or piece of fabric that is hung on the wall behind the altar. Its color may match the liturgical color of the day, and it may be decorated with religious symbols.
The term may refer to a raised shelf or ledge behind the altar. This shelf is also called a gradine. The altar cross, altar lights, and vases of flowers may be placed on it. The tabernacle may also be placed on it. The term may also refer to a frame above and behind the altar for decorated panels or to a framework for panels, paintings, or sculpture. This framework is also known as a reredos.
A lamp or candle which burns near the reserved sacrament when the reservation is near the altar.
A bell rung by a server during the eucharist to emphasize and call attention to particular moments in the liturgy. The bell may be a small hand bell or set of bells, or a gong rung with a clapper, or the tower bell of the church. The term is based on the practice of ringing the bell three times during the Sanctus. It is also traditionally rung during the institution narrative when the celebrant elevates the elements of bread and wine, especially in parishes with an Anglo-catholic piety. Since the practice emphasizes certain elements of the eucharistic prayer more than others, some prefer to ring the bell only after the conclusion of the eucharistic prayer, including the great Amen.
Candles are often used as a sign of festivity and solemnity in Christian worship. Use of altar lights and other candles in the worship of the church is now customary. Candles have extensive ceremonial use in the Christian liturgical tradition. Lighted candles may be seen to symbolize the light of Christ, or the light of the gospel, or simply to remind the congregation that the time and space for worship are sacred. Candles provide illumination that enhances the beauty of the church, and may provide additional light for worship. Candles may be carried in procession by acolytes, and held as the gospel is said or sung. Candles may be placed on the altar, or on a reredos behind the altar, or on pavement lights beside the altar.
Certain candles have special liturgical uses. The Paschal candle is a large, decorated candle that symbolizes the light of Christ who was crucified, died, rose, and ascended into heaven. It is lighted at the Easter Vigil, and at all services during the season of Easter. The Advent Wreath has four candles that represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent, and may also include a "Christ candle" that is lighted on Christmas Eve. A candle may be given to each of the newly baptized or a godparent after baptism. This candle may be lighted from the Paschal candle, and it serves as a reminder of baptism. Candles may be lighted and extinguished with a candle taper.
A cupboard or secure receptacle in the side wall of the sanctuary or sacristy. Aumbries traditionally have been used to keep sacred vessels, books, reliquaries, and oils for anointing. Aumbries may also be used for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.
Reservation of the Sacrament
Following ancient custom, the BCP provides that the consecrated bread and wine may be reserved for the communion of the sick or others who for "weighty cause" could not be present at the celebration or for administration of communion by a deacon to a congregation when a priest is unavailable (pp. 408-409). The sacrament may also be reserved on Maundy Thursday for communion on Good Friday. It is customary to keep the consecrated elements in a tabernacle or an aumbry or covered with a veil on a table or altar. A lamp or candle burns nearby to announce the presence of the reserved sacrament. This light is known as a sanctuary lamp if the reservation is near the altar.
A small table or shelf, sometimes called a credence table. It is typically located near the altar. It may hold the elements and vessels that are used in the eucharist, including the bread, the cruets with wine and water, the chalice and paten, and the offering plates or basins. It is customary in many parishes for the credence to be covered with a white cloth.
A container or box with a lid for eucharistic wafer bread. It is usually of silver or another precious metal. The ciborium, which may resemble a chalice or cup, has been used instead of the plate-like paten for the administration of the consecrated bread at the eucharist. Unfortunately, the chalice-like ciborium was lacking in symbolic relation to the bread, and the character of the eucharist as meal was obscured. The ciborium is now more typically used as a container for bread wafers that will be consecrated at the eucharist. It may be one of the vessels placed on the credence table for use in the service. A ciborium may be used when the people's offerings of bread and wine are presented and placed on the altar prior to the Great Thanksgiving. A ciborium may also be used as a container for consecrated bread and placed in the tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.
A vessel of glass, precious metal, or pottery, in which the wine or water for the eucharist is brought to the altar. The term is from the medieval French cruette "little jug."
A large vessel with handle and spout, shaped like a pitcher. It is used as a container for wine or water at the eucharist. It may be made of metal, pottery, or glass. The Prayer Book directs that only one chalice is to be on the altar during the Great Thanksgiving. This emphasizes the symbolism of the common cup. If more wine is needed, a flagon of wine may be consecrated at the eucharist. Additional chalices may be filled from the flagon after the breaking of the bread (BCP, p. 407).
A plate, basket, or other container used to collect and present the alms given by the congregation. Alms are
offerings of money and other gifts at the eucharist and at other times intended to express Christian charity for the needs of the church and the world.
After the altar is prepared, and before the Great Thanksgiving, the celebrant may wash his or her hands in a small bowl called a lavabo bowl. An acolyte or server assists by holding the bowl and pouring water over the celebrant's hands. The celebrant's hands are dried on a lavabo towel which hangs over a wrist of the server at the lavabo ceremony. The lavabo is not mentioned by the Prayer Book, but it is practiced in many parishes.
Olive oil that has been blessed is used sacramentally in the liturgical and pastoral ministries of the church. Holy oil is usually applied by the minister of the sacrament or sacramental rite to the forehead of the one who is anointed. The minister often applies the oil with the thumb, making the sign of the cross with the oil. Historically, three types of oil have been identified for use in liturgical anointing. Chrism, a mixture of olive oil and fragrant balsam, is used for the anointing after baptism. It has been abbreviated "SC," sanctum chrisma. Chrism may also be used at Confirmation. It has also been used to anoint newly consecrated bishops. The oil of catechumens was pure olive oil. It was used for the exorcistic anointing prior to baptism. It has also been used at the ordination of priests and the anointing of kings. It was abbreviated "OC," oleum catechumenorum. The oil of the sick was also pure olive oil. It was used for anointing the sick. It was abbreviated "OI," oleum infirmorum.
Consecrated oil used for anointing the newly baptized person with the sign of the cross at baptism. At this consignation, the bishop or priest says to each newly baptized person that "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever" (BCP, p. 308). Chrism must be consecrated by a bishop. It may be consecrated immediately prior to the baptism. It may also be consecrated by the bishop on an episcopal visitation when there is no baptism, or at a diocesan service such as the Reaffirmation of Ordination Vows of the diocesan clergy. Chrism is olive oil mixed with a fragrant ointment, usually balsam.
A vessel or container for consecrated oils. Ampullae of clay or glass were found in the tomb walls of ancient Christian catacombs. They held oil or perfume for anointing the dead.
Water is a major element in religious rituals. It is a natural symbol of birth, fertility, life, and cleansing. To emerge from the waters is to be clean and fresh and new. To wash the body, or even the hands, is symbolically to become clean in an interior sense. Ritually, water is a symbol of purity and washing is a symbol of purifying.
The principal use of water in Christian worship is to immerse the candidate in baptism. It is a sign not only of cleansing but of ritual death and rebirth in Jesus Christ. Water is the sacramental matter of baptism. The use of "holy water" for blessing, or for signing oneself with the cross, is intended to renew baptism and the baptismal covenant in the believer. Water is also mixed with wine in the chalice at the eucharist, recalling the general custom in the ancient world of mixing water with wine before drinking it. It was given a symbolic interpretation during the Monophysite controversy. The mixture of water and wine was seen as symbolic of the union of humanity and deity in the person of Christ.
The cross has been the traditional focus of Christian piety. Use of altar crosses dates from the fifth century, and use of processional crosses dates from the sixth century. During the middle ages, large crosses, or roods, were placed on beams at the dividing point between the chancel and nave of the church. Designs for crosses became very ornate, and some crosses were decorated with jewels.
A small metal pot on chains in which incense is burned during the eucharist and other liturgies. The thurible is also known as a censer. The term is derived from the Latin for "incense." Fragrant smoke is produced when incense is spooned onto hot charcoals inside the thurible. The smoke escapes through holes in the thurible, especially when it is swung. The thurible is carried in procession by the thurifer.
When burned or heated, usually over charcoal, certain woods and solidified resins give off a fragrant smoke. Both the materials and the smoke are called incense. For Christians today, incense is associated mainly with prayer, as Rv 8:3-4 suggests. Many Anglicans feel free to use it as a sacred symbol and aid to worship. There are congregations where incense is used at the Easter Vigil and other major feasts, and some parishes use it regularly on Sunday.
Candles mounted on poles for use in the liturgy. Lighted torches may be carried by acolytes or servers in procession, including the gospel procession. Torches may be placed near the altar and the ambo or lectern. Torches are used to enhance the solemnity and festivity of worship.
These are short thick candles inserted into small glass cups which worshipers may light as an act of devotion. They may be placed on shelves or stands in front of the Blessed Sacrament, or in front of pictures or statues of Our Lord or saints.
Brush, branch, metal rod, or other instrument used to sprinkle holy water at the asperges.
Altar rails in the Episcopal Church are low, reflecting the assumption that the people will kneel to receive communion. Altar rails may be made of metal or wood. Current liturgical usage has emphasized the shared participation of celebrant and people in the eucharist, and tended to remove barriers between the altar and the congregation. Standing to receive the sacrament is practiced with increasing frequency, and altar rails have been removed from some churches. Altar rails may become obsolete as standing to receive communion becomes more widespread in the Episcopal Church.
The structure, also known as "the Lord's Table," "the Holy Table," and "the Table," where the offerings are presented and the elements of bread and wine are consecrated in the eucharist.
A long white cloth that covers the top of the altar. It typically hangs down some distance over the ends of the altar. The BCP directs that at the eucharist the altar "is spread with a clean white cloth during the celebration" (p. 406). Historically, in the early church, a small table was brought out and put in place for the liturgy of the table. A white cloth was spread on the table at this time. It is appropriate for the altar cloth to be spread on the altar before the service or at the offertory. It may be embroidered with five crosses, one on each corner and one in the center.
Covering for the front of an altar, often made of silk or brocade cloth and matching the liturgical color of the season of the church year. Altar hangings were once on all sides of the altar. As altars were placed against back walls of churches in the later middle ages, only the front of the altar was visible to the congregation. Its covering was known as the frontal or antependium. Frontals may also be panels of precious metal or decorated wood. They may be hung, suspended, or attached to the altar. An additional covering, known as a frontlet or superfrontal, may hang down from the top front edge of the altar. It is usually long horizontally and narrow vertically and may be used with or without the frontal.
A square of white linen, spread on the altar during the preparation of the altar, on which the bread and wine are placed. The term is from the Latin corpus, "body." It originally covered the entire altar. By the ninth century the cloth had become an additional, smaller cloth with a special name, corporal. Its specific purpose was to sustain and protect the body and blood of Christ. The BCP simply directs: "The Holy Table is spread with a clean white cloth during the Celebration."
Vessels used in the eucharist, such as the paten and chalice. The term has also indicated the pyx, used to take communion to those unable to attend the eucharist, and items such as the monstrance and luna that are used in Benediction or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Sacred vessels have been distinguished from other liturgical vessels that do not come in contact with the consecrated elements of the eucharist, such as the lavabo bowl.
The practice of mixing a little water with the wine that will be consecrated at the eucharist. The BCP states that this practice "is customary" (p. 407. It is widely practiced now. It has been described as a sign of union of Christ with his people, a sign of the flow of blood and water from Jesus' side at the crucifixion, and a sign of the union of Christ's divine and human natures.
A shallow dish or small plate for the bread at the eucharist. The bread is placed on the paten for consecration and distribution. It typically matches the chalice. The paten should be large enough to hold all the wafers or pieces of bread that will be distributed at communion.
A case of two squares of stiff material, hinged or bound together at one end, which contains the corporal and purificators for use at the celebration of the eucharist. The burse is covered in the liturgical color of the day, and placed on top of the veil which covers the chalice.
A square of material that covers the chalice and paten until they are needed for preparation of the altar at the eucharist. It typically matches the eucharistic vestments and the liturgical color of the day. The chalice veil is placed on top of the pall, which rests on top of the chalice and paten. A purificator rests between the chalice and paten. Additional purificators and the corporal may be kept in the burse. When the chalice and paten are completely prepared for the liturgy with chalice veil and burse, they may be referred to collectively as a "vested chalice."
A small square of white linen, usually with an embroidered cross and folded in thirds, used to wipe the chalice after use at the eucharist.
Bread and wine that are consecrated in the eucharist. The bread recalls the work of human hands required to harvest the wheat and make the bread, and the companionship of sharing. The wine recalls festivity and celebration, along with sacrifice. These elements of the communal meal are offered by the congregation and blessed during the Great Thanksgiving. The bread and wine of the eucharist are commonly called "elements" or "species." The elements are the outward and visible sign in the sacrament of the eucharist and the matter of the sacrament. The body and blood of Christ are understood to be really present in the eucharistic elements after consecration. They represent the inward and spiritual grace of Christ's Body and Blood that is given to his people and received by faith (BCP, p. 859).
Following a widespread and ancient tradition, congregations of the Episcopal Church use bread made from wheat and wine made from grapes. The bread may be leavened or unleavened. It may be in the form of wafers or a loaf that is broken for distribution. No particular kind or color of wine is required, although many prefer red wine as a symbol of sacrifice and Christ's blood. It is an increasingly common practice to use loaf bread made by members of the congregation. Homemade or local wine may also be used. The BCP makes no provision for the replacement of bread and wine with other eucharistic elements
The consecrated bread of the eucharist. The term is from the Latin hostia, "victim." Use of the term reflects an understanding of the eucharist in sacrificial terms relative to Christ's death on the cross. The term is also extended to mean the bread or wafers to be consecrated at the eucharist. The individual wafers of the eucharist may be referred to as "hosts." Many parishes use a large host that is broken by the celebrant at the fraction. This "Priest's Host" may be decorated with Christian symbols that are pressed into the large wafer. It is typically placed on the paten prior to the service when the chalice is vested. The smaller "hosts" that will be distributed to the people are placed in a ciborium and placed on the paten with the "Priest's Host" when the altar is prepared before the Great Thanksgiving at the eucharist.
Alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of grapes. Wine and bread are the essential elements of the eucharist. Wine is associated with celebration, fellowship, and joy. In Judaism, bread and wine were used in household worship such as the Sabbath meal and the Passover meal. The synoptic gospels identify Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples on the night before his death as a Passover meal. At this meal Jesus identified the cup of wine with his blood of the new covenant and foretold that he would not again drink "the fruit of the vine" with his disciples until drinking it new with them in the kingdom of God (Mt 26:26-29, Mk 14:22-25, Lk 22:14-20). This identification of Christ's blood of the new covenant with the wine is continued in the institution narratives of the eucharistic prayers of the BCP (pp. 342, 363, 368, 371, 374). Christ is understood to be "really present" in a special way in the consecrated elements of bread and wine. The bread and wine constitute the sacramental matter of the eucharist.
It is customary to add a little water to the wine in preparing the altar for the eucharistic prayer. This custom is known as the "mixed chalice." Wine of any color may be used at the eucharist. There is to be only one chalice on the altar during the prayer of consecration. Additional chalices may be filled from a flagon containing consecrated wine after the eucharistic prayer is completed. If there is insufficient wine to distribute to the people, additional wine may be consecrated by the celebrant. Any consecrated wine that is not administered at communion may be consumed by the ministers, reserved, or disposed of in a reverent manner.
The book containing prayers and music needed by the celebrant for the regular celebration of the eucharist. In addition to prayers and chants for the various eucharistic services, the Altar Book includes materials for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week services, along with a Musical Appendix that provides optional settings for parts of the service that may be sung.
An altar book that provides all the textual materials needed for celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It includes liturgical texts and directions, readings, additional prayers, hymns, and musical notations. This single volume is used by the celebrant who presides at the eucharist. Use of a missal has never been required in the Anglican liturgical tradition. Although there is no official missal in the Episcopal Church, an Altar Book with eucharistic texts, prayers, and music from the BCP and The Hymnal 1982 is published by Church Publishing Incorporated.
From ancient times the gospel pericopes have been collected in a large book with an ornate cover, often illustrated and adorned with icons and jewels. This practice was recovered with the 1979 BCP, which suggests that the lessons and gospel "be read from a book or books of appropriate size and dignity" (BCP, p. 406. A deacon or server usually carries the gospel book in the entrance procession and places it on the altar until time for the gospel proclamation. Afterward, it may be returned to the altar or placed on a side table or a stand.