Glossary A – F

A

Alleluia
(1) A word based on the Hebrew word for “Praise the Lord”, using a shortened version of the name of God YH rather than the full YHWH that Jews do not pronounce. In Protestant hymnody it is often spelt in a way that reflects Hebrew spelling – Hallelujah. In most liturgical texts, the spelling comes from the traditional Latin, although it seems likely the Greek spoken by the earliest Christians was already dropping the “h” sound at the beginning.
(2) “An Alleluia” normally refers to a spoken or more usually sung sentence, normally a biblical text, preceded and followed by the word “Alleluia”. It is used as an acclamation to greet the gospel. It is normal practice in the Roman Catholic Church, and becoming more widespread in the Anglican Church, but rarely found elsewhere.
Antiphon
(1) A verse or sentence that is sung (or spoken) at the beginning and end of a psalm or canticle, offering a particular perspective on understanding the psalm. In seasons and on holy days, this can relate the psalm to the particular day on which it is being used
(2)By extension, the musical setting to which such a verse can be sung.

B

Burse
Usually two flaps of stiff card enclosed in cloth, and sewn together down one side so that it can make an envelope for the corporal (q.v), or stand tented on the altar. (It is from the same mediaeval word as purse, because it is a kind of pouch for the corporal.) The burse makes a matching set with the veil (q.v.), and they are in the liturgical colour of the day.

C

Candlemas
See the Presentation of the Lord
Canon of Scripture
The Greek word kanōn meant measuring stick. The early Christians used their most basic creed (the rule of faith) as a kind of ruler to measure the truth of the books read in public worship. This was a part of how they discerned which books belonged to the bible. Eventually the word canon (rule) got transferred from the name of the early creed to the list of books which made it into the bible. So the canon of scripture means the contents list of the bible.
Chalice
The name of the cup used in the celebration of the eucharist, from the Latin word calix meaning cup. Although many chalices are decorated precious metal, the word chalice does not distinguish between a silver cup and a pottery one, but is used for both alike
Corporal
Not a military rank, but a square piece of white cloth on which the chalice and paten stand for the celebration of the liturgy of the sacrament. It takes its name from the Latin word for “body” – corpus, a reference to the body of Christ.

D

Deuterocanon / deuterocanonical.
A term applied to a number of disputed books in the Old Testament. “Deutero” means second: these books were recognised by the Roman Catholic as scripture second or later after the other books had been recognised. Protestant groups tend to call them Apocrypha and not recognise them as scripture. Anglicans fall into a muzzy muddle. (See this post for an explanation of the history.) In this blog I shall normally use this language, as there are many other ancient books classified as Apocrypha, to which no mainstream Christian group accords any scriptural status.

E

Epiphany
(1) A day in the church’s calendar, essentially the last day of Christmas, 6 January. In the western church, the focus of the day is the visit of the wise men or magi to the infant Jesus.
(2) In the Church of England it also (since 2000) refers to a season that prolongs the nativity celebration till 2 February, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This marks the events of the last infancy story in Luke’s gospel, when Mary and Joseph complete the Jewish rites surrounding birth in the temple at the end of 40 days. See Luke 2:22-40.

F