Common Terms used in the Church ( a-b   c-d   e-h   i-m   n-p   q-z )

Gestures and postures during mass

Sweet smelling resin, in the form of granules or powder, that gives off a fragrant smoke when it is burned is called incense. It can symbolise the people’s prayer ascending to God, or may be used to emphasise the sacredness of a person or object. At Mass it may be used during the entrance procession, the Gospel procession, the Preparation of the Gifts, and the Consecration.


Latin was the language used by Romans during the time of the Roman Empire. In the year 380, Pope Damasus I decreed that Latin was to be the official language of the church. This continues to the present day, even though permission has been given for each country to celebrate the liturgy in the local language.


The stand on which the Lectionary (the Book of Readings) is placed is called the lectern. This stand is sometimes referred to as the ‘ambo’. Some churches have a more substantial structure called a ‘pulpit’ from which the Readings are proclaimed and the homily preached.


A litany is made up of a series of petitions to which the people respond each time with the same response. Examples of a litany in the Mass are found in the Penitential Rite (‘Lord, Have Mercy’) and the Breaking of the Bread (‘Lamb of God’).


All forms of the official, public worship of the church are called liturgy.


Martyr means ‘witness’. Those who choose to die rather than give up their Christian faith, or who are killed because they are Christians, are called martyrs.


Although this could be a title applied to any king in Israel, (because the Hebrew word masiah means ‘anointed’), it refers in particular to the descendant of King David who would ‘sit on the throne of Israel forever’. When the Babylonians took the Israelites into captivity in about six hundred years before Jesus was born, the House of David came to an end. Thus the Jewish people were waiting for a new ‘Son of David’ to arise. This person was Jesus. He is the Messiah.


The monstrance is the sacred vessel used to hold the Blessed Sacrament when it is exposed for veneration (such as during Benediction or other Eucharistic devotions.) It is generally made of silver or gold, with a central glass section (the ‘lunette’) and a decorative circle of ‘rays’.


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