Ascension Observed on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday, the Ascension commemorates Jesus' final appearance to his disciples before ascending to the Father (Acts 1:1-11).
Annunciation A liturgical celebration on March 25 (nine months before Christmas) to observe the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God (Lk 1:26-38).
Cope A vestment worn over an alb or surplice, usually in processions and/or for the Daily Offices. The cope is usually in the color of the season.
Matins The first of eight daily prayer services that developed during the Middle Ages for use in the monasteries. At the time of the Reformation, these services were reduced to two: Matins in the morning and Vespers in the evening. Matins is a Middle English word that comes from Latin for "of the morning ."
Chancel The section of a church building beyond the nave where the altar and pulpit (and often the font) are located.
Invitatory (in-VYE-tah-toe-ree) An antiphon preceding the Venite in Matins/Morning Prayer, this variable introduction concludes with the invitation, "O come, let us worship Him."
Doxology From the Greek for "words of praise". It is an expression of praise to God, usually in a trinitarian formulation. The Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father and to the Son..."), is a common doxology used to conclude Psalms and many canticles. Many hymns have a concluding, doxological stanza that praises the Holy Trinity. The most familiar of these stanzas is known as the Common Doxology ("Praise god from whom all blessings flow...")
All Saints' Day An ancient observance on November 1 that originally commemorated the martyrs of the church (those who had died for the faith). It has since been expanded to include all who die in the faith. Because all who belong to Christ are saints, the festival also rightly emphasizes our unity with all believers, both living and dead.
Nicene Creed (nye-SEEN) Composed in A.D. 325 at a council of bishops (pastors) in Nicaea as a defense against the false teaching that Jesus was not true God. The creed was expanded to its present form at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381. It has been used in the Divine Service as a corporate confession of the faith for centuries.
Nave From the Latin navis, which means ship. The nave is the main section of a church where the worshipers are gathered. The term may have derived from the ship-like appearance of early naves or from the early church understanding of the church as the ark of salvation.
Catholic In the original versions of the ecumenical creeds, the word "catholic " is used to describe the entire church or the Christian faith. In this context, to call oneself "catholic" is to confess the fullness of the Christian faith without alteration. In order to avoid confusion, it is best to use the full name , Roman Catholic Church, when referring to the church body.
Ash Wednesday This day, which marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. (Sundays are not included in the count.) The theme of the day is repentance, which in some churches is visually depicted by the placing of ashes on the forehead while the words of Gen. 3:19 are spoken: "From dust you are and to dust you will return."
Collect (KOLL-ekt) A concisely written prayer that "collects" the prayers of the people. The Collect of the Day is prayed toward the beginning of the Divine Service, prior to the reading of Holy Scripture. The collect usually follows a pattern of: address to God, basis for the prayer, petition, desired benefit of result, and Trinitarian termination.
Compline (KAHM-plin) Similar in nature to bedtime prayers, Compline is the last of the daily prayer offices that came into use during the Middle Ages. Prayed in later evening, the service is simple in nature and includes this appropriate antiphon for use with the Nunc Dimittis: "Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping , that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace."
Narthex Greek for "enclosure." The narthex is an entryway or gathering room that leads into a church.
Advent The first season of the church year, Advent serves to prepare us for the coming celebration of Christ's birth. The word comes from the Latin, advenire, which means"to come." Advent themes include not only Christ's coming at Bethlehem but also his coming now in Word and Sacrament and his final coming in glory.
Litany In general, a responsory prayer with repeated congregational responses. In the Divine Service, the Kyrie is sometimes cast in the form of a litany, with the congregation responding to each petition with the words, "Lord, have mercy." An expanded form of this litany is found in Evening Prayer. The most comprehensive form of the litany is the medieval version that was revised by Luther and still appears in hymnals today.
Bowing Since early times Christians have bowed as a sign of reverence. Usually a slight inclination of the head or upper body, bowing is often done when approaching the altar and at certain places in the liturgy, like during the voicing of the triune name in the Gloria Patri. As with all customs that are neither commanded nor forbiddden, bowing (or not bowing) should not be used as a test of one's piety.
Mass One of the names for the service of Word and Sacrament . The term is used this way in the Lutheran Confessions, though in his later years, Martin Luther used it less frequently. More common terms among Lutherans are Divine Service, the Lord's Supper, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
Alleluia Hebrew for "praise the Lord" (though in its Greek spelling ). It is a word of joy and gladness. An ancient custom is to refrain from using Alleluia during Lent in order to distinguish the penitential nature of this season from the exuberance of the Easter season that follows.
Baptismal Garment The baptism service provides the option of laying a white cloth on the newly baptized, symbolizing the righteousness (purity) of Christ with which they have now been clothed (Gal. 3:27). This practice is reminiscent of ancient practice of clothing the newly baptized in a white garment. A vestige of this tradition is the use of a christening gown which is often handed down from generation to generation. (See also Rev. 7:9-17.)
Gloria Patri (GLOR--ee-ah PAH-tree) Latin for "glory to the Father." The complete text is: "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, adn will be forever. Amen." Also known as the "lesser doxology," this ascription of praise is appeneded to Psalms and other liturgical texts.
Canticle A biblical song, other than a psalm. The most familiar canticles are the songs of Zechariah (the Benedictus; Lk. 1:68-79), Mary (the Magnificat; Lk. 1:46-55), and Simeon (the Nunc Dimittis; Lk. 2:29-32). There are numerous Old Testament canticles, including the songs of Miriam and Hannah and several from the book of Isaiah. The Revelation to St. John also includes several canticles.
Church Year The church's calendar, which developed over centuries, provides a yearly rehearsal of the life and teaching of Christ. The first half begins with Advent and continues with Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. The second half of the year (Sundays after Pentecost/Trinity) focuses on the ministry of Christ, concluding with an emphasis on the End Times.
Agnus Dei (Ah-nyoos DAY-ee) Latin for "Lamb of God," this hymn in the communion liturgy draws on the words of John the Baptist who pointed his disciples to Jesus, the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29). In the context of the communion liturgy, we are praying to Christ who is there present in his body and blood to have mercy on us and grant us peace.
Ciborium (sih-BOAR-ee-oom) Similar in shape to a chalice and covered with a lid, the ciborium contains the wafers used in holy communion. Usually the wafers are transferred to a paten (plate) from which they are distributed.
Apostles' Creed Though not written by the apostles (a common assumption in the Middle Ages) the Apostles' Creed faithfully summarizes the apostolic teaching of Holy Scripture. Its origins date back to the second century where it developed as a statement of faith in conjunction with Holy Baptism. In most churches it is still used at every baptism.
Invocation From the Latin, "to call upon." Used at the beginning of many, though not all, services. It serves as a reminder of Baptism and may be accompanied by the sign of the cross.
Concertato (kahn-sir-TAH-toe) Usually a hymn-based composition that brings together contrasting musical forces of congregation, choir, and instruments. Hymn concertatos bring variety and musical richness to hymn singing.
Amen Of Hebrew origin, "Amen" means that what has preceded is "true and certain." Thus, as the congregation's response to prayers, the Amen is an affirmation that the prayer just prayed is the prayer of the entire assembly, spoken on their behalf. In the Small Catechism, Luther explained Amen with: "Yes, yes, it shall be so."
Chasble (CHAZ-uh -bul) A loose-fitting, poncho-like vestment worn by the celebrant at the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is usually in the color of the day.
Homily From the Greek for "discourse." A homily is a sermon on a biblical text. There is no distinction between a homily and sermon.
Aaronic Benediction The familiar blessing that begins, "The Lord bless you and keep you." It is given the name "Aaronic" because it is the blessing God commanded Moses to give to his brother Aaron to speak to the people ( Num. 6:24-26).
Chanting A method of singing liturgical texts that are not metered (as in a hymn). Most chant consists of short phrases that are sung responsively between pastor and people. Psalms may also be chanted as well as parts of the liturgy (e.g. the Gloria in excelsis, The Lutheran Hymnal, p.17).
Gradual A selection of Psalm verses traditionally sung between the Epistle and Gospel. With the regular use of the old Testament reading, the Gradual now appears after that reading, before the Epistle. The word Gradual is from the Latin for "step," which refers to the step of the lectern from which the Gradual was traditionally sung.
Maundy Thursday From the Latin word mandatum, which means "command." The reference is to the Holy Gospel appointed for the day from John 13:34, "A new command I give you: Love one another." Also called "Holy Thursday."
Cantor/Kantor One who leads singing, especially that of the congregation. One of Luther's associates, Johann Walter, is considered the first Lutheran cantor. J. S. Bach is probably the most renowned cantor. The term is finding increased use among those who are called to oversee the congregation's music-making and to work with the pastors in service planning.
Funeral Pall A large, white cloth that covers a closed casket during the funeral service.Based in St. John's vision of the saints in heaven (Rev. 7:9), the pall symbolizes the white robe of righteousness given to all believers in Christ. The pall is also a reminder of the white garment sometimes given at the time of Baptism and symbolizes the new life in Christ first given at Baptism and now fully realized in death.
Liturgy In the Lutheran Confessions, liturgy is defined as "public service" in the sense that the proclamation of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments is God's service done on behalf of his people. Sometimes the word is used to denote and order of service, though the more specific terms "order of service" or "ordo" are preferred.
Holy Gospel Refers to the reading of one of the evangels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) in the Divine Service. The reading of the words of Jesus is given the highest place of prominence by being read last. At services when the Lord's Supper is celebrated, the congregation stands for the reading. Especially in high festivals like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc., the Gospel may be read from the center of the nave, symbolizing what it means that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The movement to and from this location is referred to as the the Gospel Procession.
Epiphany From the Greek, meaning "to appear." Observed on January 6, Epiphany is the church's celebration of the proclamation of Jesus' birth to the Gentiles; hence, the reading of the story of the visit of the Magi from Matt. 2. Originally, and still in the Orthodox churches,Epiphany served as the celebration of Jesus' birth. It wasn't until the fourth century that Dec.25 was established in the western church for this celebration.
Benedictus (Beh-neh-DIK-tuss) Zecharish's song of praise following the birth and naming of his son, John the Baptist (Lk. 1:68-79). Benedictus is Latin for "blessed be."
Daily Office Services of prayer offered at established times each day. Already at the time of Jesus, set times for prayer were customary (Acts 3:1). By the sixth century, eight services of prayer, which included psalms and readings from Scripture, were observed in the monasteries. Since the Reformation, this (Vespers), and close of the day (Compline).
Icon A style of sacred art usually associated with Eastern Orthodox churches. Painted according to strict guidelines, the two-dimensional paintings are intended as windows into heaven and form the basis for a rich devotional piety.
Kyrie eleison (KEE-ree-ay ay-LAY-ee-zon) From the Greek, it is a direct address to God, meaning "Lord, have mercy." The lepers, blind man Bartimaeus, and others addressed Jesus with these words. The Kyrie appears early in the Divine Service. It is not part of the confession of sins but a cry to God to have mercy on us and all humanity.
Absolution Following the confession of sins, the Absolution pronounces God's forgiveness either in a direct form (I absolve/forgive you") or in a declarative form (God forgives you all your sins"). The word comes from the Latin, absolvere, which means "to loosen, set free, or absolve" (Jn 20:23).
Athanasian Creed One of the three ecumenical (universally accepted) creeds, it probably originated around A.D. 500. Though it bears the name of Athanasius (fourth century),it was certainly not written by him. This creed is a grand expression of the Trinitarian faith.
Divine Service The name commonly given to the regular weekly service that includes the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Derived from the German Gottesdienst ("God's service"), its meaning is dual in nature. In worship, God serves us with his gofts of forgiveness and life, and we respond in service to him through our sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
Catechumen A catechumen is a "learner," one who is being instructed in the Christian faith. In the early church, a catechumen was one who underwent rigorous instruction in preparation for Holy Baptism. The word comes from the the Greek and means "to echo" or "sound in the ear." Catechumens were traditionally taught through question and answer, with the answer echoing back what was first taught. A catechism is a book of instruction, often in the form of questions and answers.
Flagon From a Latin word meaning "bottle" or "flask." A flagon is a large pouring vessel that contains wine for use during distribution of the Lord's Supper. The blood of Christ is poured from the flagon into a chalice.
Lent The penitential period of preparation before the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Its 40-day duration (not counting the Sundays in Lent ) begins on Ash Wednesday which can occur as early as Feb.4 and as late as Mar. 10, depending in the date of Easter. In the early church, Lent developed as a time of intense instruction for those who would be baptized at the Easter Vigil. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for "spring " and the Old English word for "lengthen," as in the lengthening of days with the approach of spring (in the northern hemisphere).
Chalice A Middle English word from the Latin calix, meaning "cup," the chalice is the cup used to distribute the blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Ordo Latin for 'order." The term is used to refer to an order of service.
Host From Latin, means "sacrifice, victim." This term is used for the individual Communion breads or wafers.
Gloria in Excelsis (GLOR-ee-ah in ex-SHELL-sis) Also known as the "greater doxology," this is the hymn of praise sung at the beginning of the Divene Service. It originates from the fourth century and has been in regular use for over a millennium. The canticle begins with the angel's song in Luke 2:14 and then continues with a hymn of praise to the triune God, focusing chiefly on the saving work of Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." It is omitted during Advent, in anticipation of the celebration of Jesus' birth at Christmas, and during Lent, a season of penitence.
Antiphon (AN-tih-fonn) A refrain-like verse from Scripture that begins and concludes a psalm or canticle. Sometimes it is also interspersed within a psalm.
Cassock A full-length, black garment that is worn under other vestments, most often the surplice. In addition to the clergy, the cassock may also be worn by others, including acolytes and choir members.
Magnificat (mahg-NIF-ih-kaht) The opening word in the Latin text of the song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55, "My soul magnifies the Lord." This New Testament canticle has been sung at the daily service of Vespers (Evening Prayer) for some 1,500 years.
Hosanna From Hebrew, its basic meaning is "to save." It functions as a plea to God our king to have mercy on us and save us from our lost condition.
Introit (in-TRO-it) From the Latin, meaning "to enter." traditionally this was the entrance hymn to the Divine Service, consisting of antiphon, psalm, Gloria Patri, and antiphon repeated. During the Middle Ages it was shortened considerably and lost its function as an entrance hymn.
Incense From the Latin word "to set fire." In Jewish worship in the temple, incense symbolized prayer rising before God (Ps. 141:2). The same image is used of the prayers of the saints in heaven (Rev. 8:3-5). In use in the Christian Church for over1,500 years, the sweet smelling aroma engages another of the senses.its association with prayer recommends it for use at any service, but especially the prayer offices (see Daily Offices).
Lectionary A schedule of readings from Holy Scripture for use in the weekly liturgy. In current use are both an historic, one-year lectionary with readings that have been in use for centuries, and a more recently developed three-year lectionary. Use of a lectionary provides the congregation with the opportunity to hear carefully chosen sections from the entire Bible.
Crucifix A Middle English term derived from the Latin, meaning "fastened to a cross." A crucifix is a cross that bears the image of the crucified Christ, pointing to the reality of the One who came in the flesh to be the Savior of the world.
Eucharist (YOU-kahr-ist) One of the many terms for the Lord's Supper. It comes from the Greek word meaning "thanksgiving." Even as Jesus gave thanks when he instituted the Lord's Supper, so do we give thanks that in this holy meal our Lord gives us his body and blood for forgiveness and life.
O Antiphons Refrains that developed during the eighth century for use with the Magnificat at Vespers on the days leading up to Christmas (Dec. 17-23). Each is addressed to Christ, using an Old Testament image (O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jessie, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel). The antiphons are also reflected in the seven stanzas of "Oh, Come, Emmanuel" ( LSB 357).
Alb This close-fitting, white garment is the standard vestment for pastors, especially at the Divine Service. The name comes from the Latin word for white, alba.
Altar Together with the font and pulpit, the altar is the chief focal point of the church building. Here heaven and earth are united as the body and blood of Jesus are given under the elements of bread and wine for our forgiveness, and the prayers of God's people are offered on behalf of the church and the world.
Crucifer The person who carries a cross in procession. Comes from two Latin words which literally means "to carry a cross."
Easter Vigil Occurring on the eve of Easter, the structure of this service dates back to the second century, making it one of our most ancient services. The services is constructed in four parts: light, Word, Baptism, and Lord's Supper. The Vigil serves each year as the church's first celebration of the resurrection.
Holy Innocents Observed on December 28, this festival commemorates the baby boys of Bethlehem who were executed by King Herod in his attempt to murder the newborn king of the Jews (Matt. 2).
Nunc Dimittis (noonk di-MIT-iss) Latin for "now dismiss." These are the words spoken by Simeon as he held the 40-day-old Jesus in his arms (Luke 2:25-35). One of the new Testament canticles, it was traditionally used in the daily service of Compline and as an alternate to the Magnificat in Vespers. In the Luthern Church it is also appointed for use following the distribution of the Lord's Supper.
Epistle Greek for "letter." The New Testament contains 22 epistles written by Saints Paul, Peter, John, and others, that were addressed to Christian churches scattered throughout the Roman Empire. The second reading in the Divine Service is usually taken from one these epistles.
Lectern The lectern is the reading stand from which the Word of God is read. In some churches it is highly ornamented , though usually less so than the pulpit.
Ordinary Those parts of the service that remain constant from week to week. For centuries the ordinary of the weekly communion service were the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Nicene Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Countless composers have written complete musical settings using these texts. The parts of the service that change from week to week are called the propers.