Glossary



Ablutions – Literally, acts of washing; in the liturgy the washing of the sacred vessels (chalice and paten) after the communion at the end of Mass; also the ceremonial washing of hands before or after handling sacred vessels in the Mass; e.g. washing of the priest’s hands at the Offertory and after the washing of the vessels.
Absolution – A formal declaration of God’s forgiveness, pronounced by the senior priest present at a liturgical observance; where no priest is present an alternative collective form is often used.
Acclamation – A liturgical cry of praise, most often ‘Alleluia’.
Acolyte – The highest rank of secular Minor Orders. An acolyte was the most responsible of those assisting the priest, deacon and subdeacon in the sanctuary at the Mass.
Advent – The period of four Sundays before Christmas when the Church prepares for the coming of Christ as man.
Advent Sunday – The first day of Advent, and the beginning of the ecclesiastical and liturgical year. Most liturgical books begin with the provisions for Advent Sunday.
Agnus Dei – The last of the group of choral chants in the Ordinary of the Mass; a prayer for Christ’s mercy in the litany form, it is recited just before the communion at Mass.
Aisle – The part of a church on one or both sides of the nave, and separated from it by pillars.
Alb – White, full-length garment worn over cassock or habit, normally tied by a girdle at the waist; worn by ministers in sanctuary at Mass (often under other vestments). In monasteries those in choir wore albs at Mass and Office on designated important feasts.
All Saints – All Christians of outstanding holiness, both known and unknown in the Church’s history, now believed to be in heaven; their feast is on 1 November, but commemorated throughout the year at daily votive observances.
All Souls – The faithful dead; formally commemorated on 2 November, but commemorated throughout the year at daily votive observances.
Alleluia – Hebrew: Praise the Lord; an acclamation of joy adopted by the Christian church. Used (1) as an appendage to another text, especially during the season of Easter; (2) as a substantial chant with verse after the Gradual (and before the Sequence) at Mass. Alleluia (1 and 2) is omitted at penitential times and commemoration of the dead.
Altar – A sacred table of wood or stone on which Mass is celebrated; it is specially consecrated at five points (where there are crosses) and often contains relics in a sealed cavity. Most churches had more than one altar, of which the most important, at the east end of the Choir, was the High Altar.
Alternation – (Latin, alternatim) The sharing of recitation of a psalm or chant between two sides of the choir in alternation. See also Antiphonal (1)
Ambo – Originally a substantial raised platform from which the Gospel was proclaimed; now used to mean a lectern. In large churches the ambo was often replaced by the pulpitum sited between the nave and choir.
Ambulatory – In larger churches a walkway (often an extension of the aisles) which went around the choir and presbytery. Chapels were commonly built opening off the ambulatory.
Amen – Hebrew: so be it; used as an affirmation especially at the end of prayers.
Amice – white, oblong cloth with long ties, worn around the neck partly below the alb, by ministers in the sanctuary at Mass.
Anaphora – Greek: offering; the Eucharistic prayer, but often applied to the whole of the second part of the Mass from Sursum corda (i.e. Mass of the Faithful).
Annunciation – Of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel of the conception of Christ. Feast normally celebrated on 25 March, nine months before Christmas.
Anthem – In pre-Reformation England, the same as antiphon. After the Reformation, the term refers specifically to the choral item (with no fixed text) sung in choral foundations after the third collect at Morning and Evening Prayer.
Antiphon – Most often a proper text sung before and after a psalm or canticle. Some antiphons (e.g. Offertory and Communion at Mass, in processions, and in honour of the Virgin Mary after an Office) are sung without psalm or canticle.
Antiphonal – (1) a method of singing in which verses (or half verses) are sung alternately by the two halves of the choir sitting opposite one another; (2) a classification of chant apparently originating with (1) but which identifies those chants (and especially psalmody) which do not follow a reading. The counterpart of responsorial and direct chants. (3) a choir book containing chants for the Office; the companion to the Breviary, and the counterpart to the Gradual (containing choir chants for the Mass). Occasionally even a book of Mass chants is identified as an Antiphonal.
Antiphoner – Alternative to Antiphonal (3).
Apron – Wooden panel, sometimes carved, connecting the surface and legs of a table, bench or stool.
Apse – Architectural term for the rounded east end of a church (hence, apsidal).
Archbishop – A bishop who, in addition to his responsibility for a diocese, presides over a group of dioceses (known as a province).
Archdeacon – Literally ‘chief deacon’, by medieval times he was a priest who saw to much of the administration of a diocese on behalf of the bishop; often also a statutory officer and canon of a cathedral.
Arma Christi – Literally ‘arms of Christ’, a familiar iconographic device in late medieval art and architecture, often used as the focus of devotion, with the wounded hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ crucified; representations are commonly presented in the form of a heraldic shield. See also Five Wounds of Christ.
Ascension – The ascent of Christ into heaven forty days after the resurrection (Easter).
Ash Wednesday – The beginning of Christ’s forty-day fast in the wilderness, observed as the beginning of Lent.
Asperges – Latin: sprinkle; the opening word of the antiphon sung during the ritual sprinkling of water, normally before Mass on Sunday, and used to describe the ceremony.
Asperges pail (aspersorium) – Receptacle for holy water blessed by a priest, used for ritual sprinkling with an aspergillum (a brush or metal sprinkler) over the high altar and all present before the Procession on Sunday before Mass, during which other altars in the church are normally sprinkled – a weekly act of ritual purification.
Aspersion – English form of Asperges.
Assumption – The feast which commemorates the reception of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, observed on 15 August. One of the five great Marian feasts.
Aumbry – Cupboard, generally in the wall near an altar, where either the sacred vessels or else (in more recent times in the Church of England) the reserved sacrament is kept.
Ave Maria – The opening words of the angel Gabriel’s salutation to the Virgin Mary at the annunciation, used as a frequently recited prayer in Marian devotions and as an antiphon.


Baptism – Christian initiation into membership of the Church, consisting of profession of faith, naming, immersion into (or sprinkling with) water, and (in some Rites) marking with holy oil; a rite generally conducted at the font.
Basilica – Originally one of the early Roman church buildings, but subsequently used to designate a church marked out by the Pope as of particular importance.
Bells – Though the term is straightforward, their use in relation to medieval liturgy is less easy to fathom. They were a key means of signalling time in a readily audible manner, and especially giving warning of the times of Office and Mass, before which there were specific modes of ringing according to the service and the liturgical rank of the day.
Benedicamus – v. Benedicamus Domino, R. Deo gratias. (Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.) The versicle and response recited as a form of blessing at the end of an Office and, on certain days, at Mass.
Benedictine – A monk or nun who observes the Rule of St Benedict of Nursia.
Benediction – (1) a blessing; (2) a form of devotion of the Blessed Sacrament (including a silent blessing by the priest holding the Host) which became popular in the Roman Catholic church in the seventeenth century.
Benedictional – A liturgical book containing blessings. Often part of a Pontifical.
Benedictus – (1) Benedictus qui venit, the text recited after the Sanctus at Mass; (2) Benedictus dominus deus Israel, the canticle (attributed in St Luke’s Gospel to Zacharias) sung at Lauds (and in the post-Reformation English Church at Morning Prayer).
Bidding of the Bedes – A series of intercessions found in the Use of Salisbury and used most commonly at the end of the Sunday procession. Part of it was absorbed into Morning and Evening Prayer after the Reformation.
Bishop – The highest of Holy Orders above deacon and priest. A bishop has authority to confirm and ordain. A bishop normally has pastoral care of a diocese.
Black Letter Days – Less important days in the liturgical Calendar, so called because of their identification by the use of black ink in manuscript and some printed Calendars. The counterpart of Red Letter Days.
Blessed Sacrament – The bread and wine consecrated at Mass as the body and blood of Christ first given at the Last Supper.
Blessing – Prayer of sanctification or consecration, normally pronounced only by a priest or bishop. Blessings are often contained in a Benedictional or Pontifical.
BMVBeata Maria Virgo: the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ.
Book of Common Prayer – The authorised liturgical book of the Church of England, first compiled and printed in 1549, with important revisions in 1552, 1559, and 1662.
Book of Hours – A book intended for private devotion and most often containing the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Office of the Dead, the seven penitential psalms, etc. They were generally used by laity, and some examples are sumptuous manuscripts.
Breviary – The composite Office book. By the fourteenth century most had complete texts of the Office. Some (Noted Breviaries) had chant as well.
Burse – Flat, square case decorated with rich or embroidered fabric (often matching the chasuble worn by the priest at Mass), in which the folded corporals are kept before they are spread on the altar for the Mass.
BVM – Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ.


Calendar – The liturgical Calendar (Kalendar) denotes the date and rank of fixed feasts.
Candle – Wax light used as the main source of artificial light in churches until the nineteenth century; also as a symbol of Christ the Light (especially at the Easter Vigil).
Candle-bearer (Taperer) – One who carries a candle (generally in a portable candlestick) in procession or at the Mass. Candle-bearers generally operated as a pair.
Candlemas – The feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; 2 February. The Marian emphasis was prevalent in the Middle Ages. The day on which Christ was proclaimed as the Light of the Gentiles by Simon in the words of the canticle Nunc dimittis.
Canon – (1) an ecclesiastical statute; (2) a man in Holy Orders bound by ecclesiastical statutes. Most often a senior member of a collegiate church funded by a benefice or prebend. Regular canons lived in community, bound by a Rule.
Canon of the Mass – The most solemn part of the Mass, the prayer during which the bread and wine are consecrated by the celebrating priest.
Cantatory – A book, or part of a book, containing those chants sung by the soloist(s).
Canticle – A biblical text intended to be sung in the Office. The principal three are those found in St Luke’s Gospel: Benedictus dominus deus (Lauds), Magnificat (Vespers), and Nunc dimittis (Compline).
Cantor – A general term for a solo singer. In the Middle Ages the Precentor (chief cantor) had charge of liturgical celebration, determined the chants to be sung, and designated the singers who were to begin them or sing the solo passages.
Cantoris – The side of the choir on which the Precentor (cantor) sits, the north side (left when facing the high altar).
Capitulum – Chapter.
Caput jejunii – Ash Wednesday.
Cassock – A full-length garment worn by secular clerics; most often black, and worn under other vestments (e.g. alb, surplice).
Cathedra – Bishop’s presiding seat or throne.
Cathedral – Church where the bishop presides and where his cathedra is situated. Most cathedrals were staffed by a college of canons (with vicars and other junior clergy to assist), but some were staffed by monks.
Cathedral Priory – A monastery which serves as a cathedral, and where the bishop is titular abbot, but the prior is the executive superior of the community.
Catholic – Literally universal (i.e. the main Church in the West), but after the Reformation requiring the qualification of ‘Roman’.
Celebrant – The priest (or bishop) who presides at a sacramental liturgy, most often the Mass.
Cena – Latin: supper
Cena domini – The Lord’s supper at which Christ instituted the Eucharist (Mass): Thursday before Easter Day, the first day of the solemn Triduum; in English known as Maundy Thursday.
Censer – Thurible, the vessel in which incense is burnt.
Ceremonial – (1) the manner in which the ritual of the liturgy is carried out; especially details of gesture, movement, ornament, and vestment; (2) a book detailing the liturgical customs of collegiate and cathedral churches (e.g. the Roman Ceremonial, published 1516).
Chalice – The cup used to contain the wine consecrated on the altar at the Mass and generally made of precious metal.
Chancel – The eastern portion of a church reserved for clergy; an alternative to presbytery.
Chancellor – A canon and officer of a collegiate cathedral foundation, he had particular responsibility for learning and education. In the diocese, someone acting as presiding lawyer in the church’s legal courts.
Chant – The vast repertory of monophonic vocal music (ranging from simple formulas to extensive and elaborate melodies) which formed the core of liturgical music in the Middle Ages.
Chantry – An institution (often within a large church) whose prime purpose was to offer prayer (Mass and Office) for the benefactor(s) who established it; often staffed by one or two priest, but in some instances a more substantial, collegiate foundation.
Chapel – (1) a place of worship with an altar, sometime within a larger church (e.g. Lady Chapel – a chapel with an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary); normally only a presbytery without nave; (2) the clergy (and sometimes lay singers) who served the liturgy within a specific chapel; (3) the clergy (and sometimes lay singers) who served a noble household, and travelled with the head of the house as part of his entourage.
Chaplain – A cleric employed in a chapel.
Chapter – (1) a short reading, most often in the Office and taken from the Bible; (2) a daily meeting of a community (monastic or collegiate) at which a chapter (1) was read (in monasteries, from the Rule of the Order), and at which the business of the community was conducted.
Chapter house – The place where a community (monastic or collegiate) met for its daily business.
Chasuble – The outer vestment worn by the celebrant at Mass, either elliptical or rectangular in shape with a hole at the centre for the head, and often richly decorated.
Choir – (1) the community (monastic or collegiate) in its church celebrating the liturgy; (2) after the fifteenth century, the body of trained singers (not the whole community) with responsibility for singing the choral parts of Mass and Office; (3) the part of the church with seats for the community where the liturgy is conducted (sometimes Quire).
Choir screen – A screen separating the eastern part of a church reserved for the clerical community (Choir (3)) form the nave; often substantial and surmounted by a gallery (pulpitum).
Choir step – The step at the eastern end of the choir, separating the choir from the presbytery; frequently the site of a lectern for readings and solo chant.
Chorister – Boy, the junior member of a collegiate foundation, increasingly used for musical duties from the fifteenth century onwards.
Chrism – Sacred oil, consecrated at Mass on Maundy Thursday, used for anointing at baptism, confirmation, and ordination.
Christmas – The feast which commemorates the birth of Christ as man, 25 December, and the season (to 5 January) which follows it.
Church – (1) the assembly of Christendom either at an international, national, denominational, or local level; (2) an independent, consecrated building with an altar where Christians meet to worship.
Church of England – The established Church of England, separated from Rome in 1534 and with a vernacular liturgy from 1549. The monarch is head of the Church, and Parliament is responsible for the laws which regulate its constitution and liturgy.
Ciborium – (1) a cup-shaped vessel in which the bread consecrated at Mass is placed when there is a large number or communicants; (2) a canopy, usually supported by four pillars, raised over the high altar.
Circumcision – The Octave of Christmas Day, 1 January, when the Church used to commemorate the circumcision of Christ following Jewish custom. The date is now observed as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Roman Catholic Church) or the Naming of Jesus (Anglican Churches).
Clerestory – The highest level in a church building, clear of aisle roofs, and therefore an important source of light.
Clergy – Those men ordained for religious service.
Cleric – A member of the clergy, or sometimes a clerk. This term can encompass junior members of a collegiate foundation – including boys.
Clerk – (1) a man in Minor Orders (as opposed to bishop, priest, deacon, and subdeacon); (2) one of the junior members of a collegiate foundation; from the fifteenth century onwards a lay singer engaged to undertake the duties of a clerk (hence lay clerk).
Clerk of the second form – In a cathedral or collegiate church, one of those clergy who sat in middle of the three rows on each side of the choir, often listed to begin a designated chant, or intone a lesson in the Office.
Cloister – A square or rectangular covered walkway, generally on the south side of some collegiate and most monastic churches. In a monastery it provided a dry covered way linking the principal buildings (church, chapter house, refectory, etc.) and a place for study and writing. In a collegiate church it was more often used primarily from processions. The windows (glazed or unglazed) opened onto the central open space (cloister garth).
Collatio – Latin: gathering. A short rite with a reading preceding monastic Compline, often conducted in the cloister or chapter house where the community gathered before they entered the church.
Collect – In the early Church, a prayer which summed up the prayers of the assembly; in the Middle Ages a specified prayer for a particular feast, season, time, or intention, used a Mass (before the Epistle) and at the Office (generally the last item of the main structure of the Hour), recited by the celebrant or officiated priest.
Collectar – A book, or section of a book, in which collects are found.
College – An organised society sharing common functions and instituted by legal statutes. Hence, collegiate.
Collegiate church – A church with a college of canons, including non-monastic cathedrals.
Colours – Liturgical colours associated with ecclesiastical seasons and feasts. They affected the colour of vestments (notably at Mass) and hangings in church (especially those on or around altars).
Commemoration – (1) the lowest rank of festal observance, generally reserved for minor saints; (2) the short Proper rite (antiphon, versicle and response, collect) appended to the Office (generally Lauds and Vespers) as a means of commemorating a feast displaced by a more important observance or a specific regular intention (e.g. the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints); (3) the weekly commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Mass and Office on Saturday.
Commemorative Mass and Office – A weekly observance which displaced the liturgy specified in the Calendar at which the main Mass and Office had a specified devotional intention (most often the Blessed Virgin Mary or a patron saint).
Common – (1) liturgical texts in the Office that are regular and unchanging; (2) liturgical texts at Mass and Office shared by a number of similar feasts (e.g. Common of Apostles, Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Common of Saints – That part of a liturgical book which contains the Proper texts (and chats where relevant) shared by groups of similar feasts (see Common (2)). The counterpart to Temporale (seasonal observances) and Sanctorale (specific calendar feast-days).
Commune Sanctorum – See Common of Saints.
Communion – (1) the act of receiving the consecrated bread and wine at the Mass; the bread alone for the laity after the twelfth century; (2) the antiphon sung at the time of (1) in the Mass; (3) since the Reformation, a group of Churches which are in full doctrinal and sacramental union with one another (e.g. the Anglican Communion).
Compline – The last Office of the liturgical day, normally recited at nightfall.
Confession – (1) a liturgical prayer in which sins are formally confessed. It is followed by absolution; (2) a private rite in which an individual confesses his or her sins confidentially to a priest. It is followed by absolution.
Confessor – (1) a minor saint commemorated for his or her public confession of the Christian faith; (2) the priest to whom an individual makes private confession.
Confiteor – Latin: I confess; the opening word of the prayer of confession, and used to identify it.
Confraternity – A formal association of men (most often laymen) sharing a common religious purpose.
Congregation – (1) the Christian assembly gathered for worship; (2) the laity gathered for worship; (3) a gathering of affiliated religious representatives (e.g. a group of monasteries, or the Oratorians); (4) a council (e.g. Congregation of Sacred Rites).
Consecration – The most solemn act of sanctification by words of blessing and symbolic laying on of hands; especially the consecration of bread and wine at Mass, the consecration (i.e. ordination) of bishops, and the consecration of church buildings.
Consuetudinary – A manual of customs. See Customary.
Convent – An institution where men or women lived together under a communal Rule, or its buildings; hence, conventual. This can be extended to refer to a community regulated by statutes (e.g. a collegiate church).
Cope – A ceremonial cloak worn by an officiant at the Office. In monasteries at the most solemn feasts all those in choir were habited in copes (in cappis).
Corporal – a piece of square linen spread specially on the altar on the Mass, and on which the Host and chalice were placed.
Corpus Christi – Latin: body of Christ; applied to the consecrated bread at Mass, and to the feast (celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday) commemorating the institution of the Eucharist.
Corpus Domini – See Corpus Christi.
Credence – Small table placed in the sanctuary on which books or sacred vessels (such as cruets) used during Mass may be placed.
Credo – The opening word of the Creed.
Creed – An agreed statement of Christian belief. The three creeds traditionally recited in the Western liturgy are the Apostles’ Creed (recited at Prime and Compline, and privately before all the Offices), the Nicene Creed (recited at Mass), and the Athanasian Creed (recited as an appendage to Prime).
Cross – From around the tenth century, the principal Christian symbol, recalling the cross on which Christ died.
Crucifix – A cross bearing a representation of the figure of Christ.
Cruciform – Cross-shaped, a common formal outline for churches with presbytery, nave, and transepts.
Cruet – Vessel used for wine or water at Mass, required both for the mixing of the chalice and for the washing of hands and vessels (the ablutions)  in the sanctuary.
Curate – One charged with the care of souls; normally a priest or deacon serving in a parish, often, in the Middle Ages, as a substitute for the beneficed priest.
Cursus – Latin: course; a fixed order of liturgical observance (e.g. psalmody)
Custom – A habitual practice, ceremonial rather than ritual.
Customary – A manual of customs describing the duties or the officers of an institution and the ceremonial action of the liturgy, an alternative term to consuetudinary.


Dalmatic – Outer garments worn by beacon at Mass; rectangular, general with sleeves and tassels, often decorated to match chasuble.
Day hours – The seven Offices from Lauds to Compline, as opposed to the night Office of Matins.
Deacon – The Holy Order ranking below priest. A deacon can baptise, but not celebrate Mass or grant absolution.
Dean – The senior canon and executive officer in a collegiate foundation.
Decani – The south side of the choir on which the dean sits; the opposite to Cantoris.
Dedication – (1) in some cases interchangeable with consecration of a church; (2) the annual feast commemorating the consecration of a church; (3) the saint(s) in honour of whom a specific church is dedicated.
Dialogue – A modern term to describe a versicle and response.
Dicere – Latin: literally, to say; but in the liturgy, this always means to chant or sing.
Dies feria – Latin: ordinary weekday (i.e. not a feast day)
Dignitary – In Salisbury Cathedral one of the four principal officers (dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer)
Diocese – A group of parishes in a single region over which a bishop has jurisdiction.
Directorium – A guide to the interpretation of the fixed and variable elements of the liturgical Calendar.
Dirige – Latin: direct; the first word of the first psalm antiphon at Vigils (i.e. Matins) of the Dead, and often used to refer to the whole Office.
Dismissal – A modern term referring to the conclusion of Mass (Ite missa est or Benedicamus domino) or Office (Benedicamus domino).
Diurnale – A liturgical book containing the day hours of the Office
Divine Office – The daily cycle of liturgical prayer (specifically excluding Mass), frequently referred to as the Office.
Doctor – A saint revered for his Christian teaching.
Dominica – Latin: Sunday. Dominica in albis, the Sunday one week after Easter Day, often known as Low Sunday.
Double – A category of feast day (and the counterpart to single feast day).
Doxology – A form of praise to God, especially Gloria in excelsis (the ‘greater’ doxology, recited at Mass) and Gloria patri (the ‘lesser’ doxology) recited at the end of most psalms, canticles, and hymns, and near the beginning of most Offices.
Dry Mass – In the Middle Ages a Mass at which not even the celebrating priest made his communion (generally because he had already communicated at another Mass).
Duplex – Latin: double; as in festum duplex/duplum, a double feast.
Duty side – The side of the choir designated to undertake the duties of beginning chants, singing solo sections, reciting prayers, etc. on a weekly rota, alternately Decani and Cantoris.


Easter – The feast which commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It falls on a Sunday, but its date varies according to the phases of the moon.
Easter sepulchre – A place (often a tomb or sometimes a small self-contained building within a church) where in some Uses the host was ceremonially laid to rest on Good Friday and raised on Easter Day to commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.
Easter Vigil – the period after midday on Holy Saturday, also known as Paschal Vigil, during which a special and ancient liturgy is enacted, beginning with the blessing and lighting of the Paschal Candle, followed by readings and responsories, blessing of new water (sometimes with baptism), Mass and Vespers. A comparable liturgy took place on the Vigil of Pentecost.
Ebdomadarius – see Hebdomadarius.
Elevation – The ceremonial raising of the host (the large wafer of consecrated bread) by the celebrant during the Canon of the Mass.
Ember days – Three days of fasting and special prayer in each of the four calendar seasons: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the first Sunday in Lent, Pentecost, Holy Cross Day (14 September), and St Lucy (13 December).
Epiphany – The feast which celebrates the manifestations of Christ to the world, and is specifically linked to the adoration by the wise men in the Gospels (6 January).
Epistle – A New Testament reading from the Epistles which follows the Collect(s) and precedes the Gradual at Mass; in some cases replaced by a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Apocalypse (Book of Revelation), or the Old Testament.
Eucharist – Greek: thanksgiving; now generally applied to the liturgy also known as the Mass, Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.
Eucharistic Prayer – The prayer, with a long history of formation, which is constructed with a number of independent sections and during which the bread and wine are consecrated at Mass. See Canon of the Mass.
EUOUAE – The concluding vowels of Gloria patri (seculorum amen), often used in choir books to denote the ending of a psalm tone.
Evangelist – A writer of a Gospel, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
Evangelium – Latin: Gospel Reading, or book containing the texts of the four Gospels. See also, text.
Eve – Synonymous with Vigil. English term for the day before a major feast (e.g. Christmas Eve).
Evensong – English term for Vespers, or more often Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.
Executor officii – Latin: officiating priest responsible for conducting a service or ritual
Expositio evangelii – Latin: exposition of the Gospel; a commentary on a Gospel passage, on some days part of the readings at Matins.
Expulsion of penitents – A rite conducted in the Middle Ages on Ash Wednesday when named sinners were expelled from the church, only to be readmitted at the end of Lent during the Easter Vigil.
Extensa voce – in an audible voice, for all to hear (as opposed to submissa voce)

Fast – A period of deprivation (most often from rich food and drink). Wednesday and Friday were common fast days, in addition to Ember days and the penitential season before Easter.
Feast – A day of special celebration to commemorate a specific event, observance, or saint. Great feasts were celebrated not only on the day but for the week (Octave) following.
Feria – An ordinary, non-festal weekday; hence, ferial.
Festal – Of or pertaining to a feast.
Festum – Latin: feast.
Finial – Ornament in the form of a decorative pinnacle, here of an organ case.
Five Wounds of Christ – marks of the nails in the hands and feet of Christ and the wound in his side (or heart), a common image in later medieval inconography, with its own Mass. The wounds are often depicted on a heraldic shield (see Arma Christi).
Font – A ceremonial basin, general made of stone, in which water for baptism is placed, and at which the rite of baptism is conducted; particularly important at Easter when new water is blessed in the font (representing new life in the risen Christ), to which processions are made during the first week of Easter.
Fore-Mass – The first part of the Mass, now known as the Liturgy of the Word. Also referred to as synaxis or Mass of Catechumens.
Form – A bench or row of stalls in choir, also indicating rank. The most junior (often boys) were ‘of the first form’, with the next rank as ‘of the second form’. The most senior were of the upper grade or step.
Fraction – The breaking of the host before the communion at Mass.
Friar – A man living under the authority of a Rule and based in a conventual house, but committed to mission and preaching in the outside world (by contrast with an enclosed monk).



Genuflect – To bend one knee to the ground, generally as an act of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
Gesso –  thick, glue-based ground typically made from gypsum, chalk or plaster, used to create a raised surface for application of pigment or gold-leaf which could be tooled and burnished.
Gloria – (1) Gloria patri (Glory be to the Father); lesser doxology sung at the end of psalms and canticles etc. (2) Gloria in excelsis (Glory be to God on high); greater doxology, the second of the choral chants of the Ordinary of the Mass.
Good Friday – The day when the Church commemorates the death of Christ. The second day of the solemn Triduum.
Gospel – (1) an account of t he life of Christ. Four gospel narratives are included in the New Testament, attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; (2) the reading from the Gospel at Mass.
Gradual – (1) the choral chant sung after the first reading at Mass; (2) the book containing all the choral chants for the Proper of the Mass
Greeting – The liturgical greeting Dominus vobiscum with reply Et cum spiritu tuo used as an introduction to many prayers and blessings. Until quite recently it could be said only by a deacon, priest, or bishop.
Gregorian – Associated with Pope Gregory I (c. 540-604); e.g. Gregorian chant, the collection of Roman chant codified at the end of the sixth century.
Gregorian calendar – The astronomical calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to compensate for errors in the earlier calendar of Julius Caesar. Gradually adopted throughout Europe (not until 1752 in England).


Hebdomadarius – Latin: weekly. The priest responsible for certain weekly duties in the conduct of the Office. Also extended to the duty boy(s) for the week.
High Mass – The principal Mass of the day, generally celebrated solemnly with elaborate ceremonial and music; hence, Missa solemnis or Missa solemniter.
High Mass set – Vestments for ministers in the sanctuary at High Mass; for the Lady Mass this comprised chasuble (for the priest), dalmatic (deacon), tunicle (subdeacon), stoles, maniples and burse.
Holy Communion – The title of the Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.
Holy Name of Jesus – A popular devotion in the later Middle Ages, with a feast fixed in the fifteenth century on 7 August with its own Mass and Office. The Mass of the Holy Name was often celebrated on Friday each week, in lieu of the Mass of the Holy Cross.
Holy Orders – The senior orders to which the clergy are ordained: in ascending order subdeacon, deacon, priest, bishop. Contrast with Minor Orders.
Holy Saturday – The day when the church commemorate Christ’s period in the tomb after his death on the cross. The last of the three days of the solemn Triduum.
Holy Week – The week immediately preceding Easter Day, between Palm Sunday and Holy Saturday. The last three days are the solemn Triduum.
Homily – (1) a reading from the writing of the Church Fathers (e.g. St Augustine of Hippo) used during the third nocturn of Matins; (2) an authorised sermon text intended to be read at Holy Communion in the Church of England after the Reformation.
Horarium – (1) a timetable for the day, especially in a monastery; (2) a book containing the Hours (i.e. Divine Office).
Hosanna – Hebrew: save now; used as a cry at Christ’s entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and now used as an acclamation of praise (e.g. Hosanna in excelsis in the Sanctus and Benedictus at Mass).
Host – The large wafer of bread consecrated, elevated, and consumed by the priest at Mass.
Hour – A term used to identify one of the Office services since each was celebrated at a fixed time of day (e.g. Prime, Terce, Sext, None, but applied to the whole cycle). Hence Book of Hours, the book containing the selected cycles of services from the Office.
Housling cloth –  Length of cloth (often linen) held in front of parishioners as they knelt (sometimes at a housling bench) to receive the ‘housel’ or sacrament. It served both to catch crumbs and to prevent hands touching the sacrament.
Humeral veil or mantle – Additional cloth worn by the acolyte in the Mass to cover his hands when carrying the sacred vessels (chalice and/or paten). Elaborately decorated or embroidered examples may be used by the priest at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Hymn – Greek: a song of praise to God liturgically a metrical, stanzaic text recited at an Office. The Western repertory was mostly compiled between about the fourth and thirteenth centuries.


IHC or IHS -Simple Christogram denoting the first three Greek letters of the name of Jesus, often used as a monogram during the late Middle Ages to denote the Holy Name of Jesus.
In medio chori – Latin: in the middle of the choir; the place where  the rulers of the choir stood, between the two sets of facing stalls. In the later Middle Ages, a lectern was placed there.
Incense – Mixture of aromatic gums and spices burnt on charcoal in a thurible, and used in solemn rituals (i.e. High Mass and Solemn Vespers) as a symbol of prayer and sanctification.
Incense boat – Vessel, usually made from precious or semi-precious metal, used to contain the incense, from which it was loaded with a spoon into the thurible. As its name suggest, it is often shaped like a slender boat.
Incipit – Latin: it begins. The initial word or phrase of a more substantial text, often all that is shown to demote the use of a text which is commonly used or found elsewhere in a liturgical book.
Iniungere – Latin: to enjoin; a verb used to show who begins (or is instructed to begin) a chant.
Intercession – A prayer on behalf of others.
Introit – The choral chant sung at the beginning of the Mass, originally during the entry of the ministers. The first of the sequence of proper choral chants.
Invitatorium – The section of an Antiphonal or Breviary containing the texts (and chants) to be used in the opening section of Matins with Psalm 94.
Invitatory – An antiphon used as a refrain to Psalm 94 in the opening section of Matins, or the whole item (antiphon and psalm).
Ite – First word of the Ite missa est used as the dismissal at the end of Mass, with reply Deo Gratias.


Jesus Mass – A late medieval Mass, usually celebrated on Friday, generally with the text of either the Mass of the Holy Name of Jesus or the Mass of the Five Wounds. See Holy Name of Jesus and Five Wounds.


Kalendar – See Calendar.
Kiss of peace – A rite of conciliation before communion at Mass, symbolically passed from the celebrant to the assisting clergy and then to all in choir during Agnus dei.
Kyriale – The book, or that section of a Gradual or Missal, containing the choral chants of the Ordinary of the Mass (i.e. Kyrie, Gloria in excelsis, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Ite, and Benedicamus.
Kyrie – Greek: Kyrie [eleison] (Lord have mercy), the first of the choral chants of the Ordinary of the Mass.


Lady Chapel – A chapel within a church with an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary; often the place where Lady Mass and Lady Office were celebrated.
Lady Mass – Mass celebrated in honour of Our Lady (i.e. the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ); generally a daily observance in the later Middle Ages.
Lady Office – Office recited in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two forms: the daily Little Office (officium parvum) and the full Commemorative Office (plenum servitium) used weekly.
Last Gospel – The first fourteen verses of St John’s Gospel which it became customary for the celebrant to recite at the very end of Mass after the dismissal.
Laudate – Latin: praise. Applied to groups of psalms beginning Laudate.
Laudes – Latin: praises; (1) the Office of Lauds, see Lauds; (2) an interpolated text, see Trope.
Lauds – The first of the seven day Hours of the Office, recited immediately after the night Office of Matins in the secular Uses. Full Latin title: Laudes Matutinales (morning praise).
Lavabo – Water bowl used for washing of hands during the Mass, particularly at an altar where there was no piscina.
Lay – Of the people; non-clerical. Frequently applied to posts intended for clergy but occupied by an unordained person, often a musician (e.g. lay clerk, lay vicar).
Lectern – Free-standing reading desk, large enough to take substantial books.
Lectio – Latin: a reading; generally scriptural.
Lectionary – The table indicating the distribution of reading according to the requirements of the Calendar of liturgical seasons and feasts.
Lector – A reader. One of the Minor Orders of the clergy.
Lent – The period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday: the major portion of the penitential season (normally beginning at Septuagesima in the Middle Ages), it recalls Christ’s forty days in the wilderness.
Lesser canticle – A canticle other than the three canticles from St Luke’s Gospel (Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis), especially those used at Lauds in the psalmody and those used in the third nocturn of monastic Matins.
Lesser litanyKyrie eleison (Lord have mercy) as used in the Office preces.
Lesson – A reading, generally scriptural.
Liber – Latin: book.
Linenfold -Decorative, low-relief carved wood panelling, suggesting a folded piece of linen cloth; in some instances imitated on a flat, painted panel.
Litany – Prayer in the form of a series of petitions recited by a minister with a series of repeated refrains interjected by choir or people.
Little Hours – The Offices without a canticle (i.e. Prime, Terce, Sect, and None).
Little Office – Most often the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, recited daily, but also applied to comparable Offices (e.g. of All Saints).
Liturgy – Greek leitourgia: literally, a service done to the people (originally in a civil sense); (1) the whole of the formalised, written-down worship of the Church intended primarily for celebration and recitation in church; (2) the Eucharist; (3) specific written texts of the Eucharist (e.g. Liturgy of St James); (4) the study of worship (or liturgiology).
Lord’s Prayer – The prayer beginning Pater noster (Our Father) which Christ taught to his disciples and instructed them to use.
Lord’s Supper – An alternative title for Holy Communion.
Low Mass – A simple celebration of Mass said by a priest with one assistant. The term was not used in the Middle Ages, although such simple celebrations were commonplace.


Magnificat – Latin: magnifies; the first word of the Song of Mary. The second of the canticles founding the nativity narrative in St Luke’s Gospel, and sung at Latin Vespers and English Evening Prayer.
Maior – Latin: greater. Used to distinguish more important or principal feast-days: festum duplex maior (greater double feast).
Mandatum – Latin: commandment. The first word of the antiphon used at the ceremony of washing the feet, and used to describe the ceremony which itself recalls Christ washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper on the night before his crucifixion.
Maniple – Embroidered band worn on the left arm at Mass by priest and deacon and subdeacon. Made from the same fabric as the other vestments, it was traditionally used to wipe away perspiration.
Manuale – A book containing services used in a parish church (e.g. baptism, marriage). Often known as Rituale abroad.
Marian – Of Mary, i.e. the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Martyr – One who dies by violence for the sake of the Christian faith.
Mary – Mother of Christ, generally referred to as the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not to be confused with Mary Magdalen, a follower of Christ.
Mass – The Latin title for the principal sacramental service of the Church. The central action is the consecration of bread and wine, recalling the words and actions of Christ at the Last Supper with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion.
Mass of Catechumens – In the early Church, the first part of the Mass to which those aspiring to be full members of the Church were admitted.
Mass of Chrism – The Mass on Maundy Thursday morning at which the oils for use at baptism, confirmation, ordination, etc. are consecrated.
Mass of the Dead – The fixed form of Mass used on the day of burial and as a daily or occasional commemoration of those who have died, either collectively or individually.
Matins – The night Office, also known as Vigils or Nocturns.
Mattins – Used in this book to distinguish the Latin night Office of Matins from the service of Morning Prayer (Mattins) in the Church of England.
Maundy Thursday – Thursday before Easter Sunday. The day on which the Church commemorated the institution of the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion) by Christ with his disciples at the Last Supper on the night before his crucifixion.
Memoria – Latin: remembrance. (1) a day which commemorates a minor saint without disturbing the normal pattern of the ferial liturgy; (2) Memorial.
Memorial – An observance consisting of antiphon, versicle, and collect for a specific intention or saint, and usually said after a complete Office. Closely related to commemoration and suffrage.
Minister – An officiant or assistant at a liturgical service, generally priest or deacon or subdeacon in rank.
Minor Canon – A cleric who serves in a collegiate church but is not a member of the governing body of canons, the Chapter. Sometimes known as Vicar Choral.
Minor Orders – The junior clerical Orders, and counterpart to Holy Orders. In ascending order the Minor Orders consisted of Porter, Lector, Exorcist, and Acolyte.
Missa capitalis – see Chapter Mass.
Missal – The book containing the priest’s texts for the Mass. Later Missals often had complete Mass texts even with music (Noted Missals).
Mitre – A form of headgear worn by a bishop (and certain abbots) in the shape of tongues of fire, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Mode – A unit of melodic classification applied to the repertory of liturgical chant.
Monastery – A convent of monks. More widely applied to any community in which religious live in enclosure and under the authority of a Rule: hence, monastic.
Monk – A man who has sworn vows of obedience, celibacy, and common sharing of property under a religious Rule.
Morrow Mass – The first of the two main Masses celebrated daily in choir.
Motet – A polyphonic setting of a text without a specific liturgical place; used to replace prescribed liturgical texts from at least the sixteenth century onwards.


Nativity – Birth, especially the birth of Christ. Other feasts commemorate the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Nave – The main, central body of a church building, west of the choir.
Neume (neuma or pneuma) – Greek: sign; (1) notational sign in plainsong, originally marked above a syllable or word; (2) an extended phrase or group of notes sung to a single syllable, normally at the end of a melody (e.g. Alleluia).
New Testament – The Christian section of the Bible, consisting of gospels, Acts of the Apostles, epistles, and the Apocalypse (Revelation of St John the Divine).
Nocturn – The main unit of the Office of Matins, consisting principally of psalms, readings, and responds.
None – The last of the Little Hours of the daily Office (literally at the ninth house of the day).
North side – The north end of the altar at which the Book of Common Prayer directs the priest to stand to celebrate Holy Communion.
Noted Breviary – A Breviary including notated choral chant.
Noted Missal – A Missal included notated choral chant.
Nun – A woman who has sworn vows of obedience, celibacy, and common sharing of property under a Religious Rule.
Nunc dimittis – The third of the canticles from St Luke’s Gospel, the Song of Simeon, sung at the Office of Compline.


Oblation – Literally, ‘offering’.
Offertory – (1) the offering of bread and wine at Mass; (2) the choral chant in the Mass sung after the Credo and before the Secret and Sursum corda during (1).
Office – (1) the daily round of prayer of the Church consisting of the services Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Sometimes referred to as the Divine Office; (2) used to identify one of the constituent services of the whole Office (e.g. the Office of Matins also known as the night Office).
Office of the Dead – The fixed texts of the Offices of Vespers, Matins, and Lauds recited on the day of burial, or as a daily or occasional commemoration of the dead.
Officium – (1) Latin: Office; (2) an alternative title for the Introit at Mass.
Old Testament – The pre-Christian part of the Bible, primarily an account of the Jewish people and their relationship with God.
Opus Dei – Latin: the work of God; the Divine Office.
Oracio (oratio) – Latin: prayer, and most often a collect.
Order – (1) as in Holy Orders and Minor Orders, above; (2) a group of religious communities conforming to an agreed Rule and ser of customs (e.g. the friars); (3) a service or the ritual sequence it follows.
Ordinal – The book which established ritual order of the liturgy (i.e. which specific items were to be recited, and often by whom).
Ordinary – (1) a general term for Mass texts that are fixed and unchanging; (2) the unchanging choral chants of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria in excelsis, Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus dei, and Ite or Benedicamus.
Ordo – Latin: order; specifically a liturgical order of service.
Ordo Missae – Latin: Order of Mass; generally applied to the priest’s ordinary texts in the Mass, within which the Canon (Canon Missae) may be separately identified.
Orphrey – Ornamental embroidered band or border sewn onto vestments (especially cope, chasuble, dalmatic and tunicle)
Our Father – The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, which Christ gave his disciples as a pattern for prayer.


Palm Sunday – The Sunday before Easter Day on which the Church commemorates the entry of Christ into Jerusalem in the week of his crucifixion. The first day of Holy Week.
Parasceve – Jewish day of preparation for the Sabbath. Used to identify Good Friday in Holy Week. See Good Friday.
Parish – A district served by a priest who has spiritual care for the people living within it, with a parish church. A constituent part of a diocese.
Paschal – Originally, of the Jewish Passover, but in Christian terminology an alternative term for Easter.
Paschal candle – The great candle blessed and lit at the Easter Vigil as a symbol of the risen Christ, light of the world.
Passion – (1) the account in the gospels of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death; (2) musical settings of (1).
Passion Sunday – Two weeks before Easter Day; the fifth Sunday of Lent. (In the modern Calendar, Passiontide begins on Palm Sunday.)
Passiontide – The period between Passion Sunday and Holy Saturday.
Paten – The plate on which the Host is placed at Mass; of precious metal and often fashioned to match the chalice.
Pater noster – Latin: Our Father; used to identify the prayer Christ taught his disciples.
Patron – In the Christian sense, a saint after whom a church is named.
Pax – Latin: peace. (1) a short dialogue in the Mass: Pax vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo (Peace be with you. And with thy spirit) recited before the Agnus dei; (2) the kiss of peace, shared as a formal ritual gesture, or in the later Middle Ages passed among the people by kissing a pax-board.
Pax-board (paxbrede) – From c.1250, a small plaque or board decorated with a sacred image made from precious metal or wood, kissed by clergy and people at the rite of peace.
Peace – See Pax and Kiss of Peace.
Penitential – Repentant, used to describe the season of Advent and between Septuagesima and Easter.
Penitential psalms – A sequence of seven: Psalms 6, 31, 50, 101, 129, 142.
Pentecost – Greek: fiftieth day. Seven weeks after Easter Day, the Sunday on which the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on to the apostles.
Per annum – Latin: through the year; used to describe the normative periods of the liturgical calendar which fall between Epiphany and Septuagesima, and Corpus Christi and Advent.
Person – At Salisbury Cathedral, one of the four principal officers of the cathedral (dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer).
Pew – Wooden bench, especially in an English parish church from the thirteenth century onwards.
Pica, Pie – See Directorium.
Pipe-shade – Decorative carved tracery forming part of an organ case, framing a row of pipes on the front of an organ case.
Piscina – A stone basin with drain near the altar where the hands and the sacred vessels were washed at Mass.
Placebo – Latin: I will please. The opening word of Vespers in the Office of the Dead, by which it is often known.
Plenum servitium – Latin: full service. The full cycle of the Office as opposed to a Little Office. See Lady Office.
Polyphony – Music scored with more than one independent line; as opposed to monophony.
Postcommunion – The proper prayer recited by the celebrant after the Communion at Mass.
Prebend – The endowment (often income from a part of the estate or a parish) in a secular collegiate church or cathedral which supported a senior member of the institution.
Prebendary – A cleric supported by a prebend; an alternative title for a canon in a collegiate church.
Precentor – Literally, ‘chief cantor’; the cleric or monk with charge of the direction of the liturgy. In medieval times, often he also had charge or the scriptorium. In secular cathedrals, a senior canon and officer. See Cantor.
Preces – Latin: prayers; a fixed sequence of Lesser Litany, Pater noster, and versicles and responses., especially those used at the end of Prime and Compline.
Preface – The introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer, beginning with Sursum corda and leading to Sanctus.
Pre-intone – To give out the opening notes of a chant, before it is started properly (i.e. intoned) by one or more designated singers.
Presbytery – The part of the church reserved for ordained clergy; in medieval churches the part of the church east of the choir, and including the high altar.
Prie-dieu – Literally ‘pray to God’; a small desk or stool, sometimes with a book rest, used for private prayer by those of high social status either in church or home.
Priest – A cleric in Holy Orders who has authority to absolve sins and celebrate Mass.
Priest vicar – A priest acting as substitute for a canon in a collegiate church.
Prime – The first of the Little Hours of the Divine Office (literally the first hour of the day).
Primer – A devotional book popular among the medieval laity, generally including Little Office of the Virgin, Office of the Dead, Gradual Psalms, Penitential Psalms, Litany of the Saints. Often synonymous with Book of Hours. Later versions were written in the vernacular.
Principal feast – The most important class of feast-day (festum principalis) celebrated with greatest solemnity (e.g. Christmas Day, Easter Day, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Principalis pars chori – Latin: principal part of the choir, i.e. the duty side.
Prior/Prioress – (1) the senior monk or nun in a monastic community next in rank after the abbot or abbess; (2) the presiding monk or nun in a monastic community here there is no abbot or abbess.
Priory – A monastic community headed by a prior or prioress.
Private Mass – A Low Mass celebrated with only a priest and clerk present.
Procession – A liturgical form accompanied by the singing of chants, and often including one or more stations (see Station). A liturgical procession began and ended in the choir, and involved the whole clerical or monastic community. Processions usually preceded Mass or followed Vespers. Some went to a specific place (or places) in the church, others went around the inside or outside of the church, and a few went to (and returned from) another church.
Processional – The book containing the chants and prayers for liturgical processions.
Proper – (1) describing a liturgical text that is particular to a specific feast or observance; (2) collectively all the items as in (1) in the Office or the Mass that are changeable and particular to a feast or observance. The opposite of ferial in the Office and Ordinary of the Mass. Especially used to identify the variable choral chants of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion.
Prosa – Latin: prose. A term used in some instances to describe either a Sequence or a hymn in procession with a refrain.
Psalm – One of the collection of 150 poetic religious texts found in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament.
Psalmody – A group of psalms, often those used in a specific Office service.
Psalm-tone – The melodic formula, essentially a decoration of a monotone, in two sections, to which each verse of a psalm is intoned (in two halves). The formula is repeated for every verse of a psalm. There are eight principal psalm-tones.
Psalter – The book, or part of a Breviary or Antiphonal, where the texts of the psalms and canticles (and some related common items) are found.
Puer canonicus – Latin: boy canon; a boy who is part of the collegiate establishment (later referred to as chorister).
Pulpitum – In large medieval churches, the gallery above the choir screen from which the Gradual, Alleluia, and Gospel were sung. Some foreign examples are somewhat closer to an ambo.
Purification – See Candlemas.
Pyx – A receptacle to contain the reserved Host. In England the pyx often hung on a chain from the roof in the sanctuary.


Quadragesima – Latin: fortieth day; (1) the Sunday forty days before Easter; (2) the period from that Sunday until Easter.
Quire – See Choir (3).


Reader – See Lector.
Rector – Latin: ruler. A title given to some parish priests because of the nature of their income from tithes.
Rector chori – Latin: ruler of the choir. On days when the choir was ruled, two or four rulers directed the choral chants from the middle of the choir (in medio chori).
Red Letter Days – Important feast-days indicated in the Calendar by the use of red (rather than black) ink.
Regular – Bound by vows to a Rule; regular clergy included friars, monks, nuns, and Augustinian canons. The opposite of secular.
Relics – Material remains of a saint after death.
Religious – A member of an Order or Congregation bound by vows. See Regular.
Reliquary – A receptacle (often a casket) for relics.
Requiem – Latin: rest; the opening word of the Introit to the Mass of the Dead, and often used to identify the whole Mass. See Mass of the Dead.
Reredos – A decorative panel or panels behind an altar, of either wood or stone.
Respond – (1) a form of responsorial chant which follows a lesson at Matins or a short chapter in the other Offices. Those at Matins have elaborate, melismatic chant; those at the other Hours are generally set to simple melodic formulas; (2) used by some writers to distinguish the portion of the respond repeated (in whole or part) as a refrain.
Response – The answer recited by the whole choir to a versicle said by a minister.
Responsorial – Choral chant which follows and therefore responds to a reading in the Office or Mass.
Responsory – Respond (1).
Riddel – Riddel posts located at the four corners of an altar, joined by rods, were used for the suspension of riddel curtains, which served to screen the altar at the back and sides.
Rite – (1) the broad classification of a whole pattern of liturgical observance, within which there may be variant regional or local Uses (e.g. Roman Rite); (2) the form, structure, and text of an individual liturgical service (e.g. Eucharistic rite).
Rite of Peace – See Kiss of Peace and Pax.
Ritual – Pertaining to the rite (2); see Ordinal.
RitualeRituale Romanum, the Tridentine replacement for the medieval Manuale with parish rites of baptism, confirmation, marriage, etc.
Rogation – Special days of prayers and fasting in early summer with intercession, especially for the next harvest: originally 25 April and three days before Ascension Day.
Roman – Of Rome. Often used loosely to mean ‘of the Papal Curia’ in relation to the late medieval liturgy, or to the Roman Catholic Church after the Reformation.
Rood – Cross (thus Holy Rood); applied to the large cross often found at the east end of the nave. Hence, rood beam, rood loft, rood screen – all surmounted by a cross. The cross normally includes the figure of the crucified Christ, with his mother and St John on either side at the foot of the cross.
Roster – The rota or table of duties allocated either by the week or (at certain times) by the day. See also Tabula.
Rubric – An instruction originally written in red (where the main text was in black).
Rule – Code of behaviour by which a religious community is regulated (e.g. the Rule of St Benedict).


Sacrament – ‘An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’ (Book of Common Prayer) or ‘the sign of a sacred thing in so far as it sanctifies men’ (Thomas Aquinas). All have origin and authority in Christ’s actions or the teaching of the Apostles. The principal sacraments are baptism and the Eucharist; the remaining five are confirmation, ordination, marriage, penance and absolution, and anointing for the sick.
Sacramentary – The liturgical book used by the celebrant at the Mass until about the twelfth century when in was supplanted by the more comprehensive compilation of the Missal.
Sacrificium – Latin: sacrifice; generally referring to the host at the Mass (see Host).
Sacrist – The servant or officer of the church responsible for the liturgical books, vessels, and vestments.
Sacristy – The room in or close to the church where the liturgical books, vessels, and vestments are kept.
Saint – A holy man or woman formally recognised as such by the Church by canonisation. The medieval saints include apostles, martyrs, confessors, doctors, and virgins, as well as the angels. In the New Testament the term refers to any baptised believer.
Salve regina – Antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Originally an antiphon to Magnificat, also used as an antiphon in procession, by the later Middle Ages it was sung as a votive antiphon with additional rhymed tropes after Vespers or Compline in many institutions.
Sanctorale – The portion of the Calendar and of liturgical books with material related to the observance of dated feast-days, mostly of Saints; sometimes referred to as the Proper of the Saints. The counterpart to the Temporale.
Sanctuary – The area immediately surrounding an altar in a church or chapel.
Sanctus – Latin: Holy. The opening of the acclamation in praise of God’s holiness sung at Mass at the end of the Preface and before the Canon of the Mass. Generally followed by the Benedictus qui venit in the Latin Rites.
Sarum – An abbreviation used extensively in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to denote Salisbury. It is in fact an erroneous and spurious reading of the medieval abbreviation of Sarisburiensis (Salisbury).
Schola cantorum – Latin: school of singers; (1) a select body of able singers; (2) the place where singing was taught; song school.
Screen – A partition separating two parts of a church or chapel. See Choir Screen.
Season – A part of the year, but the liturgical seasons do not follow the calendar seasons. The most important liturgical seasons are Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. See Temporale.
Secondary – A cleric on the middle of the three rows on each side of the choir.
Secret – The prayer recited silently by the celebrant after the Offertory and before the Sursum corda at Mass.
Secular – The adjective used to describe the ecclesiastical foundations and clergy ‘in the world’, as opposed to those subject to the authority of a Rule. The opposite of regular or religious.
Sedilia – Latin: seats. A row of three seats (often set into the wall with cared canopies) on the south side of the sanctuary where the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon sat during parts of the Mass (e.g. the Epistle).
Semiduplex – Latin: half double. A classification of feast between simple (simplex) and double (duplex); the principle is widespread, but the term is especially used in the medieval Roman Use and later Tridentine Rite.
Septuagesima – Latin: seventieth day. The Sunday nine weeks before Easter, three before Lent; in the Middle Ages and in the Tridentine Rite the beginning of the penitential season.
Sequence – A medieval, non-scriptural text composed in verse sung after the Alleluia (or Tract) on most important liturgical days; the same melody is generally used for a pair of stanzas.
Sequentiary – The book, or part of the Antiphonal or Missal, including Sequences and also Tropes.
Sermon – A discourse, generally delivered by a deacon, priest or bishop in church, as a means of Christian instruction or exhortation; the ambo, cathedra, pulpit, or pulpitum were commonly used to deliver a sermon, which might take place at an event quite separate from the liturgy.
Server – A non-specialist term to describe one of those assisting the principal clergy in the ceremonial at Mass, in processions etc.; includes taperer, thurifer, crucifer (cross-bearer).
Sexagesima – Latin; sixtieth day. The Sunday eight weeks before Easter.
Sext – The third of the Little Hours of the Office, recited literally at the sixth hour of the day.
Simplex – Latin: single or simple or ‘ordinary’; (1) a classification for lesser feasts with Matins of either nine (twelve in monastic churches) or three lessons; (2) simple form of a tone or chant (as opposite to solemn); (3) ordinary Sunday (dominica simplex).
Solemn – An adjective used to describe liturgical observances with the most elaborate ritual and ceremonial as a mark of their importance.
Soundboard – Windchest of the organ, on which the pipes stand; channels or grooves in the soundboard allow the pipes are sounded controlled by opening or closing pallets (valves linked individually to each key) and sliders (opening or closing the pipe holes under each rank of pipes).
Stall – A seat in choir, generally for senior members of the community on the back row on each side of the choir.
Station – A place where people assembled; in medieval churches a point where a procession halted, usually for the recitation of antiphon, versicle, and collect. A procession often included one or more stations.
Statutes – A legal document which defined the nature, purpose, and character of an institution. All collegiate (and thus secular cathedral) churches were established and regulated by statutes.
Step – Apart from their practical use, certain steps marked important locations for the liturgy, including step before the Cross (i.e. before the Rood), choir step (at the eastern end of the choir), presbytery step (at the entrance to the presbytery), altar step (at the foot of the altar). Within the choir itself, the upper step was the place where the senior members of the community stood during the liturgy.
Subdeacon – Until the thirteenth century, the most senior of the Minor Orders; thereafter the most junior of the Holy Orders.
Subdean – The dean’s deputy.
Submissa voce – Said or intoned privately, inaudibly (as opposed to extensa voce)
Succentor – The precentor’s (or cantor’s) deputy.
Suffrages – A standard series of materials (consisting of antiphon, versicle, and collect) used as an appendage to an Office (especially Lauds and Vespers) in honour of a regular group of saints or for peace; sometimes known as memoria feriales.
Superior – A general term for the senior member of a religious community.
Superior gradus – Latin: upper step or grade; generally referring to the back of the three rows of clergy on each side of the choir.
Surplice – White linen vestment worn over a cassock or habit; generally with full sleeves, yoke at the neck and less than full length (in these respects contrasting with the alb).
Sursum corda – Latin: Lift up your hearts. The dialogue at the beginning of the Canon of the Mass or Eucharistic prayer.
Synaxis – Greek: assembly. Properly relates to an early rite of psalms, readings, and prayers, but often used to describe the first part of the Mass before the Eucharistic prayer. See Mass of Catechumens.


Tabula – Latin: table. The weekly (or at certain times, daily) roster of assigned duties, and the list where they were written down; important here for the allocation of duties in the liturgy.
Taperer – An assistant at Mass or in procession, who carries a ceremonial candle.
Te deum – Latin: [We praise] thee O God. The opening words of the prose hymn sung near the end of Matins.
Te igitur – The opening words of the Canon of the Mass, said by the priest immediately after the Sanctus and Benedictus.
Temporale – The portion of the Calendar and of liturgical book with material related to the observance of the seasons of the Church year (thus excluding feasts of saints for the most part); sometimes referred to as the Proper of the Time. The counterpart to the Sanctorale.
Tempus – Latin: literally time, but often used to refer to a liturgical period or season.
Tenebrae – Latin: darkness. The name given to the night Office of Matins (and Lauds following) during the solemn Triduum, when candles were ceremonially extinguished.
Terce – The second of the Little Hours of the Office, literally at the third hour of the day.
Terminalia – Latin: terminal or end; at Salisbury this refers to the two end stalls on each side of the choir where dean, precentor, chancellor and treasurer have their place.
Text – The Gospel book. See also Evangelium.
Thurible – The ceremonial vessel (a covered bowl suspended on metal chains) in which charcoal and incense are burnt.
Thurifer – The assistant to the principal clergy who carried (and swung) the thurible especially at Mass and in processions.
Time – See Temporale.
Tonary – The book, or part of larger liturgical book, which contained a guide to the use of the antiphonal repertory and psalm tones according to modal classification.
Tone – A melodic formula used to chant a large range of different items (e.g. psalm tone, gospel tone, tone for collects).
Tract – The choral chant sun in place of the Alleluia at Mass (i.e. after the Gradual) especially during the penitential season from Septuagesima to the end of Holy Week, and at Masses of the Dead’ a through-composed setting of psalm verses without refrain. See Direct psalmody
Transept – The transverse part of a cruciform (cross-shaped) church building at the eastern end of the nave; the two wings on either side of the crossing are often referred to independently as north and south transepts.
Transfiguration – The feast which commemorates the change in the appearance of Christ before some of the apostles on the mountain; celebrated on 6 August, but not formally established until 1457. and therefore placed in the Sanctorale.
Treasurer – A senior canon and officer in a collegiate or cathedral church (canon or prebendary) with responsibility for the finance of the institution, and in church for the fabric, provisions, precious ornaments and vessels.
Triduum – Often sacrum triduum, Latin: three holy days; the three days before Easter Day on which the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist (Maundy Thursday), the crucifixion of Christ (Good Friday), and his resting in the grave (Holy Saturday).
Triforium – The second level of arcading (often without windows) in the nave (and choir) of a church building above the main arches and below the clerestory; often at the height of the aisle roofs.
Trigintale – See Trental.
Trinity – (1) God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit – three Persons but one God. A central belief of the Christian Church; (2) the Sunday after Pentecost observed as the feast of the Holy Trinity from the Middle Ages (formalised in 1334).
Trope – A medieval text, text and melody, or melody interpolated into an existing choral chant, especially in the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass; generally allocated to soloists. Tropes tended to be highly localised repertories.
Troper – A book, or section of an Antiphonal, Cantatory, or Missal, including tropes and Sequences.
Tunicle – The outer vestment worn by the subdeacon at Mass, similar but simpler than the dalmatic


Use – The variant form of a normative Rite used in a particular region, diocese, or monastic Order (e.g. Use of Salisbury and Use of the Papal Curia are variants of the medieval Roman Rite).


Veneration of the Cross – The ceremony of venerating (by kneeling before and kissing) a cross during the Good Friday liturgy.
Venite – Latin: come; the opening word of Psalm 94, sung near the beginning of Matins as part of the Invitatory.
Verse – (1) the basic unit of a psalm or canticle, divided into two parts by a caesura; (2) a solo section within a choral chant, especially a responsorial chant (e.g. respond at Matins, Gradual and Alleluia at Mass).
Versicle – (1) the first part of a short dialogue recited by a minister to which there is a collective response; namely, versicle and response; (2) a shorthand reference to the whole unit of versicle and response.
Vespers – The evening Office at which the canticle Magnificat is sung.
Vestment – An ecclesiastical garment, especially chasuble, dalmatic, and tunicle worn by celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon at Mass, and the cope worn by the clergy.
Vestry – The place where the vestments are kept or put on.
Vicar – From Latin vicarius: substitute; (1) a cleric in a collegiate church who acted as substitute for a canon or prebendary; effectively one of the junior clergy who undertook the daily conduct of the liturgy in choir (hence vicar choral, or, in the case of a lay singer taking on the duties, lay vicar); (2) a priest appointed to take charge of a parish as a substitute for the rector (especially where a collegiate church or monastery had charge of the parish).
Vigil – The day before a feast-day (generally beginning after midday).
Vigils – An alternative name for Matins, especially as in Vigils of the Dead.
Virgin – A celibate female saint. Also applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, often referred to simply as the Virgin.
Votive – An adjective to describe an Office, Mass, or other observance that is not part of the liturgy laid down by the Calendar, but is additional to the main course of daily liturgy; usually for special intention.
Votive Antiphon – A modern term applied to the ceremony of antiphon, versicle, and collect commonly recited after the end of Vespers or Compline, most often in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Votive Mass – A Mass offered for a special intention, in addition to and not as part of the prescribed liturgy of the day. See Lady Mass
Votive Office – A single hour of the Office or a group of hours recited in addition to and not as part of the prescribed Office of the day. See Little Office and Lady Office.
Vulgate – The Latin text of the Bible in most common use (hence Biblia Vulgata); a translation mostly undertaken in the late fourth century by St Jerome.