An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

A - Z Glossary

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1) The title of address for an archdeacon. It is abbreviated The Ven. 2) In the Roman Catholic Church, a deceased person may be declared venerable in the first main stage of the process of beatification. This process may eventually lead to canonization as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

See Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG).

The reverence or honor paid by Christians to saints, crosses, altars, images, etc. Veneration is distinguished from the absolute worship that is due to God alone. Various Puritans and iconoclasts have failed to make this distinction and wrongly accused others of idolatry.

Christians began to honor their departed heroes of the faith as early as the second century. After Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was martyred in about 155, his ashes were gathered up by the faithful and laid in a suitable place. The cult concerning the relics of saints began at the same time.... Read More »

The earliest description of this ceremony is found in the late fourth century treatise "The Pilgrimage of Egeria." In this diary she describes the Good Friday ceremonies in Jerusalem. During that service, fragments that were believed to be of the true cross were placed on a table in front of the... Read More »

The opening line of a medieval Latin hymn, "Come, Creator Spirit," usually ascribed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856). It appears in The Hymnal 1982 in three different translations (Hymns 500-504). It was used in the middle ages as an office hymn at terce on Pentecost. It was later used in the Sarum... Read More »

The opening words of the medieval Latin Golden Sequence, "Come Holy Spirit," sung before the gospel on Pentecost. It is considered a masterpiece of Latin sacred poetry and has been ascribed to various authors, including Archbishop Stephen Langton and Pope Innocent III. It was probably written in... Read More »

This agreed statement on Authority was finalized by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) at Venice in 1976. It was eventually included within the ARCIC Final Report (1982). It said the church can be described as "indefectible" because human "failures cannot destroy the... Read More »

Invitatory psalm based on Ps 95:1-7. It begins, "Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation" (BCP, p. 44-45, 82). See Invitatory Psalm.

The 1976 General Convention resolved to issue a call to the church to work and pray for a "Venture in Mission" to provide mission development funding for the national church. Most dioceses participated, joining their efforts for Venture in Mission with their own fund-raising efforts to contact... Read More »

The belief that the individual words and even verbal relationships of the Bible were inspired by God. Some would make a distinction between the words themselves and the ideas expressed by the words, holding that only the latter were inspired. This theory, therefore, stressed the inspiration of the... Read More »

See Verger; see Virge.

A lay minister who assists the clergy in the conduct of public worship, especially in the marshaling of processions. Vergers may be full-time or part-time, paid or volunteer. The history of the verger dates back to the middle ages when the verger was the "Protector of the Procession." He would lead... Read More »

On Sept. 20, 1790, the Diocese of Vermont was organized at Arlington. On May 29, 1810, representatives from Vermont and four other New England dioceses met in Boston and organized the Eastern Diocese. The Diocese of Vermont withdrew from the Eastern Diocese on May 30, 1832, and elected its own... Read More »

A language that is commonly spoken in a locality, the native language of a place. In the early church, the vernacular was used as the language for Christian liturgy. However, language that was once vernacular may in time become archaic or disused as a common language of the people. For example,... Read More »

Short sentences, often drawn from the Psalter, that are said or sung antiphonally in worship. Typically the versicle is said or sung by the officiant or celebrant, with the response made by the congregation. The versicles and responses may also be made between sections of the choir, or between the... Read More »

See Reverend, The.

(c. Aug. 10 or Oct. 10, 1674-July 11, 1746). Early leader of New York Anglicanism. He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in 1693. He served as lay reader at Hempstead, New York, 1695-1696, and studied for ordained ministry. Merton College, Oxford, awarded him... Read More »

The early evening office of prayer in the church. The term is from the Latin word for "evening." Lucernarium (lamp or lamp-lighting time) was an early name for vespers. Early Christians continued the Jewish custom of prayer at the time when daylight faded and the lamps were lit. The practice of... Read More »

Vessels used in the eucharist, such as the paten and chalice. The term has also indicated the pyx, used to take communion to those unable to attend the eucharist, and items such as the monstrance and luna that are used in Benediction or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Sacred vessels have been... Read More »

A choir vested in cassock and surplice. A vested choir was often associated with a choral or sung service. The use of the surplice by choir members was one of the issues of dispute in the nineteenth-century controversy over ritual in the Episcopal Church. The introduction of the surpliced choir in... Read More »

See Narthex.

A room near the sanctuary of a church where clergy and lay people vest. Ordained and lay ministers use this room to put on and take off vestments that are worn in the liturgy. Vestments are usually kept in this room, along with liturgical books and vessels, altar furnishings, and other items needed... Read More »

The distinctive garments worn by leaders of the church's worship. Many of the church's vestments are descended from the ordinary dress of the imperial Roman society in which the early church came into being. Vestments worn by the celebrant at the eucharist typically include a stole and chasuble... Read More »

In England the annual election of churchwardens took place in Easter week. The parishioners gathered at the church to hear the outgoing wardens render their accounts and elect their successors. The parishioners assembled in the vestry, the room off the chancel where the clergy vested. The assembled... Read More »

Another word for vestments, the distinctive garments worn by leaders of the church's worship. See Vestments. Read More »

Latin phrase translated as "middle way" or the "way between two extremes." It is from the philosophy of Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he found the virtues such as justice and courage to be the middle way between the extremes of either side. "Courage" was thus the via media between... Read More »

The administration of communion to a dying person. It was given as sustenance for a journey. The practice of viaticum as a meal for the dead was a pagan burial custom from pre-Christian times. Communion was substituted as viaticum by the early Christians. The Christian practice of viaticum was... Read More »

In the Episcopal Church, the title generally applies to the priest in charge of a mission congregation. The diocesan bishop is the rector, and the priest representing the bishop is the vicar. The term is derived from the Latin vicarius, "substitute." Historically, as early as the twelfth century in... Read More »

The vicar's residence. The vicarage may or may not be provided by the congregation served by the vicar. Read More »

Latin incipit (opening words) of the traditional Easter sequence, "Christians, to the Paschal victim" (Hymn 183 in The Hymnal 1982). This plainsong chant hymn is ascribed to Wigbert (Wipo of Burgundy) in the eleventh century. It provides a dramatic celebration of Christ's victory over death in... Read More »

1) A service at night prior to a major feast or other important observance. The vigil anticipates and begins the commemoration of the following day. It may allow the participants an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the next day's service. Scripture texts that will be used at the... Read More »

(See Vincentian Canon.)

(d. 304). He was probably born in Osca, the modern Huesca, in Spain. Vincent is known as the Deacon of Saragossa. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian. He was apparently subjected to torture and starvation before he died as a result of his sufferings. There are six... Read More »

The canonical threefold test of catholicity is found in the fifth-century Commonitorium of Vincent of Lérins (d. c. 445). Vincent was a monk on the island of Lérins in Gaul. He may have written the Commonitorium around 434. It defines the catholic faith as "what has been believed everywhere, always... Read More »

The virge is the staff which a verger carries in procession. The name comes from the Latin virga, "rod" or "staff." It goes back to the ceremonial mace carried before civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries. It was originally a weapon used to clear the way for processions and to control unruly... Read More »


Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.