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Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith, Expanded Edition

Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith, Expanded Edition

by Patricia S. Klein

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The perfect resource to explain christian church symbolism. If you are new to liturgical worship, through conversion or rediscovery, you may find yourself surrounded by images and traditions that are totally foreign to your experience of church. This thorough guide uses understandable language to explain the signs, symbols, gestures, vestments, calendar, and


The perfect resource to explain christian church symbolism. If you are new to liturgical worship, through conversion or rediscovery, you may find yourself surrounded by images and traditions that are totally foreign to your experience of church. This thorough guide uses understandable language to explain the signs, symbols, gestures, vestments, calendar, and architectural and sacramental elements of the liturgy. With clarity and insight, Patricia Klein explores the meaning of these time-honored traditions, as well as their historical and biblical roots. New to this edition are expanded sections on liturgical colors, pre-Lenten traditions, the Last Things, saints' feast days, and symbols of Easter, martyrdom, saints, and the Virgin Mary; as well as entirely new sections on symbols of sin and temptation, and Old Testament saints and their symbols in art and architecture.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Now in an expanded second edition, Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith is a solid quick-reference guide to terms, symbols, clothing, titles, and more used in Christian liturgical worship. From dictionary-like sections that spell out definitions with visual aid from simple black-and-white-pictures, to the cycles and holidays of the liturgical year, to lessons and books of worship, the concept of hte body of Christ, vestments, and more, Worship Without Words is an excellent primer for anyone new to liturgical worship whether through conversion or rediscovery. A reader-friendly, highly accessible resource. Also highly recommended is author Patricia S. Klein's "A Year With C.S. Lewis." Midwest Book Review July 2007

Product Details

Paraclete Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Expanded edition
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

Read an Excerpt

Worship Without Words

By Patricia S. Klein Paraclete Press (MA)

Copyright © 2007 Patricia S. Klein
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781557255044

Chapter One

Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces

When you step through the doorway of a church you are leaving the outer world behind and entering an inner world. The outside world is a fair place abounding in life and activity, but also a place with a mingling of the base and ugly. It is a sort of marketplace, crossed and recrossed by all and sundry. Perhaps "unholy" is not quite the word for it, yet there is something profane about the world. Behind the church doors is an inner place, separated from the market place, a silent, consecrated and holy spot. It is very certain that the whole world is the work of God and His gift to us, that we may meet Him anywhere, that everything we receive is from God's hand, and, when received religiously, is holy. Nevertheless men have always felt that certain precincts were in a special manner set apart and dedicated to God. (Romano Guardini)


Ecclesiastical buildings are divided into two classes: churches and oratories.

church. A house of God, dedicated exclusively for public worship. A sacred building dedicated to divine worship for the use of all the faithfuland the public exercise of religion. There are five kinds of churches:

· basilica. A rectangular church with a semicircular apse and narthex copied after the ancient Roman justice hall. It is especially designed for large congregations. Also the title given to specific Roman Catholic churches to which the pope has granted particular ceremonial privileges.

· cathedral. The chief church of a diocese where the bishop's throne (or cathedra, which is the Latin word for "seat") is situated.

· collegiate or conventual. A public place of worship served by a community of regular clergy (canons regular, monks, or friars).

· metropolitan. A church presided over by an archbishop.

· parochial. A parish church, with a baptismal font, a confessional, and a cemetery, and the liturgical equipment necessary for baptisms, marriages, and funerals.

oratory. A place of worship not intended for the use of all the faithful indiscriminately. These can be a public oratory, which is used by a religious community primarily, with limited access by the public; a semipublic oratory, which is intended for use by a special community and is not open to the public; and a private oratory, which is a small chapel or a room set apart for worship in a private house for the use of the family or an individual.


catacomb. An underground cave or tunnel the early Christians used for burial and as a meeting place during the time of Roman persecutions.

manse. The residence of the clergy, particularly in the Presbyterian Church. May also be called parsonage, rectory, vicarage, or presbytery (Roman Catholic).

mission. An establishment of missionaries, which may include a church, a station, a school, a hospital, and other facilities from which the missionaries do outreach work. May also refer to a local parish or church that is dependent on a larger church or religious organization for financial support or direction.

shrine. A building or other shelter that encloses the remains or relics of a saint or other holy person, becoming a site of religious veneration and pilgrimage. May also refer to a reliquary or receptacle for sacred relics, or to the niche holding a religious image.


abbey. A religious house under the direction of an abbot or an abbess. Also, an abbey church (such as Westminster Abbey).

cell. A small room in a monastery or convent.

cloister. The residence of those who have taken religious vows, such as a convent, monastery, abbey, etc. See also Sacred Architecture.

convent. A house for persons under religious vows, in particular, women or nuns. May also be called a nunnery.

monastery. A house for persons under religious vows, in particular, men or monks.

priory. A religious house under the direction of a prior or prioress.

refectory. The dining room in a monastic community.

retreat house. The guest house at a monastic community.


cruciform. Cross-shaped churches, which have a nave, transept, and chancel. When looking down on this formation from above, it would appear to be in the shape of a Latin cross.

Gothic. An ornate style of architecture of Europe in the Middle Ages (twelfth to fifteenth centuries). Distinguishing features are pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, and slender spires. Rheims and Notre Dame are Gothic cathedrals.

Romanesque. A style of architecture based on Roman building techniques, prevalent in Europe from the fifth century to the twelfth century. The distinctive features are the round arch and the barrel (or tunnel) vault. It is unadorned and massive.


bells. The ringing of a church bell is an invitation to worship. If the bells are carillons, sacred hymn tunes are played. Bells are tolled for funerals.

· belfry. The church tower where the bells are hung.

· campanile. A bell tower separate from the church, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

· carillon. A set of large bells in the church tower on which hymn tunes are played from an electric keyboard. There are at least two octaves of bells, tuned chromatically.

buttress. An exterior reinforcement to strengthen the walls and support the roof of Gothic style churches. A classic example is Notre Dame Cathedral.

cloister. A sheltered corridor connecting the church building with other structures serving the needs of a congregation. See also Monastic Architecture.

fleche. (French, "arrow.") A very slender, "arrow-like" spire at the crossing on a church roof.

gargoyle. Grotesque figures of people and beasts used as water spouts or decoration on the exterior of Gothic cathedrals. They symbolize the evil that the gospel expels.

pier. A support of masonry, steel, or the like for sustaining vertical pressure.

polychrome. Decorative painting in bright colors on wood. Beams in church ceilings, etc., may be ornamented in polychrome.

rose window. A round window with stone tracery, generally at the west end of the church.

spire. A steeple projecting high above the roof of the church.

tracery. Delicately carved stonework that forms the shape of the windows, particularly in Gothic architecture. Such work may also be done in wood on the chancel furniture, especially the reredos.

vaulted. In Gothic and Romanesque architecture, the domed or arched structure of the ceiling.


It is the doors that admit us to this mysterious place. Lay aside, they say, all that cramps and narrows, all that sinks the mind. Open your heart, lift up your eyes. Let your soul be free, for this is God's temple.

    It is likewise the representation of you, yourself. For you, your soul and your body, are the living temple of God. Open up that temple, make it spacious, give it height. (Romano Guardini)

aisle. The space between the rows of pews that worshipers use as a passageway to reach their places in the pews.

apse. (Latin, "arch.") The semicircular or rectangular recess of the chancel of a church in which the altar stands. The interior of the apse is called the sanctuary.

baptistry. This may be a separate building or a part of the church, usually near the entrance, where the sacrament of Holy Baptism is administered at a font. In some churches it is a large tank in the front of the church for baptism by immersion.

chancel. The sanctuary of the church, raised by steps above the level of the nave.

chapel. A small church with a sanctuary of its own, either as part of a larger church or separate. It is used for minor and occasional services and functions. A chapel may be connected with an institution such as a college, prison, or cemetery.

choir. The place in the church where the singers sit. May also be called a choir loft, especially when set in a gallery behind the pulpit or above the nave. (Also refers to the singers who help with the music of the service.)

clerestory. The upper part of the nave containing an arcade of windows. This is a feature of both the basilica and the Gothic-style church.

confessional. In Roman churches, the boothlike structures on either side of the nave, in which private confessions are made.

crossing. The place at the front of the church where the transept and nave intersect in a cruciform church.

crypt. A vault under a church directly beneath the sanctuary or choir, used as a chapel or burial place.

Epistle side. The right side of the sanctuary as the congregation faces it. This is the side from which the Epistle is read. Also known as the Epistle Horn. See also Gospel side.

font. (Latin, "fountain.") A round or octagonal receptacle of marble, wood, or metal that stands on a pedestal and contains the water for baptism. The number eight signifies regeneration; thus an octagonal font represents regeneration through baptism.

Gospel side. The left side of the sanctuary as the congregation faces it; the side to the clergy's right. This side is the side of highest honor and from which the Gospel is read. Also known as the Gospel Horn.

horns of the altar. The Epistle side (horn) is the right front as the congregation faces the altar. The Gospel side (horn) is the left front. The Gospel and Epistle lessons may be read from these positions.

narthex. The vestibule entered by the main entrance and usually stretching across the entire end of the church. It may be under a balcony and is separated from the nave of the church by a wall. Today, this is often called a vestibule.

nave. (Latin, "ship.") In ecclesiastical art, the church is represented as a ship sailing toward heaven. The ship's "passengers" are the parishioners who sit in the main part of the church, the nave. It extends from the narthex to the chancel from which it is separated by a communion rail. The ship (nave) is a symbol of the church, the means of our heavenward voyage.

piscina. A basin built into the church wall, having a drain to carry the unused wine from the Eucharist to the ground. A basin with a drain near the altar of a church for disposing of water from liturgical ablutions.

portal. Gate or door. The main door of a church or cathedral.

predella. The top step on which the altar stands. Also called footpace.

sacristy. A room for the pastor's private use as an office, study, and robing room. A room in a church where sacred vessels and vestments are kept and where the clergy vests. Sometimes called a vestry.

sanctuary. The elevated place where the altar stands in the chancel, and where the ordained servant of the congregation leads the worship. It is the most sacred part of the church. In nonliturgical churches, may also generally refer to a place where worship services are held.

stall. The special seats in the chancel for the clergy. Those for the choir are called choir stalls.

transept. In a cruciform church, the area that corresponds to the arms of the cross. It is at the front of the nave and at the foot of the chancel.

worship center. Not an altar, but a focal point for worship as in a Sunday school room. May be a table with a picture, cross, etc., that suggests worship to those assembled there.


ambo. A raised desk, or either of two such desks, from which the Gospels or Epistles were read or chanted. Used especially in an early Christian church or in the Eastern tradition.

bier. The framework upon which a coffin rests.

bishop's throne. Also called the bishop's chair or cathedral, it is permanently located in a cathedral, being placed near the altar on the Gospel side of the sanctuary.

credence shelf. A shelf or table in the sanctuary where the sacramental vessels are kept until carried to the altar for the Holy Communion.

lectern. (Latin, "to read.") A wooden or metal desk from which the Bible lessons are read. The lectern may be used instead of the pulpit for preaching in lesser services.

pew. A long seat with a back, but without divisions, to accommodate the members of the congregation at services. A hymn book rack, pew card holder, communion cup holder, and kneelers may be attached to the pew for the convenience of the worshipers.

prie-dieu. (French, "pray to God.") A movable prayer desk with a kneeler for use in services by the clergy or by anyone in private devotions.

presider's chair. The seat on which the presider or celebrant sits. Also called celebrant's chair.

pulpit. (Latin, "raised platform.") The place from which the sermon is delivered. It is located at the front of the chancel. It is raised so that the person speaking may be easily seen by the congregation. It may be octagonally shaped, symbolic of the regeneration of the spirit by the Word of God.

rood or rood cross. (Old English, "cross.") A cross or crucifix; in particular, a large one at the entrance to the choir or chancel of a medieval church, often suspended on a rood beam or rood screen.

rood beam. A heavy wooden beam suspended from wall to wall at the entrance to the chancel. On top in the center is a carving or other representation of the crucifixion (rood) indicating that humanity must go to heaven by way of the cross.

rood screen. An open screen at the entrance to the sanctuary representing the gates of heaven. The rood screen separates the nave from the chancel.

sedilia. (Latin, "seat.") Usually a series of three seats for the clergy officiating at a service.

stoup. A small vessel for holding holy water, placed at the entrance of a church. Worshipers dip the fingers of the right hand into the holy water and apply it to themselves with the sign of the cross, as a blessing and a reminder of baptism. Very often the stoup takes the form of a scalloped shell.


alms basin. A large plate into which the offering plates are placed or the offering poured for presentation at the altar. Sometimes called a receiving basin. May be made of wood, silver, or brass. A velvet pad may be fastened in the bottom.

· alms bags. Bags of leather or cloth attached to long poles used to collect the offerings of the people.

· alms box. A box placed near the entrance of a church for the collection of financial gifts for the poor or for other specific purposes.

· offering plates. Plates of wood or metal used for collecting the offering and then conveying it to the sanctuary. Sometimes wicker baskets are used rather than plates. Offering plates may also be called collection plates or alms plates.

banners. Large decorated cloths portraying the doctrine and work of the church, to be hung in the church or carried in procession.

memorial book. A book listing the memorials given to the glory of God and the church. Also, a book of memory listing the names of those who have served their country in time of war, with special recognition for those who have given their lives. The desk that holds the memorial book is called a memorial stand.

parish register. The book in each parish in which all baptisms, confirmations, funerals, and marriages are recorded and in which lists of members are kept. The desk that holds the guest or register book is called a register stand.

processional cross. A cross (or crucifix) attached to a staff and carried by a crucifer at the head of an ecclesiastical procession.

register board. Not unlike a hymn board, this one carries such information as the number of members of the parish register, the number present at worship, the amount of the offering, etc. Usually used for the Church School.

sanctuary bracket. A shelf for the alms basin and offering plates before the offering is received and they are placed on the altar. Usually made of wood, it is attached to the sanctuary wall on the Epistle side.

    Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
    and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors,
    and the King of Glory shall come in.

    Heed the cry of the doors. Of small use to you is a house of wood and stone unless you yourself are God's living dwelling. The high arched gates may be lifted up, and the portals parted wide, but unless the doors of your heart are open, how can the King of Glory enter in? (Romano Guardini)


Excerpted from Worship Without Words by Patricia S. Klein Copyright © 2007 by Patricia S. Klein. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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