Christian Terminology

These are definitions come from some questions asked. If there is a term or question please contact us to add definitions.

Antidoron Translated “Instead of the Gifts”, is blessed, but non-consecrated leavened bread sometimes distributed after the Divine Liturgy (especially during Mirovanije). It is the remaining bread from a loaf (Prosphora) cut for consecration as Holy Communion.
Antipendia (singular Antipendium) From the Latin ‘to hang before’; the decorative cloth hanging down from the front of the holy table (altar), distinguished from the altar linens and altar cloth used in the service of the Eucharist.
Censor The metal vessel, hung on chains, used for burning incense during church ceremonies. There are usually twelve small bells attached to the chains, representing the twelve apostles.
Compline From the Latin ‘completorium’. The final church service following the end of the working day, often celebrated after evening Vespers.
From the Latin for ‘falling asleep’. The day of the death of the Most Holy Mother of God is called the Dormition because her body did not know corruption after death, but together with her soul was taken up into heaven. The Byzantine Church celebrates the Great Feast of the Dormition on August 15.
Indiction A Latin word indicating the first day of the liturgical calendar year. In the Roman Empire the fiscal year did not coincide with the astronomical calendar. In the year 325 the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea adopted September 1 as the start of the new church year and this day has been observed to the present.
Kontakion A Greek word meaning ‘from the pole’, which relates to how the hymn text was rolled up on a pole for use in liturgical services. The Kontakion is a poetic hymn recited during the divine liturgy.
Matins The morning service of the Church. It opens with the reading of six morning psalms and the intoning of the Great Litany.
Mirovanije The Anointing with Holy Oil, taking place at the end of a solemn Holy Day liturgy. The faithful approach for the veneration of the icon of the feast, usually displayed at the tetrapod. The priest anoints the forehead with holy oil and greets “Christ is among us!” Other greetings are offered at Christmas (“Christ is born!”) and at Easter (“Christ is risen!”). After being anointed, the individual may receive a small piece of antidoron.
Moleben A prayer service of intercession or of supplication. Offered in honor of Jesus Christ, The Mother of God (Theotokos), a particular saint or martyr, or a Feast.
Narthex Lobby or vestibule area of the church, usually at the opposite end from the altar. Separated from the central area of the church (Nave) by a wall, rail, or screen and designed so that those who aren’t eligible to participate in the service can nonetheless see and hear the activities taking place.
Pascha The Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord (also called Easter). Also called Pasch, the word is from the Hebrew Pesah or Pesach, meaning Passover.
Paska An enriched Easter bread, made with butter, eggs, and sugar, served in many Slavic countries.
Presanctified Gifts (Liturgy) Liturgical service for the distribution of communion celebrated on Wednesdays and/or Friday evenings of the Great Lenten Fast and also on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week.
Prosphoron (plural Prosphora) From the Greek for “offering”, the name given to the leavened bread used for Holy Communion. A cube is cut from the center of the loaf (the “lamb”), consecrated, and from it both the priest and the faithful receive communion. The remaining part of the loaf (Antidoron) may be distributed at the end of the liturgy on solemn occasions and feast days.
Tetrapod A small, four-legged table (‘Tetra”, meaning four, and “Pod”, for foot) directly in front of the iconostasis, upon which are placed holy icons for veneration. Upon entering the church, before receiving Communion, and prior to leaving the church, the faithful are invited to walk up to the tetrapod, cross themselves, and kiss the icons placed there.
Theotokos From the Greek meaning ‘God-Bearer’, or ‘The One who gives birth to God’. The term was first recognized as the title for the Virgin Mary by the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.
Tonsure Is the practice of cutting the hair from clerics, devotees, or holy people as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion and esteem. It consists of cutting four locks of hair at the front (“In the Name of the Father”), back (“and the Son”), and either side (“and the Holy Spirit”). The hair is allowed to grow back. Clerical tonsure is done prior to ordination to the rank of Reader.
Trisagion Thrice-holy
Troparion Derived from the Greek ‘Tropos’, or ‘something repeated’; a short hymn, usually of one stanza, recited during the Divine Liturgy.


Liturgical service observed on days when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, such as weekdays during the Great Lenten Fast, or in circumstances where a priest is not available to celebrate the Liturgy.
Unction (Sacrament of Holy Unction) Normally celebrated on the afternoon or evening of Holy Wednesday, the Mystery of Holy Unction is offered for the Healing of Soul and Body and for the foregiveness of sins. At the conclusion of the service, the body is annointed with oil.
Vespers From the Latin for ‘evening’; the evening prayer service in the Eastern Church. Because the liturgical day begins at sunset, early evening Vespers are the first service of the daily cycle of divine services.

This practice follows the Biblical account of creation: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen 1:5)

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