Rituals, Objects, & Furniture of the Church

an introduction to the places and objects, vessels and vestments, and ritual actiosn of Episcopal worship

Part 1: Ritual Actions

Part 2: Vestments

Part 3: Vessels, Linens, & Objects

Part 4: The Building & Its Furnishings 

1. Postures instill befitting attitudes and create appropriate moods during the service of Eucharist and at other times of public prayer. Postures and gestures make the mind and senses attentive. When done with intention, they also can become embodied prayers.

Sitting is the posture of learning and repose. It is used when listening to the proclamation of scripture; during instruction, as in the sermon or homily; and, in recitation of the Psalms.

Standing is the posture of prayer and respect. It is used during times of common prayer (i.e. collects, prayers of the people) and, optionally, during the Eucharistic prayer; for the proclamation of the Gospel; and, during processions.

Kneeling is the posture of humility and penitence. It is used during confession and absolution; optionally, during the Eucharistic prayer; and, optionally, during the reception of communion.

Praying  (orans), standing with arms spread and palms open, is a posture of openness to the Spirit. It is used properly by the priest or other liturgical leader during times of public prayer.

Bowing is a posture of reverence before the holy. Liturgically, ministers bow to the altar.

Protrating, bringing oneself fully to the ground, is a deeply reverential bow (of humility) normally reserved for the cross.

Genuflecting, the lowering of oneself to the right knee, is deeply reverential bow (of honor) normally reserved for the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

2. Ceremonials and Rituals explore our deeply held beliefs and convictions. Involving a combination of movement and, word, and object, they help to connect us with spiritual mystery by engaging the whole perons.

The Sign of the Cross, tracing the cross over the body (top to bottom, then left to right) while invoking the name of the Trinity, is a reminder of our life with God in Christ throught the Spirit.

Blessing, tracing the cross over the object or person while invoking the Trinity, is a priestly action that sets apart as sacred the person or object blessed.

Absolution is a particular blessing in which the priest announces God’s forgiveness after confession.

Before the Gospel a Threefold Sign of the Cross is made by the people on their forehead, lips, and heart, while they silently pray: “May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.”

Ablutions are the ceremonial washing of hands by the priest before the consecration as the priest prays, “Lord, wash my iniquity and cleanse me of my sin.”

The Offertory is the offering of our gifts to God, including the bread and wine as well as financial contributions, with accompanying prayers.

Elevating the Body and Blood of Christ is a sign of offering to God, the Father, just as Jesus offered himself on the cross.

Epeclesis is the callling down of the Holy Spirit to bless and fill the offered gifts, with the priest blessing them and holding his hands over the bread and wine.

Fraction is the breaking of the bread by the priest while proclaiming, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”

3. Responses are the various ways by which the gathered community gives its ascent to what is happening.

“Amen”, from the Hebrew meaning “Let it be”, is the traditional response to prayer and blessing.

“Thanks be to God” is the response to  the conclusion (“The Word of the Lord”) of any lesson from scripture other than the Gospels.

“Praise to you, Lord Christ” is the response to the conclusion (“The Gospel of the Lord”) of the reading of the Gospel.

“Glory to you, Lord Christ” is the response to the introduction (“The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ accorging to ____”) to the reading of the Gospel.

“And also with you” is the response to the priest’s greeting, “The Lord be with you.”