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Kiss of Peace

(358 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
Paul’s instruction to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; see also 1 Pet. 5:14) may have been based on a practice in Greco-Roman clubs, in which new members were received with a kiss. A kiss of greeting concluded Christian initiation and served as the welcome to the Eucharist in Justin Martyr’s (d. ca. 165) 1 Apol.  65 and the Apostolic Tradition, attributed to Hippolytus (d. ca. 236). The kiss of peace came to conclude the synaxis, or liturgy of the Word (Worship). Then, in the light of Jesus’ command to be reconciled wi…

Laying on of Hands

(781 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
The gesture of laying hands on or over a person or an object conveys varied significance as an act of blessing, confirming, consecrating, commissioning, ordaining, setting apart for special use, absolving, healing, and other related uses. The act is understood to convey the transmission of authority, special grace, or spiritual power from someone recognized as specially authorized or charismatically endowed. In the OT, laying on of hands is used to transmit a vital force (Gen. 48:14–20), to identify the offerer (Leviticus 1–8) or the transfer of sin (Lev. 16:21) in the sacrificial …

Liturgical Vessels

(1,660 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
Liturgical vessels are containers used to hold materials that are essential to liturgical celebrations, such as scrolls and books (Liturgical Books), bread and wine, water and oil, candles and incense. These vessels often acquire an ornate design that reflects the sanctity lent to them by their sacred contents. Some vessels, like the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel, acquire a holiness of their own (Sacred and Profane). 1. Vessels of the Word The ark of the synagogue is a recess or closet in which are kept the scrolls of the Torah used in public worship. This was ori…

Sign of the Cross

(656 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
The sign of the cross may be used to trace the shape of the cross on oneself or over an assembly or over things that are being set aside for sacramental use. 1. The earliest form of crossing oneself was to trace a cross on one’s forehead with one thumb. Later, during the Arian controversy (Arianism), the sign of the cross was made during Trinitarian invocations or benedictions. It is typically made by drawing the right hand from forehead to breast, then from shoulder to shoulder, and back to the center of the breast. In the Ea…


(1,089 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
1. Term and Form 1.1. Term “Requiem” is the Roman Catholic Mass for the dead. The name derives from the introit for the Mass, “Requiem aeternum dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis” (Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them; cf. 2 Esdr. 2:34–35). The Requiem Mass may be used as a funeral service before burial or as a memorial service after burial. 1.2. Origin The origin of the Requiem Mass can be traced to the early Christian practice of celebrating the Eucharist on the mensa (Lat. “table”) over the grave of the deceased on the third day after bu…


(362 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
Incense (from the Latin for “burning”) is made of woods and resins that, when burned or heated, give off a fragrant odor. Frankincense, a pure incense (also called olibanum), was given as a gift to the Christ child by the Magi (Matt. 2:11). Incense is burned in a bowl or a thurible. It is stored in a vessel called an incense boat, from which it is spooned into the thurible. Incense is widely used in world religions. In the OT it symbolized the presence of Yahweh in the temple (Isa. 6:4); it was a pleasing offering; it had a purificatory significance, not only hygienically (Cultic Pur…


(838 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
1. The birthdays of rulers were celebrated in the Roman Empire, even after their deaths. Christians ¶ naturally felt inclined to honor the birth of their Kyrios (Christological Titles). In the East the commemoration of Christ’s nativity was January 6, the beginning of the solar year. This Feast of Epiphany celebrated especially Jesus’ baptism. When Epiphany spread to the West, it celebrated the visit of the Magi to the Christ child (Matthew 2). About 330 the Roman church assigned December 25 as the birth of Christ. By the turn of the fifth century, the Roman practic…

Holy Week

(2,028 words)

Author(s): Senn, Frank C.
1. Origins of Holy Week Did.  7.4 calls for a fast of one or two days before baptism (§2.2). When baptism came to be celebrated at the paschal (Easter) celebration, this tradition applied to the two days before the Pasch (Friday and Saturday). Third-century sources from Alexandria and Syria (the festival letters of Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria and the Syrian Did. apos.  21) indicate that this fast was extended to six days before Easter. References to the commemorations of the events of the last week of Jesus’ life in the third century were greatly expa…


(1,688 words)

Author(s): Holtz, Traugott | Senn, Frank C. | Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. Term The origin of the English word “Easter” is uncertain. In the eighth century the Venerable Bede (ca. 673–735) proposed that it derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Modern English-language dictionaries suggest that it comes ultimately from a Germanic stem meaning “east.” In Romance and other languages, the word for Easter (e.g., Fr. Pâques; Sp. Pascua; Russ. Paskhar) comes from the Heb. pesaḥ through the Gk. pascha. Recent liturgical usage has employed the noun “Pasch” and the adjective “paschal” in speaking of this Christian celebration. 2. Relatio…


(5,173 words)

Author(s): Steck, Wolfgang | Donohue C.R., James | Mehedintu, Viorel | Mbiti, John | Senn, Frank C.
1. General In human life the funeral is the ritual by which a society, clan, or family reconstitutes itself after the death of a member. It is the rite of passage in which a community marks and sometimes actually effects the transition both of a living person to the realm of the dead and of bereaved persons through mourning to reestablished life. The funeral accomplishes the reintegration of the affected group by dramatizing the positive and negative elements in death and in this specific dead per…


(19,016 words)

Author(s): Schmidt-Lauber, Hans-Christoph | Mitchell, Nathan D. | Senn, Frank C. | Galadza, Peter | White, James F. | Et al.
1. NT and Early Church 1.1. Term and Usage The term “worship” (from “worth-ship”) has established itself as a general word for the service that is rendered to God in praise, prayer, proclamation and hearing of the Word, and administration of the sacraments. An older term is “divine service” (cf. the German Gottesdienst, which M. Luther used as a technical term for gatherings for worship), though along with its specific use this term has a broader reference to Christian life and diakonia. A common phrase today for gatherings for worship is “worshi…