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Alpha and Omega

(157 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (Α and Ω, or in art mostly Α and ω). ¶ They are a title for God in Rev. 1:8; 21:6 (cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6) and for Christ in Rev. 22:13 (cf. 1:17; 2:8). They symbolize the fact that God, or Christ, embraces all things. Α and Ω found their greatest use during the 3d to the 6th centuries in patristics and Christian art. With few exceptions, they referred to Christ and bore witness to his consubstantiality with the Father in opposition to Arianism. They usually occur with a cross or Chris…


(328 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
In both space and time the serpent has been a widely distributed symbol and even today figures as such in dreams and movies. The serpent is both sinister and dangerous yet also beautiful and mysterious. We find this ambivalence in all religions. The serpent is a symbol (§1) of the world of the dead, …


(179 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
In religion the dove has been viewed as a symbol of the vital spirit or soul and also of virtues and female deities. In Israel it was an animal to be sacrificed (Lev. 12:8). At Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:10 and par.) the dove appeared as an embodiment o…

Hours, Canonical

(972 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. Term The canonical hours are the regular worship service of the church based on the change of hours, especially in the morning and evening, through which the church in the Holy Spirit hears the Word of God and responds in praise and petition. The congregation celebrating the canonical hours picks up the daily rhythm, especially the sunrise and the commencement of night, understands it as symbolizing God’s central salvific deed in the death and resurrection of Christ. As the voice of all creation, the church offers to God expressis verbis the veneration and worship due him (Prayer).…


(244 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
“Litany” (Gk. litaneia, “entreaty”), a term for petitionary prayer, denotes a whole literary genus in the history of religion in which one or more petitions or invocations of persons or gods are presented by one or several people, and the other participants answer with a set refrain (e.g., Psalm 136). The Kyrie of the Mass is the relic of a litany. The All Saints Litany is another form of the genus, which M. Luther (1483–1546) used as the basis of his Latin Litany (1529). In the Roman Catholic liturgy litanies are sung on certain occasions. Angl…


(224 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
Tonsure (Lat. tondeo, “shave, shear”) is the cutting of the hair as a sign of penitence, grief, or subjection. It occurs both before Christianity and outside it. Monks (Monasticism) are characterized by tonsure, as were secular priests (§3) and other clergy. The ceremony of tonsure became pa…


(159 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The word “amen” (Gk. amēn, from Heb. ’ āmēn) means “so it is.” Except in sayings of Jesus, “amen” is a response to something that has just been said. Expressing his supreme authority, Jesus introduces his teachings with “(very) truly [ amēn ( amēn)] I tell you.…” In Rev. 3:14 “Amen” is a self-designation of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). In both Judaism and Christianity “amen” is one of the most important words in the congregation’s participation in worship. The eucharistic prayer ends with “Amen,” and the believer responds with “Amen” after receiving…


(156 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The word “eulogia” (Gk. eulogia, “a blessing”) is used for the Heb. bĕrākâ, signifying both divine blessing and human praise. In the OT only God and people are blessed, never things, but in the NT things can also be the objects of eulogia. Closely related ¶ Greek terms are eulogeō (“praise, bless”) and eucharisteō (“thank”). In a significant reinterpretation, “eulogia” shifted from the praising of God for things to a blessing of the things themselves, especially bread and light. From the third century, eulogia came to be used for the bread distributed at a common me…


(787 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. History and Development Sunday is the day of the resurrection of Jesus and his manifestation as the living Lord to his disciples (Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20). This basic message is the inalienable foundation of the Christian recognition of this day. It is the day of the gatherin…

Book of Common Prayer

(857 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The Book of Common Prayer is the most common name of the prayer book used in the Anglican Communion in regular worship (§2). Along with the Bible, it has something of the status of a standard of faith among Anglicans. The Book of Common Prayer is a product of the English Reformation (§2.4) and may be compared with the service books of other Reformation churches. It was first introduced in 1549 under the leadership of Archbishop T. Cranmer (1489–1556) in order to provide the English church with a suitable order of worship. It included morning and evening prayer, the Psalms, a lectionary, the Eucharist, the litany, offices for baptism and confirmatio…

Harvest Festivals

(546 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
The harvest festival is one of the oldest of religious feasts. Because of the different times of harvest we naturally find that there is no single date. In the OT there were two such feasts, Weeks and Tabernacles (Exod. 23:16). In the Roman sphere there were four feasts. The Middle Ages continued these in the context of the ember seasons (Church Year), but only the one in September bore reference to the harvest. Masses of thanksgiving, with blessing of the fruits, were also held, commonly on the last Sunday in September in central Europe. The church orders of the 16th century set aside d…


(164 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
“Acclamation,” from the Lat. acclamo (applaud, cheer, shout), denotes shouts, often intensified by repetition, that express the cheers, praises, thanks, ¶ demands, or devotion of individuals or crowds. Examples occur in the NT ( amēn, allēlouïa, marana tha, hōsanna, and also Kyrios Iēsous). They occur also in…

Psalms, Book of

(4,866 words)

Author(s): Seybold, Klaus | Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. OT 1.1. Terms and Place in Canon The term “Psalms” or “Psalter” is used for the OT collection of 150 songs and prayers. It comes from the Greek OT (Bible Manuscripts and Editions; Bible Versions). The Codex Alexandrinus has psaltērion, which denotes a stringed instrument and is a rendering of Heb. nēbel, “lyre.” What is meant, then, is a book of songs to be sung with a stringed instrument. In the Codex Vaticanus we find the title psalmoi, with the subtitle biblos psalmōn (book of psalms), a term appearing also in the NT (Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33). Psalmos corresponds to the Heb.…


(1,736 words)

Author(s): Heinrich, Klausjürgen | Schnitker, Thaddeus A.
1. Term In contrast to cursing, the concept of blessing denotes a reason for success in life, either immediately or continuously. It promises power that will enhance the good and give mastery over …

Ecumenical Symbols

(407 words)

Author(s): Schnitker, Thaddeus A. | Campbell, Ted A.
The term “ecumenical symbols” is sometimes used to describe Christian confessions of faith that have been affirmed across the boundaries of confessional traditions. Most specifically, the term refers to the use of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene (or Niceno-Constantinopolitan) Creed, and less commonly to the Athanasian Creed (or, from its opening words, the Quicunque Vult), the three creeds affirmed in the Lutheran Book of Concord and the Anglican Articles of Religion. Although these creeds were affirmed in both Roman Catholic and Protestant bodie…


(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…