Antwerp, Churches and Tourism
Tourism Pastoral, Diocese of Antwerp (TOPA vzw)

Church terminology


Behind each of the terms in this list is a short definition.
On a number of pages of this website, each term in this list is highlighted.
When you hover the pointer over it, the definition immediately lights up.

The glossary is still in the process of being translated, so some terms are still missing…

The building

  • Aisle -

    Lengthwise the nave [in exceptional cases also the transept] of the church is divided into aisles. An aisle is the space between two series of pillars or between a series of pillars and the outer wall. Each aisle is divided into bays.

  • Aisleless church -

    Rectangular church building without aisles. Most large chapels in Antwerp (such as the so-called Emperor's Chapel and the so-called Shoemakers' Chapel) have the shape of an aisleless church. Also, most of the churches that were built in the second half of the 20th century are aisleless.

  • Ambulatory -

    Processional way around the chancel, to which choir chapels and radiating chapels, if any, give way.

  • Apse -

    Semi-circular or polygonal extension where the high altar is located in a church.

  • Basilica -
    1. A rectangular building consisting of a central nave with a side aisle on each side. On the short side opposite the entrance, there is a round extension, the apse, where the altar is located. The Antwerp Saint Charles Borromeo church is based on this basilica structure.
    2. An honorary title awarded to a church because of its special significance, for example as a place of pilgrimage. There are 29 basilicas in Belgium, the best known of which are the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel and the Basilica of Koekelberg. Worldwide this is Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These churches do not have the architectural form of a basilica.
  • Bay -

    The space between two supports (wall or pillars) in the longitudinal direction of the nave, transept, choir, or aisle.

  • Cathedral - The main church of a diocese, where the bishop's seat is.
  • Central nave -

    The space between the two central series of pillars of the nave.

  • ChancelChancel -

    In a large choir with several parts, the chancel is that part of the choir where the main altar is located.

  • Chapel -
    • A small church that is not a parish church. It may be part of a larger entity such as a hospital, school, or an alms-house, or it may stand alone.
    • An enclosed part of a church with its own altar.
  • Choir - In a church with a cruciform floor plan, the part of the church that lies on the side of the nave opposite to the transept. The main altar is in the choir.
  • Choir chapel -

    A chapel along one of the straight side walls of the choir.

  • Collegiate church -

    A church that is not a cathedral but does have a college (i.e., a group) of canons to conduct choir prayers.

  • Crossing -

    The central point of a church with a cruciform floor plan. The crossing is the intersection between the longitudinal axis [the choir and the nave] and the transverse axis [the transept].

  • Crypt -

    Originally an underground burial chapel in which the relics of the saint to whom the church is dedicated were kept and venerated. The crypt is usually found under the choir. In a pilgrimage church it mostly has two staircases leading to it. This made it easy to organise the influx of pilgrims: they went down one flight of stairs and up the other.

  • Enclosed porch -

    Space which, usually on the inside, has been added against the outside door to prevent a continuous draught in the building when the outside door is open.

  • Monastery -

    Complex of buildings in which members of a religious order live together. They follow the rule of their founder. The oldest monastic orders are the Carthusians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Augustinians [and their female counterparts]. Note: Benedictines, Premonstratensians, and Cistercians [and their female counterparts] live in abbeys; Jesuits in houses.

  • Narthex -

    The entrance hall of an early Christian church which was reserved for those who were not (yet) admitted to the actual church community: penitents and the unbaptised. The latter also explains why the baptismal font was located near the narthex.

  • Nave -

    The rear part of the church which is reserved for the congregation. The nave extends to the transept.

  • Radiating chapel - A chapel on the curved back wall of the choir. In the symbolism of the cruciform floor plan, in which the choir stands for the head of the crucified Jesus, these chapels form, as it were, a halo around this head. This accounts for their name: 'radiating chapels'.
  • Rood screen -

    A (usually decorated) screen that separates the choir or chancel from the transept and the nave. This makes the chancel an enclosed chapel within the church. On the rood screen there is usually a triumphal cross and sometimes an organ. In Antwerp, St. James's still has such a rood screen and a little further away, in Lier, St. Gummarus's church.

  • Sacristy -

    The room where the priest(s), the prayer leader(s) and the altar server(s) and/or acolyte(s) prepare and change clothes for Mass.

  • Transept -

    The transept forms, as it were, the crossbeam of the cruciform floor plan. The transept consists of two semi transepts, each of which protrudes from the nave on the left and right.

Table of content

Church furniture

  • Altar - The altar is the central piece of furniture used in the Eucharist. Originally, an altar used to be a sacrificial table. This fits in with the theological view that Jesus sacrificed himself, through his death on the cross, to redeem mankind, as symbolically depicted in the painting "The Adoration of the Lamb" by the Van Eyck brothers.

    In modern times the altar is often described as "the table of the Lord". Here the altar refers to the table at which Jesus and his disciples were seated at the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper. Just as Jesus and his disciples did then, the priest and the faithful gather around this table with bread and wine.

  • Altar enclosure -

    A wooden or marble construction around an altar that demarcates the space reserved for the priest. In Antwerp, altar enclosures can still be seen in Saint Andrew's Church.

  • Ambo -

    A raised podium in a church between the choir and the nave or transept.

  • Baptismal font -

    The stone or metal vessel containing holy water, used for administering baptism. Often the baptismal font is/was located in a specially designed baptistery, usually close to the entrance of the church.

  • Choir stalls -

    A series of seats, usually in wood, along the long sides of the choir. These seats are reserved for those who pray and sing the choir prayers.

  • Churchwardens' pew -

    Enclosed seat on which the churchwardens sit during mass.

  • Communion rail -

    A low enclosure of the choir or a chapel in the form of a long kneeling pew. Before the Second Vatican Council, it was customary to receive communion kneeling on at this pew.

  • Confessional -

    A piece of furniture that was especially designed to facilitate the sacrament of confession, especially by avoiding that confessor and penitent come face to face. To the left and right are kneeling pews for penitents; in the middle is a small booth where the confessor sits. Both are separated from each other by a partition with a grid, so that the confessor can hear the penitent, but cannot see him / her.

  • PulpitPulpit -

    A piece of church furniture, now mostly in disuse, consisting of a high platform from which the preacher addressed the congregation. Usually, a pulpit is located in the middle on the south side of the church.

  • Tabernacle -

    A small cupboard in the choir or in a specially designated chapel in which the consecrated hosts are kept.

Table of content

Ecclesiastical objects and decorations

  • Altar cloth -

    White cloth spread over the altar during but usually also outside mass, as a kind of tablecloth.

  • Altar cruets -

    Two glass or metal (silver) jugs used during the Eucharist. One contains wine and the other water. During the preparation of the Eucharist all the wine is poured into the chalice and also a little water, a reference to the blood and water that flowed from the side wound of Jesus (Jn 19:34). The priest also uses the water for a symbolic washing of hands before the consecration and after communion and to rinse the chalice. The priest then drinks the water from the chalice and dries it with the purificator.

  • Altar stone -

    A tile in the top of an altar, under which there are relics. An altar stone shows five [usually Greek] crosses, which refer to the five wounds of Jesus.

  • Altarpiece -

    Painted and/or carved back wall of an altar placed against a wall or pillar. Below the retable there is sometimes a predella.

  • Antependium -

    Literally: "something hanging in front". An ornament placed in front of the altar and usually covering it completely. An antependium can be made of various materials: silver (as in Antwerp cathedral), wood but also textiles. In the latter case it is sometimes adapted to the liturgical colours.

  • Censer - A liturgical object consisting of a bowl suspended from three chains. On the bowl is a lid that is also hanging on a chain. In the bowl, grains of incense are placed on glowing coals, so that they begin to smell. By swinging the censer, the fire is stirred up and the incense fragrance can spread further. The censer is used to honour certain people (the priest, the bishop, the faithful, etc.) or certain objects (a cross, the Bible, the Blessed Sacrament, etc.).
  • Chalice -

    Gilded metal cup, usually on a base, which the priest uses for the wine during the Eucharist.

  • Chalice veil -

    A coloured cloth [usually in the appropriate liturgical colour] with which the chalice is covered before the actual Eucharist.

  • Ciborium -

    A covered vessel in the shape of a cup that is used to keep consecrated hosts in the tabernacle and to distribute them at communion.

  • Ciborium veil -

    White decorated cloth used to cover the ciborium when it contains consecrated hosts in the tabernacle.

  • Corporal -

    White linen cloth that is placed on the altar cloth and on which the chalice and the paten are placed during the Eucharist.

  • Font -

    A small basin at the entrance of a church, containing holy water so that the faithful may sprinkle themselves with it when entering the church, while making the sign of the cross, as a symbol of outward and inward cleansing.

  • Greek cross -

    An upright cross with all four arms of equal length.

  • Holy water -

    Water that has been consecrated during the Easter vigil and which is used for baptisms and ritual blessings.

  • Latin cross -

    A cross of which the lower part of the vertical beam is significantly longer than the upper part.

  • Lectern -

    A sloping top on a pedestal or as the upper part of a cabinet or table-shaped piece of furniture, on which one can place a book or from behind which one can speak to people.

  • Lectionary -

    A liturgical book holding the epistles and Gospel readings to be read at Mass according to a fixed schedule. The Gospel reading forms the basis, and the epistles complement and/or parallel it. It concerns a three-year cycle: in the A-year from Matthew’s Gospel, in the B-year from Mark’s Gospel and in the C-year from Luke’s Gospel. Texts from John's Gospel are spread over the three years.

  • Missal - Book containing the liturgical prayers for the day, which are read by the priest during mass.
  • Monstrance -

    A decorated glass holder on a base, in which a consecrated host can be placed for worship. In general, there are two types of monstrances: the ray monstrance and the tower monstrance, with the name referring to the shape of the object. The tower monstrance is very similar to the reliquary, which was very popular before the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament became widespread.

  • Pall -

    A square piece of cardboard covered with white linen that is placed on the chalice and/or paten to prevent dust or any other dirt from contaminating the wine or the host.

  • Paschal candle -

    The large candle, decorated with the cross and the Greek letters alpha and omega and the year, on a separate candlestick in the choir. Every year at Easter, a new Paschal candle is lit. It symbolises Jesus Christ as the Light of the world. The light of the Paschal candle plays an important role in celebrations such as baptisms, funerals, All Saints' Day, and Pentecost.

  • Paten -

    Small, gilded metal plate on which the host used by the priest during the Eucharist is placed.

  • Predella -

    The base of an altarpiece. Like the altarpiece, the predella may be painted or sculpted.

  • Purificator -

    A white linen cloth with which the priest dries the chalice after Communion.

  • Pyx -

    Gilded box with lid in which hosts are carried outside the church to give communion to the sick.

  • Relic -

    A remnant of the body of a saint or a (part of) an object that has been in contact with a saint, Jesus, or Mary. The very first sanctuaries were built on graves of saints. Remnants of these saints were distributed to other churches and chapels. The first altars were usually the sarcophagi of the saints. Hence the custom of placing relics under the altar stone. Relics are also kept in shrines, and sometimes displayed in reliquaries.

  • Reliquary -

    Container for relics. Often this is a philatory: a decorated glass holder on a pedestal, in which a relic can be placed for veneration. It is important to know that relics cannot be worshipped, only venerated.

  • Sanctuary lamp -

    Oil lamp placed near the tabernacle to indicate the presence of consecrated hosts. In the past this was usually a lamp suspended from three chains. Nowadays it can also be a table lamp. Usually, the sanctuary lamp has a red glass to distinguish it from ordinary candles.

  • Shrine -

    A decorated casket in which a relic is preserved.

  • Station -

    One of the fourteen stages of the Way of the Cross:

    1. Jesus is sentenced to death.
    2. Jesus takes up the cross.
    3. Jesus falls the first time.
    4. Jesus meets His mother.
    5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
    6. Veronica wipes Jesus's face.
    7. Jesus falls the second time.
    8. Jesus comforts the mourning women.
    9. Jesus falls the third time.
    10. Jesus is stripped naked.
    11. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
    12. Jesus dies.
    13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
    14. Jesus is laid into a tomb.
  • The Way of the CrossWay of the Cross -

    Fourteen scenes of the Passion of Jesus, as a source of spiritual inspiration. The intention is to stop at each scene [or station] in prayer and reflection.

  • Triumphal Cross -

    Large crucifix hanging in the first arch of the choir or chancel. In churches with a rood screen, the triumphal cross usually stands on this.

Table of content


  • Abbess -

    The woman who has been chosen by the abbey community of which she is a member to lead that community for a fixed period.

  • Abbey -

    A set of buildings used by monks or nuns. Only Cistercians, Benedictines, Norbertines and Trappists have abbeys. An abbey strives to be self-sufficient.

  • Abbot -

    The man who has been chosen by the abbey community of which he is a member to lead that community for a fixed period.

  • Acolyte - An altar server of 16 years of age or older.
  • Altar server -

    Someone - usually a child between the ages of 8 and 16 - who helps the priest during the Eucharist or accompanies him during the administration of the Last Sacraments.

  • Apostle -

    This is the name given to the principal twelve disciples of Jesus, who were sent by Him to preach the gospel. By extension, the term is also used for other preachers, such as the Apostle Paul and Father Damien ("The Apostle of the Lepers").

  • Archbishop -

    The bishop in charge of the archdiocese. In actual practice, this also means that he is the head of the church province.

  • Archdiocese -

    The most important diocese within a church province. In the Belgian Church Province, this is the Diocese of Mechelen-Brussels. An archbishop governs an archdiocese.

  • Beghard -

    Male counterpart of beguine. Just like beguines, they were unmarried, and beghards only took two (temporary) vows: obedience and purity. Beghards lived together in a house in town and devoted themselves to education and caring for the poor. Many beghards were also weavers. In Antwerp, Beggaardenstraat reminds of their presence.

  • Beguinage -

    Walled area, originally on the outskirts of a city, with a church and houses that served as residences for beguines.

  • Beguine -

    Member of a community of unmarried women who led a religious life and lived in a beguinage. Beguines took only two (temporary) vows: obedience (to the Grand Mistress of the beguinage) and purity. As they did not take a vow of poverty, they were allowed to own property. They also had to be self-supporting.

  • Bishop -

    Priest in charge of a diocese. See also 'archbishop'.

  • Blessed -

    Used of a person who has been beatified. Beatification precedes canonisation and means likewise that the Church recognises that this deceased person has lived a particularly righteous and faithful life. Like a saint, he/she may be venerated (not worshipped). Some beatified people are never canonised, usually because they have only a local significance.

  • Brother -

    A male religious who is not a priest.

  • Canon -

    Someone who, together with other canons, is attached to a cathedral or collegiate church and whose main task is to ensure choral prayer.

  • Cardinal -

    In the Roman Catholic Church, a cardinal is a member of the pope's council and thus he has an important advisory role. Up to the age of eighty, the cardinals also elect the new pope. Most cardinals are also bishops, but this is not a requirement.

  • Chapter - All the canons attached to a cathedral or other important church, which is then called a collegiate church. In religious orders, this is also the meeting of the religious, in a chapter house, with participants having ‘a voice in the chapter'.
  • Churchwarden - A lay person who is a member of the fabric committee. In this position, he/she is co-responsible for the material and financial management of the building and all the church's property.
  • Cistercians -

    Members of a religious order founded by Robert of Molesme in the Burgundian village of Citeaux in 1168 to adhere more strictly to the monastic rule of Benedict. In the 17th century, an even stricter observance of the Benedictine monastic rule developed within the Cistercians at the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe. Cistercians who follow this rule are commonly called Trappists. Pieter Pot’s Abbey in Antwerp and Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Hemiksem were Cistercian abbeys.

  • Deacon -

    In the early Christian Church, the deacon was a man or woman ordained to practise Christian mercy (care of the poor, the sick, prisoners, strangers). In the course of history, the ordination of deacon became an ordination that preceded priesthood. Since the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965], the ministry of deacon has revived. Now the 'permanent deacon' is a man, married or not, who in addition to the permanent care of the weak, also has a role in preaching and proclamation. He may also administer two sacraments: baptism and anointing of the sick.

  • Dean -

    Priest - usually a parish priest himself - who coordinates the work of several neighbouring parishes [a deanery].

  • Diocese -

    Administrative area headed by a bishop. In Belgium, there are eight dioceses: Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen-Brussels, Hasselt, Tournai, Liège and Namur.

  • Fabric committee -

    An official institution that manages the material resources needed for worship in a parish. In concrete terms, this means that it handles the (re)construction and maintenance of the church building, the purchase of liturgical vestments and objects, the payment of the organist's wages and possibly the staff’s, ... The fabric committee has revenues from particular intentions, special celebrations (especially weddings and funerals), a part of the collection and possibly from renting or leasing property.

  • Father -

    Priest who is a member of a religious order.

  • Hermit -

    A person who lives alone and isolated from the world in order to live a sober and pious life. The home of a hermit is called "hermitage".

  • Lecturer -

    Man or woman who, during a church ceremony, performs the reading(s) of the Bible, except for the Gospel reading, and who may also read other texts and prayers (penitential, prayer of the faithful, reflective text, etc.).

  • Martyr -

    Someone who refused to renounce his/her faith and was therefore killed. Many martyrs are also saints.

  • Monk -

    A male member of a monastic order who concentrates on a life of balance between prayer and work in the seclusion of a monastery or abbey.

  • Norbertine -

    A member of a religious order founded by Saint Norbert in Prémontré (Northern France) in 1220. Hence the official name for Norbertine is regular canon of the Order of Prémontré. In Antwerp, St Michael's Abbey was a Norbertine (or Premonstratensian) abbey.

  • Nun -

    Female member of a religious order

  • Parish priest -

    A priest in charge of a parish.

  • Pastoral worker -

    Man or woman - married or single - who is appointed as a non-priest to fulfil pastoral tasks. This can be within a parish (liturgy, visiting the sick, bereavement counselling, ...) but also in hospitals, prisons, ... He/she cannot administer sacraments but can conduct prayer services and funerals.

  • Preacher -

    A priest, deacon or lay person who explains the Bible readings during the celebration of Mass. Sometimes a preacher also acts outside of Mass celebrations (and in the past he did so regularly) to clarify certain points of faith and to encourage the churchgoers to a more Christian way of life.

  • Priest -

    In the Roman Catholic Church, the priest is an unmarried man ordained as a priest by the bishop, which gives him the right to administer the six other sacraments: baptism, confirmation, confession, Eucharist, marriage, and the anointing of the sick.

  • Regular - (Adj.) This is said of a priest who is a member of a religious order and therefore submits to the rule of this order and owes obedience to the superior of his (monastic) community.
  • Religious order -

    Organisation of unmarried women or men who want to live in community to devote themselves to religious life. They follow the rule of their founder: e.g., Augustine, Benedict, Norbert, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, ... When joining the Order, members take three vows: obedience (to the superior), poverty (no personal possessions) and purity (no physical relationship).

  • Sacristan -

    The person entrusted with the daily care of the church building and the preparation of liturgical objects for worship.

  • Saint -

    This is a title that the Church bestows on a deceased person who has lived a particularly righteous and faithful life. In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, saints may be venerated (not worshipped). Several saints are also martyrs.

  • Secular -

    (Adj.) This is said of a priest who is not part of a religious order and therefore falls under the episcopal authority.

  • Spiritual daughter -

    An unmarried woman who only took the (temporary) vow of purity and placed herself under the spiritual guidance of a priest, usually a Jesuit, to lead a thoroughly spiritual life. They lived in their own houses in the city, sometimes together with relatives. In our regions, this was the Jesuits' response to the fact that they had no female order. In Protestant areas, where monasteries had been abolished, this was a way out for women who aspired to a monastic life.

  • Vicar -

    According to Canon Law, a vicar is a substitute of a minister. In a diocese, several vicars assist a bishop: priests who look after a certain policy area within the diocese (parishes, liturgy, etc.).

Table of content

Religious vestments

  • Alb -

    A long white robe with long sleeves, worn during religious ceremonies by priests, deacons, pastoral workers, altar servers and acolytes.

  • Biretta -

    Square cap traditionally worn by priests together with the cassock. It is usually black and has three peaks or horns that meet in the middle mostly under a tuft. A Jesuit biretta has four peaks.

  • Camauro -

    A red velvet cap trimmed with white fur, worn by popes.

  • Cassock -

    A long, usually black, garment that reaches down to the feet and is closed at the front from bottom to top with small buttons. Synonym: soutane.

  • Chasuble -

    Sleeveless coloured garment worn by the priest above the alb and the stole during mass.

  • Cincture -

    A usually white cord that a person wearing an alb ties around the waist. A cincture is also the wide sash that a priest sometimes wears around his waist on his cassock.

  • Clerical collar -

    Upright white collar, worn by a priest as a part of a (usually black) shirt under a (mostly) black suit.

  • Dalmatic -

    A vestment like a chasuble but differing in that it has sleeves. A dalmatic is a typical garment worn by deacons during liturgical ceremonies.

  • Habit -
    1. General name for the typical clothing of a particular religious order.
    2. A long-sleeved, unbuttoned robe down to the feet, usually with a hood attached. This attire is typical of monks and nuns.
  • Mitre -

    The ceremonial headgear of bishops and abbots. The front and back are identical pentagons pointing upwards.

  • Scapular -

    A shoulder garment consisting of a piece of cloth the width of the shoulders, with an opening for the head and covering the entire front and back of a  habit. It is worn by various religious orders, including Trappists, Carmelites, Alexians, ...

  • Stole -

    A long strip of cloth worn around the neck by the priest, the two ends of which are of equal length at the front. The stole is worn during mass and the administration of the other sacraments.

  • Surplice - A long-sleeved, half-length white robe worn over a cassock. Rochet is a synonym.
  • Tiara -

    A triple crown: a headgear consisting of three crowns placed one above the other. It was worn by popes at official, non-liturgical ceremonies from the beginning of the 14th century until 1964, when Pope Paul VI renounced his tiara in order to sell it in favour of development aid.

  • Veil -

    Headgear worn by female religious. Until the Second Vatican Council, all nuns wore wimples, which covered the entire hair and neck. Nowadays, the veil is usually worn on the hair.

  • Zucchetto -

    A small silk headgear in the shape of a bowler cap, which is very similar to a Jewish kippa. It is worn by bishops [purple], cardinals [red] and the pope [white].

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Christian faith

  • Acts of the Apostles -

    A book from the New Testament that the evangelist Luke wrote as a sequel to his Gospel. In it he describes the early period of the young Church after the death of Jesus with Peter and Paul as the central figures.

  • Council -

    A large meeting of ecclesiastical office holders, mainly bishops, presided by the pope, to make decisions concerning faith, church customs, etc. A council is usually named after the place where it was held. Examples: the Council of Trent [1645-1653] and the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965], which is also the last council for the time being.

  • Gospel -

    One of the four books of the Bible that focus on Jesus's actions and sayings, his death and resurrection. The four evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. ‘Gospel’ is the Old English translation of the Greek evangeleon, which literally means 'Good News'. This term refers to the core message of these books.

  • Holy Spirit -

    The active power of God in people. It inspires people to make God present in the world. Jesus was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' and thus showed in his speech and actions what God is like. People who allow the Holy Spirit to work in them also speak and act like God and Jesus at those moments. See also 'Pentecost'.

  • Holy Trinity -

    The concept that there is one God who shows himself in threefold form: Father, Son (Jesus of Nazareth) and the Holy Spirit.

  • New Testament -

    Part of the Bible with texts from after the birth of Jesus. This volume holds 4 gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, 14 letters of Paul, 7 apostolic letters and the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse).

  • Old Testament -

    Part of the Bible with texts from before the birth of Jesus.

  • Resurrection -

    This is the core of the Christian faith, namely that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day after his death on the cross and lives on. This is celebrated at Easter.

  • Saint Paul -

    Originally, he was called Saul, he was a Jew with Roman citizenship and a persecutor of Christians in the period shortly after the death of Jesus. After his conversion, he became the main gospel spreader in what is now Turkey and Greece. He wrote letters to keep in touch with the Christian communities he had founded, and these texts are the oldest ones in the New Testament. Although he never met Jesus, he is called an "apostle".

  • Saint Peter -

    He was one of the twelve apostles. He was a fisherman who, together with his brother Andrew, was called by Jesus to follow Him. He is the disciple most often mentioned In the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. His original name was Simon. He got his nickname Peter (i.e. rock) from Jesus, who, according to tradition, said that He would build His Church on this rock.

  • Transubstantiation -

    The conviction that during the Eucharist bread and wine really do change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, without changing their outer characteristics (bread and wine). As a result, the consecrated host can be venerated as the Blessed Sacrament. The doctrine of transubstantiation has caused much controversy in church history and led to various separation movements (such as Protestantism).

Table of content

Liturgical year

  • Advent -

    Preparation period for Christmas. This period begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

  • All Saints -

    Feast-day on which the Church commemorates all the saints who do not have a feast-day of their own. It is celebrated on November 1st.

  • All Souls’ Day -

    Feast-day on which the Church commemorates all the dead. It is celebrated on November 2nd.

  • Ascension of Jesus -

    The Acts of the Apostles tells how, forty days after Easter, Jesus ascended to heaven before his disciples’ eyes and disappeared from their sight. Immediately an angel comes to tell them that they have a duty on earth. This feast is always on a Thursday, forty days after Easter.

  • Ash Wednesday -

    Wednesday of the 7th week before Easter. On this day Lent begins. It is a day of penance and repentance, which is symbolised by the ash cross: a cross is drawn or stamped on the forehead with ashes, while these words are being said: "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return ".

  • Assumption of Mary -

    This feast - on August 15 - plays an important role in the veneration of Mary as the Mother of God. As the most important saint, it is obvious to Christians that upon her death she was immediately received into the heavenly paradise. In the Eastern Churches, this is called the feast of "the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God", i.e. her death, which immediately means a heavenly rebirth. In Antwerp they also celebrate Mother's Day on that day. Some people also call this the Ascension of Mary, which is wrong. Unlike Jesus, who as God Himself could return to the place where He is at home, Mary could only be taken up to heaven through God the Father and Jesus.

  • Candlemas -

    On February 2nd – i.e. on the fortieth day starting with Christmas – it is commemorated that Joseph and Mary, Jesus’s parents – dedicated their first born son to God in the Temple of Jerusalem – the so-called Presentation. This also went with a purification rite for the mother (Mary). Traditionally candles are consecrated and burned on that day – hence the name. This feast closes the Christmas tide.

  • Christmas -

    The feast commemorating the birth of Jesus. It is always celebrated on December 25th.

  • Easter -

    The feast that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus on the 3rd day after his death on the cross. This means that Jesus lives on despite his death. This feast is celebrated on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon of spring.

  • Easter Vigil -

    The nightly liturgical service on Easter eve. Easter Vigil is the most important religious ceremony. It is the feast of light, the feast of water and the feast of joy for Jesus’s resurrection. During this ceremony the new Easter Candle is blessed.

  • Good Friday -

    The Friday before Easter when the death of Jesus on the cross is commemorated. Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross are used as a source of meditation on this day.

  • Holy Week -

    The week before Easter, which begins with Palm Sunday. In that week there is also Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It ends with Holy Saturday.

  • Lent -

    This is the period of preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Saturday before Easter. Without the six Sundays of Lent, there are 40 days in which Christians are expected to live more austerely. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week.

  • Maundy Thursday -

    The Thursday before Easter. On this day, the Last Supper of Jesus is commemorated, upon which He instituted the Eucharist. During solemn celebrations on Maundy Thursday, the washing of feet (or pedilavium) is also commemorated. Just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples on that last Thursday, as a sign of supreme readiness to serve, the priest washes the feet of some of those present.

  • Palm Sunday -

    The Sunday before Easter. On this day, the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is commemorated. During the liturgical celebrations of Palm Sunday, the Passion of Jesus is read in its entirety.

  • Pentecost -

    The feast, 50 days after Easter, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit. This refers to the story from the Acts of the Apostles in which, after the death of Jesus, the disciples experience how the Holy Spirit shows itself in the form of flaming tongues. As a result, they come out of their seclusion and begin to preach in the languages of their hearers. In fact, this is how the beginning of the Church is celebrated.

  • Silent Saturday -

    The Saturday before Easter. This is a day of vigil and prayer, so that in the evening during the Easter Vigil the resurrection of Jesus can be celebrated. This Saturday is called 'silent' because on that day the church bells do not chime. Only during the Easter Vigil are they tolled again. Synonym Holy Saturday.

  • Three Kings’ Day -

    On January 6th the gospel story is commemorated which tells how magi from the East came to honour Jesus as the Son of God. This feast is also called Epiphany (from the Greek word referring to the manifestation of a deity), because the magi acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God who has become man.

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Catholic liturgy

  • Anointing of the sick -

    The sacrament administered to the sick to give them strength to bear their illness. The priest anoints the forehead and hands of the person receiving the sacrament. In cases of peril of death, this is part of the Last Sacraments.

  • Baptism -

    Through this sacrament, a person becomes a member of the Church community of faith. The core of the event is a ritual washing, which is usually limited to sprinkling the head with water. Traditionally baptism is administered by a priest, but nowadays it is often also done by a deacon.

  • Blessed Sacrament -

    The consecrated host, in which the presence of Jesus Christ is acknowledged. A synonym is 'the Venerable'. In larger churches a chapel is dedicated to it, usually on the south side of the church.

  • Communion -

    The consumption of consecrated bread and wine. Usually this is limited to eating the consecrated host.

  • Confession -

    The sacrament of reconciliation. The believer [or penitent] confesses his / her shortcomings to a priest [the confessor] and expresses his / her regret. On behalf of God the priest grants forgiveness [absolution] and imposes a form of penance. This may include several prayers, an order to reconcile with the other party or, in the past, sometimes a pilgrimage.

  • Confirmation -

    This is the sacrament in which baptism is confirmed. Hereby the confirmand expresses that he wants to live in the spirit of Christian faith. This is confirmed by the minister by anointing the confirmand. Confirmation is administered by a bishop or by a priest acting on his behalf.

  • Consecration -

    In the Roman Catholic Church, the moment when, during the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, the so-called transubstantiation, by the pronouncement of the sacramental words.

  • Epistle -

    In Mass, the Bible reading(s) preceding the gospel reading. According to the lectionary, there are always three readings on Sundays: one from the Old Testament, one from the non-gospel texts of the New Testament and one from a gospel. The first two readings are often called the epistle but strictly this word refers only to the letters of St Paul and other apostles.

  • Eucharist -

    This is the ritual that is the kernel of Mass, recalling what Jesus did the day before he died on the cross. On the evening of that day, Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his disciples. After the meal, he took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat. This is my body." Then he took the cup of wine, gave it to his disciples and said, "Drink from this. This is my blood." Then Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me." During the Eucharist, the priest repeats these words while breaking bread [in the form of a host] and holding up the chalice with wine. Through the connection between the broken bread and the "broken" Jesus on the cross, Jesus becomes tangibly present. At the same time, this event reminds us of the mission of every Christian: to be "broken bread" from which others can live.

  • Homily -

    Explanation of the Scripture readings during the Mass.

  • Host - A portion of bread made of unleavened wheat flour that, according to Roman Catholic belief, becomes the body of Christ during the Eucharist.
  • Last Sacraments -

    These sacraments are administered to someone who is in danger of dying through old age or illness. In this order, they are last confession, anointing of the sick and last communion.

  • Liturgical colours -

    The colour of the chasuble, the dalmatic, and the stole, among others, varies according to the time of year. The main liturgical colours are:

    • green: this is the standard colour
    • purple: in times of penance and expectation, i.e. Advent and Lent
    • white: on the high feasts such as Christmas and Easter
    • red: on the feasts of the Holy Spirit [such as Pentecost and confirmation] and on special feasts of martyrs.
  • Liturgy of the Hours -

    The daily official public prayer in the Roman Catholic Church. On five [before the Second Vatican Council eight] moments spread over the day [and night], in abbeys, monasteries and chapter churches people come together to pray and chant these prayers.

  • Mass -

    The liturgical celebration in which the Eucharist is central. It consists of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The main parts of the Liturgy of the Word are the prayers for mercy, the Bible readings, and the homily. The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the offertory, whereby bread and wine are placed on the altar. This is followed by the Eucharistic Prayer, during which the praise of God is sung, and the consecration takes place. Fixed elements are also the praying of the Our Father and a wish for peace, and so one can symbolically sit down at the table with Jesus during Communion. Mass ends with a mission (the Latin missa, from which 'Mass' has been derived): the instruction to go out into the world in the same spirit.

  • Sacrament -

    In Christianity, this is a sacred act in which God comes to man. Sacraments mark important moments in human life. In the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments: baptism, confession, Eucharist, confirmation, anointing of the sick, marriage and ordination.

Table of content