CONCISE OVERVIEW OF
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
The first churches were basilicas with an Semi-circular or polygonal extension where the high altar is located in a church., after Roman model, or hall churches. Exceptionally in the course of history, also round or polygonal church buildings were built. Since the Middle Ages, and until the middle of the 20th century, most church buildings had a floor plan in the form of a A cross of which the lower part of the vertical beam is significantly longer than the upper part..
Churches with a cross-shaped floor plan consist of a 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. and a The rear part of the church which is reserved for the congregation. The nave extends to the transept., which are in line and are crossed by a 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.. The place where these three parts meet is called the 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]..
In length, the nave is divided into several aisles: the The space between the two central series of pillars of the nave. in the middle and on each side of it one or more side aisles. The number of side aisles is usually the same on each side, so that a church consists of 3 or 5 aisles. Antwerp The main church of a diocese, where the bishop’s seat is. is exceptional as it has 7 aisles.
In a large church, the chancel can be surrounded by an Processional way around the chancel, to which choir chapels and radiating chapels, if any, give way. giving way to several chapels [choir chapels and radiating chapels]. In this case, the choir is sometimes separated from the crossing by a 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.. Above the entrance of most churches there is the organ balcony.
Ancient pilgrimage churches sometimes have a 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., where relics are preserved, and which is usually set up as a
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.
An important component is the 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..
People usually enter the church through an 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.. In the oldest churches a large space in front of the actual church may catch the eye. This is the 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., which was reserved for the unbaptised and/or penitents.
At the very front of the choir there is the main 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.. At the end of the side aisles there may also be side altars. Some churches also have altars at pillars, possibly within an enclosure. In a cathedral, a A church that is not a cathedral but does have a college (i.e., a group) of canons to conduct choir prayers., and a 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. church the choir is flanked by 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.. Sometimes you will also find church master’s pews in the front.
Nowadays, lectors usually just stand behind a 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.. In old churches ambos may be found, from where the lectures were given: left [north] the 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. side, right [south] the 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. side. The same lector’s lectern is nowadays used by the 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. for the Explanation of the Scripture readings during the Mass.. In former times he stood in the pulpit to preach.
In a church you will also find some furniture related to the sacraments: the 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. [not to be confused with a Water that has been consecrated during the Easter vigil and which is used for baptisms and ritual blessings. basin] and the confessionals. The A small cupboard in the choir or in a specially designated chapel in which the consecrated hosts are kept., in which the 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. hosts are kept, is essential for the 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.. After the Second Vatican 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., the The consumption of consecrated bread and wine. Usually this is limited to eating the consecrated host. rails disappeared in most churches. Only those with great artistic value have been preserved.
ECCLESIASTICAL OBJECTS AND DECORATIONS
The most common object in a church is the cross. When the crucified Jesus is depicted on it, this is mostly a Latin cross. Bare crosses are often Greek crosses. Above the entrance of the choir there is usually a 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.; when there is a rood screen, the triumphal cross is on top and is called a rood cross. Since 1741 there have been representations of the fourteen stations of the way of the cross in the nave.
Each altar has an 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.. This is usually covered by an White cloth spread over the altar during but usually also outside mass, as a kind of tablecloth.. The altar can be (partly) hidden behind an 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.. When the altar is against a wall or pillar, there may be a Painted and/or carved back wall of an altar placed against a wall or pillar. Below the retable there is sometimes a predella..
During 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. the 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. reads the prayers of that day from the Book containing the liturgical prayers for the day, which are read by the priest during mass.. For the Bible readings there is the 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..
For the Eucharist the 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. or An altar server of 16 years of age or older. brings the Gilded metal cup, usually on a base, which the priest uses for the wine during the Eucharist. to the altar. On it lies the A white linen cloth with which the priest dries the chalice after Communion. and the Small, gilded metal plate on which the host used by the priest during the Eucharist is placed. with the A portion of bread made of unleavened wheat flour that, according to Roman Catholic belief, becomes the body of Christ during the Eucharist.; it is protected by the 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. and there is sometimes a A coloured cloth [usually in the appropriate liturgical colour] with which the chalice is covered before the actual Eucharist. on it. On the altar, the chalice and the paten are placed on the White linen cloth that is placed on the altar cloth and on which the chalice and the paten are placed during the Eucharist.. Then the cruets are brought. The priest pours wine and a little water from the cruets into the chalice.
During communion the consecrated hosts are administered from a 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.. In it they are also kept within the tabernacle. There they are covered by a White decorated cloth used to cover the ciborium when it contains consecrated hosts in the tabernacle.. To carry consecrated hosts outside the church to, for example, take communion to the sick, a Gilded box with lid in which hosts are carried outside the church to give communion to the sick. is used.
To show that there are consecrated hosts in the tabernacle, the 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. is burning. This is somewhere near the tabernacle.
When the consecrated host is displayed for worship, it is placed in a 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..
On solemn occasions, special honour is paid to people and objects with the 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.)..
Geographically, the entire inhabited world is divided into church provinces, which consist of dioceses, from which the local Church is governed. The most important diocese within a church province is the 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.. At the head of a diocese is a bishop. He is assisted by several vicars. A diocese consists of several deaneries, each led by a Priest – usually a parish priest himself – who coordinates the work of several neighbouring parishes [a deanery].. Each deanery consists of several parishes with a pastor, who bears the ultimate responsibility for his parish. All these persons are priests. In addition, non-priests can also be appointed for parish work: deacons and pastoral workers.
During a ceremony, a priest can be assisted by one or more altar servers, acolytes and lectors. For the material care in a church, the The person entrusted with the daily care of the church building and the preparation of liturgical objects for worship. is very important. The church wardens take care of the financial management of the church patrimony.
There are two types of priests: (Adj.) This is said of a priest who is not part of a religious order and therefore falls under the episcopal authority. and (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. ones. Regular priests are part of a certain monastic order and therefore fall under the authority of their superior. Secular priests are not monastics and therefore fall under the authority of a Priest in charge of a diocese. See also ‘archbishop’..
In men’s monasteries and abbeys there are usually two kinds of clergy: those who are priests – fathers – and those who are not – brothers or brethren. Members of a monastic order that devotes itself mainly to spiritual life are called monks. Members of a women’s convent are sisters. If they do not leave the monastery site according to their rule, they are nuns.
Beguines distinguished themselves from sisters because, like their male counterparts the beghards, they took only temporary vows and no vow of poverty. Even less bound were the spiritual daughters.
People who live spiritual lives in total seclusion are called hermits.
To a cathedral and other important churches, a 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’. of canons is connected, who take responsibility for the choral prayer.
The highest position, after that of pope, in the Church is that of 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..
Since the Second Vatican Council, in everyday situations most religious people wear clothes that do not stand out from those of other people. Some religious people want to be visible as such: men wear a Upright white collar, worn by a priest as a part of a (usually black) shirt under a (mostly) black suit., and women wear a cap. More traditional priests wear a soutane or 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. [possibly with a cincture] and on the head sometimes a 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..
Monks and nuns wear a General name for the typical clothing of a particular religious order.
A long-sleeved, unbuttoned robe down to the feet, usually with a hood attached. This attire is typical of monks and nuns.
. Most religious orders have specific dress codes. Their members are therefore recognizable by their vestment. Franciscans wear a brown habit and around the waist a rope having three knots. Norbertines are also called White Canons because they wear a white soutane. Dominicans traditionally wore a white habit with a black cloak and Trappists a white habit with a black 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, … on top.
In religious ceremonies, priests, deacons, altar servers and acolytes wear an alb. During mass, priests wear a 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. arranged over both shoulder and with the two ends in front equally long, with a 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. around the waist. A Sleeveless coloured garment worn by the priest above the alb and the stole during mass. is worn over this. Chasuble and stole have the 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.
When deacons wear a stole, they do so on the left shoulder diagonally across the chest. At religious ceremonies they can also wear a A vestment like a chasuble but differing in that it has sleeves. A dalmatic is a typical garment worn by deacons during liturgical ceremonies. in the proper liturgical colour.
Altar servers and acolytes sometimes wear a white A long-sleeved, half-length white robe worn over a cassock. Rochet is a synonym. above a black or red cassock.
Like other priests, bishops can wear a biretta. However, the most eye-catching bishop’s headgear is the The ceremonial headgear of bishops and abbots. The front and back are identical pentagons pointing upwards.. He only wears it in ceremonies. Under the mitre he wears a 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]. or soledio, which he takes off ‘only for God’, during the Eucharistic prayer.
For a pope, in addition to the mitre and the zucchetto, there are two specific headgears, which have fallen somewhat into disuse. The state crown, the 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., was last worn in 1964. The A red velvet cap trimmed with white fur, worn by popes. also fell into disuse and was worn one more time by Pope Benedict XVI: in the winter of 2005. It was bitterly cold on St. Peter’s Square.
In the same way as the academic year does not start January 1st (but in Belgium September 1st) the liturgical year has its own starting point, which is not always the same date. For the Church the year starts the fourth Sunday before The feast commemorating the birth of Jesus. It is always celebrated on December 25th., i.e. the first Sunday of Preparation period for Christmas. This period begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas., the preparatory period for Christmas. The result is that the earliest day for the liturgical year to start is November 27th and the latest one December 2nd.
In Christmastime there are also two important after-feasts: 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. on January 6th and Candlemass on February 2nd, which is also the end of Christmastide.
The most important Christian feast is 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.. The preparatory period for Easter is called Lent, which starts on 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 “. and lasts six weeks. On Sunday before Easter 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. is celebrated. The last week of 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. is called the 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., with Maunday Thursday and 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., on which successively the Last Supper and the passion and death of Jesus are commemorated. Then there is 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. with Easter Vigil, which ends with the first mass of Easter Day.
Forty days after Easter the 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. is celebrated and ten days later is 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..
Next to these there are various other ecclesiastical feasts, of which the most popular ones are the Assumption of Our Lady (August 15th), All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and Feast-day on which the Church commemorates all the dead. It is celebrated on November 2nd. (November 2nd).