More Liturgical Terms

The (DIVINE) OFFICE or LITURGY OF THE HOURS is the official daily public prayer of the Church consisting mainly of psalms, canticles, prayers of intercession and hymns. Since Vatican II it has been simplified to morning and evening prayer (the two “hinges” of the Liturgy of the Hours) and a brief daytime and night prayer. There is also an Office of Readings that may be prayed at any time of day which includes readings from scripture, the patristics and the saints. The liturgical book containing the hymns, psalms, prayers, etc for the Office is called a BREVIARY.
ORDO (from the Latin meaning “order”) usually refers to a detailed liturgical calendar. It shows which liturgical celebration falls on each day of the year and what texts are to be used for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.
A PALL is a white cloth covering placed on the coffin at the funeral liturgy to remind us of the person’s white baptismal robe and to signify our life in Christ.
The PREFACE is the introductory part of the Eucharistic Prayer consisting of an opening dialogue, praise for God’s work and concluding with the “Holy, Holy”. Although it varies according to the season or celebration, it is an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer. There are more than ninety Prefaces in the current Sacramentary.
The PSALTER is a book containing the biblical psalms for use in worship.
A PYX is a small container used for carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the sick. The term is also used for the vessel in which the large host for exposition is kept in the tabernacle.
R.C.I.A. is an acronym for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The RCIA, sometimes called the “catechumenate”, is the process by which adults are brought into membership of the Catholic Christian community. The rites include not only the sacrament of initiation (baptism, confirmation and eucharist) but also other celebrations such as the Rite of becoming a Catechumen and the Rite of Election which mark important stages along the journey of faith.
RITUAL MASSES are those Mass texts that are used in celebrating the rites of the sacraments when they take place during Mass, such as confirmation and marriage.
SOLEMNITY, FEAST, MEMORIAL refer – in descending order – to the rank or importance of celebrations in the liturgical calendar. Memorials may be obligatory or optional.
A THURIBLE or CENSER is a metal vessel for burning incense. It is usually suspended on a chain so it can be carried during the procession and swung during the incensation.
The Easter TRIDUUM (Latin for “three days”) refers to the annual three-day celebration of the Easter mystery. This high point of the Church’s year begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and concludes on Easter Sunday evening. The Triduum is best understood as one three-day long liturgy.
VIATICUM (Latin for “provision for a journey”) is the term for Holy Communion given to those who are dying to strengthen them for their journey to eternity.
A VOTIVE MASS is a Mass whose proper (variable) parts are not based on the calendar for the liturgical year but on a special occasion, devotion or object. There are fifteen Votive Masses in the Sacramentary including Masses for the Trinity, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart and for Mary. They are described as “options provided in favour of the faithful’s devotion”.


Elizabeth Harrington