Just the facts on religion.

Glossary of Religion


(khalif, "deputy, successor"). A political leader of the Muslim community. The most important of these were the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad.
(Greek kanon, "rule" or "reference point"). A fixed group of writings considered inspired and authoritative. The New Testament canon consists of 37 books. Roman Catholics also consider the books of the Apocrypha to be canonical.
canon law
In Catholicism, the body of law related to the organization, discipline, and belief of the church and enforced by church authority.
Belonging to the accepted body of scriptures. For example, the Gospel of John is canonical but the Gospel of Thomas is not.
Process of determining the New Testament canon and declaring a person to be a saint.
Cappadocian Fathers
Three theologians from the region of Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey: Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-379), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) and Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) - whose development of Trinitarian doctrine remains highly influential in Orthodox Christianity.
Ankle-length garment worn by clergy.
(from Greek katecheo, "instruct"). A class or manual on the basics of Christian doctrine and practice, usually as a precursor to confirmation or baptism. Catechisms normally include lessons on the creeds, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, as well as the Hail Mary in Roman Catholicism.
(Greek katachesis, "instruction"). One who is being instructed in the basics of Christian doctrine, usually in preparation for confirmation or baptism.
(Greek katharoi, "pure ones"). Also Cathars. Heretical sect especially influential in southern France and nothern Italy in the 13 and 14th centuries, and characterized by a dualistic worldview and strict asceticism.
Universal. A term used by the early Christians to designate the universal Christian faith. When the eastern church split from the western in 1054 AD, the West retained this term and became known as Roman Catholic. Churches in the East are known as Greek, Eastern or Russian Orthodox.
"Common Era" or "Christian Era." Designation of years used by Jews and others who wish to avoid the affirmation of faith embedded in AD (Latin anno domini, "in the year of our Lord").
Priest or minister who presides over a service including the Eucharist. Compare with "officiant."
Celestial Master
(Chinese T'ien-shih). Title held by the hereditary leader of Orthodox Unity Taoism.
Celtic cross
Cross with a circle around the intersecting bars, often intricately decorated.
(Japanese, "tea-way"). Tea ceremony in Zen Buddhism, intended to overcome ordinary consciousness and subject-object distinctions.
(Chinese). Ritual of purification.
(Chinese, "enduring"). The permanent and eternal.
Chang Kuo-lao
One of the Eight Immortals. Connected with a historical figure of the T'ang dynasty, his symbol is a fish-drum.
Chang San-feng
Taoist immortal traditionally considered the founder of t'ai-chi ch'uan.
Nine-branch candlestick used on Hanukkah. More commonly, though not accurately, called a menorah.
An ordained member of the clergy who is assigned to a special ministry, such as the armed forces, a university, or a hospital.
Outermost garment worn by bishops and priests in celebrating the Eucharist. In Eastern Orthdoxy, it is often also worn at solemn celebrations of the morning and evening offices and on other occasions. The Lutheran Church retained the chasuble for some time after the Reformation and the Scandinavian Churches still use it.
chevra kaddisha
(Hebrew, "holy society"). In Judaism, volunteers who care for a body and prepare it for burial.
(Chinese, "air, "breath, "strength"). Life energy that flows throughout the human body and the universe.
(Chinese, "semen", "seed"). Vital essence.
Christ Pantocrator
Christ as "Ruler of the Universe," a common image in Orthodox iconography.
(Old English Christes masse, "Christ's mass"). Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25.
Area of theology dealing with the person of Christ. Treats such topics as the relation between Christ's human and divine natures, and the meaning of his sacrificial death (atonement). The vast majority of Christological doctrine was developed in the period leading up to the Council of Nicea in 325.
Chuang-tzu (Zhuangzi)
Taoist text named for its primary author, "Master Chuang" (c. 369-286 BCE). Also known as Nan-hua chenching (“The Pure Classic of Nan-hua”). Composed in the 4th or 3rd century BCE.
Commandments that have no known reason behind them.
Chung-li Ch'uan
One of the Eight Immortals. He is depicted as a stout man with a near-bald head but a long beard. His symbol is a fan, indicating power to raise the dead.
(Hebrew, "canopy"). Also spelled huppah. Canopy under which the Jewish marriage ceremony takes place, representing the marriage chamber or the couple's new home. The term is also used colloquially for the marriage ceremony as a whole.
(Greek kuriakon, "belonging to the Lord"). The worldwide body of Christian believers, a particular denomination or congregation, or the building in which they meet. The study of the nature of the church is called ecclesiology.
Church of God
Large Pentecostal denomination formalized in 1907.
Arrogance, guts, presumption. Generally meant positively.
Class Meeting in Methodism
A meeting of a small part of a Methodist congregation, usually held weekly, in which collections are taken and inquiries are made into the conduct and spiritual progress of the group's members. The class leader is appointed by the minister of the congregation. The institution dates from 1742.
conch shell
Symbol of the fame of the Buddha's teachings.
1. A profession of faith (e.g. by the martyrs) or statement of doctrine (e.g. Augsburg Confession). 2. Admission of sin, either directly to God in prayer, generally to the congregation, or privately to a priest.
One of the seven Catholic sacraments, and a practice in some Protestant churches, in which a baptized young adult (usually aged 13) confirms his or her continuing commitment to the Christian faith. Confirmation is usually preceded by a period of education called catechism.
The teachings of Confucius and the religion associated with Confucius.
conqueror's cross
Greek cross with the first and last letters of "Jesus" and "Christ" on top, and the Greek word for conquerer, nika, on the bottom.
A doctrine of the Eucharist associated especially with Martin Luther, according to which the bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ coexist in the elements. Consubstantiation was formulated in opposition to the medieval Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.
Coptic Catholic Church
The Catholic church in Egypt, which has been in communion with the Roman Catholic Church since 1741.
Coptic Orthodox Church
The principal Christian church in Egypt.
In a religious context, beliefs about the universe and ultimate reality.
Council of Nicea
Council of Christian bishops convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 in modern-day Iznik, Turkey. Condemned Arianism as a heresy and produced the Nicene Creed.
Council of Trent
The 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, which took place over the period 1545-63. A very important council in that it reformed numerous aspects of church practice (e.g., abolished the sale of indulgences) and clarified Catholic doctrine in response to the challenges by Reformers.
Counting of the Omer
(Hebrew Sefirat ha-Omer). The counting of days between Passover and Shavuot.
Creator's star
A six-pointed star representing the six days of creation and six attributes of God the Creator.
A symbol in which two or more lines cross at 90-degree angles.
cross of St. Peter
Inverted Latin cross, representing the martyrdom of St. Peter by upside-down crucifixion.
("cross-bearer"). Acolyte who carries the cross in a church procession before the service. The crucifer is followed by the choir, the acolytes, the lay ministers, and then the clergy in order of rank (highest last).
(Lat. cruciata, "cross-marked") Wars fought against enemies of the Christian faith, primarily the Muslim Turks in the period 1095 to 1291, but later against other infidels and heretics.
cult of the saints
The body of religious beliefs and practices pertaining to the veneration of saints and their relics. Prayers are addressed to the saints in the hope that they will intercede with God on the behalf of believers. Saints are believed to have accumulated a "treasury of merit" which can be used for the benefit of believers.
In Anglicanism, assistant pastor whose duties commonly include visiting the sick and shut-ins.

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