Glossary of Christian & Religious Terms
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Hebrew qab, "hollow vessel" -- ancient Hebrew dry measure equal to about two quarts (2 Kings 6:25).

Cabala (Cabbala)

Hebrew qabbalah, "received lore" or tradition -- esoteric philosophy of certain Jewish rabbis, particularly during the Middle Ages, based on a mystical interpretation of the Scriptures. Cabalism is an occult doctrine based on the cabala.

Cacodemon (Cacodaemon)

Greek kakodaimon, evil + demon -- an evil spirit or devil.


Arabic qadi -- Minor Muslim magistrate.


From the Latin calefactorius, producing heat -- a heated common room in a monastery (Medieval Latin calefactorium).


Persian qalandar, member of an order of wandering dervishes among the Sufis.

Caliph (Calif)

Arabic khalifa, "successor" -- a supreme Islamic ruler, the title taken by Muhammed's successors as both secular and religious heads of Islam. Caliphate is the region ruled by a caliph, or a general term for the rank or reign of a caliph.


Modern Greek kalogeros "monk" (kalos, beautiful + geros, old age) -- a monk of the Orthodox Eastern Church (Italian caloiero).


Latin calvaria, "skull" and Greek kranion, "cranium" -- used by Christian Evangelists to translate the Aramaic gulgultha ("skull"). Golgotha, a hill shaped like a skull outside Jerusalem, was the place where Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:33 and Luke 23:33); an outdoor representation of the crucifixion of Christ; any experience involving intense pain or anguish.


The theological system of French Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564, born Jean Caulvin), emphasizing the doctrines of predestination and salvation soley by God's grace.


Italian camarlingo, "chamberlain" -- a Roman Catholic cardinal in charge of the papal treasury and accounts.

Cameron, Richard

(1648-1680) Scottish minister and Covenanter whose followers formed the Reformed Prespyterian Church in 1743.

Campbell, Alexander

(1788-1866) U.S. clergyman born in Ireland, founder of the Disciples of Christ.

Camp Fire Girls

Girls' organization founded in 1910, as a program to promote health and character-building activities.

Camp Meeting

A religious revival held at a campground or in a tent, often for several days.


The "Promised Land" of the Israelites, a region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranian Sea.


A church feast on February 2, commemorating by the burning of candles the purification of the Virgin Mary.


Latin, measuring line or rule (Greek kanon, rod or bar); Medieval Latin, sacred writings admitted to the catalog according to the rule -- a list of books of the Bible officially accepted by a church or religious body as genuine; part of the Mass, between the Preface and Communion, centering on the consecration of the Host; a list of recognized saints in the Roman Catholic Church; a musical, polyphonic composition in which there are exact repitions of a preceding part in the same or related keys; established rules, principles, criterion, or decree. Latin canonicus, a cleric -- member of a clerical group living by the established canon, but not under an everlasting vow (canonicals are the clothes prescribed for a canon when conducting services); a canon regular is a regular Roman Catholic priest living under the rule of his institute. A canoness is a woman holding a canonry but, unlike a nun, she doesn't take an everlasting vow. Canonry is the benefice or position of a canon. Canon law is a law or body of laws of a Christian church (a canonist is an expert in canon law); Canonic is of a musical canon. Canonical is an adjective pertaining to church canon (of, according to, or ordered by church canon); belonging to the canon of the Bible; of a clergyman; in general, authoritative or accepted. To canonize is to declare in formal church procedure a dead person as a saint; to put in the Bible canon; to give church sanction or authorization to; in general, to glorify.

Canonical Hour

Any of the seven periods of the day assigned to prayer and worship by the Roman Catholic Church, including matins (with lauds), prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and complin.


Among other things, religious phraseology used hypocritically; insincere, pious, or meaningless talk; the special words and phrases (jargon) used by those in a certain sect.


Latin canticilum or canticum, "song" (derived from the Latin cantus, "chant") -- a song, chant, or hymn, the words of which are taken from Biblical Scripture. Solomon's Song of Songs is also known as Canticles (or Canticle of Canticles). Cantillation (Latin cantillatus, to hum or sing low) is a Jewish litergical chant with the reciting of certain prescribed musical phrases indicated by notations. A cantor is a church choir leader (precentor) or a singer of litergical solos in a synagogue who leads the congregation in prayer (hazan). Canto is a main division of a long poem, corresponding to the chapter of a book.


A monk of the Friars Minor Capuchin, a branch of the Franciscan order that adheres strictly to the original rule. A capuche is a long, pointed hood worn by these monks. (Cappuccino is derived from the brown color of the capuchin's habit.)


To establish the approximate age of fossil or archaeological remains by measuring the amount of radioactive carbon 14 remaining in them.


Latin cardinalis, chief or principal -- the chief presbyter; one of the Roman Catholic officials appointed by the Pope to his council, the College of Cardinals; bright red, like the color of the robe of a cardinal. Cardinalate is the position, dignity, or rank of a cardinal; generally, the Pope's council of cardinals.

Cardinal Virtues

The basic virtues of ancient Greek philosophy: justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance (similar to the theological virtues).

Cargo Cult

A quasi-religious cult among some South Sea islanders, based on a belief that the spirits of their ancestors will return with supplies of modern goods and inaugurate a golden age free from poverty and white dominance.


A mendicant friar or nun of the order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, founded in Syria about A.D. 1160.


Late Latin carnalis, "fleshly" -- in or of the flesh, bodily, sexual, material, or worldly, as opposed to spiritual or intellectual; pleasures of the flesh, sensual desires, or lust.


Greek choraules, choral dance accompanied by a flute player, Old French carole, Christmance song and dance -- traditionally, a Christmas song of joy and praise sung in chorus with others; originally, a circle dance.

Casaubon, Isaac

(159-1614) French scholar and theologian, born in Switzerland.


Persian kazhaghand, kind of jacket made from silk -- a long, closefitting vestment, usually black, either worn as an outer garment or under the surplice by clergyman and choristers; in general, a clergyman or his position.


Latin cata tumbas, "at the graves" -- any of a series of underground vaults or galleries used as a burial place.


Italian catafalco, funeral canopy -- temporary wooden framework, usually draped, on which the body in a coffin lies during an elaborate funeral; a coffinlike structure used in the Roman Catholic Church to represent the dead in a requiem Mass after the actual burial.

Catechism (Catechumen)

A handbook of questions and answers for teaching the principles of religion, from the Greek katechizein, to catechize: to teach, particularly the principles of a religion, by a method of question and answers; to question searchingly or fully. Catechumen is a person receiving instruction about the fundamentals of Christianity before baptism (from the Greek katechoumenos, a person instructed).


Late Latin cathedralis, of a bishop's seat -- the main church of a bishop's see, containing the cathedra (Latin for a chair or office of a teacher); generally, any large, imposing church. A cathedra is the throne of a bishop, the episcopal see, or any seat of high authority.

Catherine Wheel

A spiked wheel symbolizing the instrument of torture involved in the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the fourth century A.D. (celebrated November 25); a firework like a pinwheel that spins and throws out colorful sparks.


Latin catholicus, universal, general, or orthodox (Greek katholikos, completely whole) -- of the Christian church as a whole, specifically, of the ancient, undivided Christian church; any of the orthodox Christian churches or its members, such as the Roman, Greek, Eastern, or Anglo-Catholic, as distinguished from the Protestant or Reformed churches; in general, the Roman Catholic Church headed by the Pope. Catholicism is generally the doctrine, faith, practice, and organization of a Catholic church, especially the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicize is to convert to Catholocism.

Cayce, Edgar

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), a psychic healer and clairvoyant, founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1932. Over a 43 year period, Cayce proposed thousands of physical and mental healings (called life readings or physical readings) while in a hypnotic state of altered consciousness. His teachings were a mixture of mysticism, occultism, spiritism, reincarnation, and biblical scripture. Cayce also claimed to be a prophet, with about 90% of his prophecies being fulfilled.


Latin caelestis, heaven -- heavenly or divine.


Latin, "small cell" -- inner part of an ancient Greek or Roman temple, housing the statue of a god or goddess.

Celtic Cross

Latin cross having a wheellike circle around the intersection of the limbs.


Greek koinobion, communal life -- member of a religious order living in a monastery, cloister, or convent (distinguished from anchorite -- a hermit or recluse).


Latin censere, "assess" -- ancient Roman act of counting the people and evaluating their property for taxation.


Greek chalkedon, a kind of quartz with a waxy luster with various colors, usually grayish or milky, and comprises agate, sard, cat's-eye, jasper, carnelian, and chrysoprase. Listed in Revelation 21:19 as one of the precious stones decorating the foundations of the Holy City of Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from God, his new dwelling place among man after the last days.


Ancient province of Babylonia in the lower course of the Euphrates River (Persian Gulf), also known as Babylonia during Chaldean supremacy in the sixth century B.C.


An honorary attendant of the Pope; originally, the bedchamber attendant of a ruler or lord; a steward or an officer in charge of the household of a lord's estate, etc.


Latin cancellus, lattice -- the part of a church around the altar, usually at the east end, reserved for use by the clergy and choir, sometimes set off by a railing or screen.


Among other definitions, an archdeacon or lay officer in the Anglican Church for legal affairs of a diocese; a Roman Catholic priest in charge of the diocesan chancery, an office that has custody of certain documents and performs secretarial services for the bishop.


Means of communication with spirits of the dead.


Latin cantus, "song" -- a simple liturgical song in which a string of syllables or words of a canticle or psalm are sung in each monotonous tone, often a cappella.


An endowment to the Roman Catholic Church to pay for the saying of Masses and prayers for the soul of a specified person, often the endower; a chapel or altar endowed in the Middle Ages for this purpose.

Chanukah (Hannukah)

Hebrew, "dedication" -- Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. and celebrated for eight days beginning the 25th day of Kislev (see Hannukah).


Latin cappa, "cape" -- originally, the sanctuary in which the cope (or cappa, cape) of St. Martin was preserved, later to designate any sanctuary; a place of Christian worship smaller than and subordinate to a church, sometimes having its own altar, or a similar room in some Jewish synagogues; any room or building used as a place of worship; any place of worship in Great Britain for those who are not members of an established church.


Originally, a custodian of St. Martin's cloak (see chapel), later to designate the clergyman of a chapel in general; a minister, priest, or rabbi serving in a religious capacity in the armed forces, prisons, hospitals, and other public institutions, often knowledgeable in several religions.


Diminutive of chapel, a string of prayer beads one third the length of a full rosary; the prayers said with such beads. Also, a wreath or garland for the head (chapeau).


Latin capitulum, "capital" or caput, "head" (Medieval Latin, church division) -- a formal meeting of canons headed by a dean, or of the members of a religious order, derived from a meeting at which a chapter of monastic rule was read (Late Latin, division of writing).

Chapter and Verse

The exact Scriptural reference: book, chapter, and numerical verse of quoted Scripture.


Designating a religious group or movement which stresses direct divine inspiration, which is manifested in speaking in tongues, healing, prophesy, etc. Theologically, charisma is a divinely inspired gift, grace, or talent.


Latin caritas costliness, esteem, or affection -- theologically, the love of God for man or of man for his fellow men; an act of goodwill or affection; benevolence; kindness or leniency in judging others; voluntarily giving to those in need, or the money, services, or goods given; a welfare organization.

Charlemagne (Charles the Great, Charles I)

(A.D. 742-814) king of the Franks (768-814) and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (800-814).


Latin carmen, song or verse -- originally, an incantation (chanted words supposedly invoking magical powers to either harm or help; an amulet or talisman used with incantations; any action or gesture assumed to have magic power.


The boatman in Greek Mythology who ferried souls of the dead across the River Styx to Hades.


La Grande Chartreuse, a Carthusian monastery in France; a pale, yellowish green liquor made by Carthusian monks.


Medieval Latin casubla, hooded garment -- a sleeveless outer vestment worn over the alb by priests at Mass.

Cherub (Cherubim)

Hebrew kerubh, a winged, heavenly being that supports the throne of God or acts as a guardian spirit (Genesis 3:24, Psalm 80:1, Ezekiel 10); theologically, the second order of angels which rank just below the seraphim. Represented in early art as a winged angel clothed in red, later to be depicted as a winged, chubby child.


Holy Innocents' Day

Children of God (COG)

Founded by David "Moses" Berg in the late 1960s as a radical movement called Teens for Christ, which declared war on the contemporary systems of government, education, religion, and parental control. It later became Children of God (COG) in the 1970s and, finally, Family of Love in the early 1980s. This cult consisted of strictly regulated communes, or colonies, in and around Arizona and Texas, all headed by Berg as an autocratic messiah. Members signed a "Revolutionary Contract," turning over all possessions and cutting them off from past relationships. Members raised money for the cause by "listening," or distributing its literature. Female members also brought in income by flirty fishing ("FFing"), by which they basically prostituted themselves for the dual purpose of making money and converting male converts. (Children conceived through FFing were called "Jesus Babes" and the contraction of venereal disease was considered suffering for the cause of Christ.) Other desirable relations, according to Berg's intimate teachings and his official periodical, "MO Letters," included lesbianism, incest, adultery, wife-swapping, child molestation, and sexual intercourse with female spirits (succubae or succubus). Primarily focused on sexual promiscuity and parental rebellion, along with its blatant scriptural perversion, it has gained a bad reputation worlwide. Its international headquarters is in Zurich, Switzerland.

Chimere (Chimer)

Arabic sammur, "sable" -- a loose, sleeveless robe worn by Anglican bishops.




Theology, any of the nine orders of angels; group of church singers.


From the French chaud, "hot" -- a beef stew with potatoes, beans, and other vegetables slowly baked for a long time as a traditional Jewish dish prepared on Friday for the Sabbath.


Latin chrisma, an anointing or unction (Greek chrisma, oil used for anointing) -- concecrated oil used in baptism and other sacraments in certain churches or the sacramental anointing with this oil. The container or receptacle for the chrism is called a chrismatory. A chrisom was originally a cloth to keep chrism off the face; a white cloth or robe representing innocence, worn by an infant at baptism (used as a shroud if the infant died within one month of birth); an innocent baby or infant.


Greek christos, "the anointed" -- originally a Greek title for the Hebrew Yeshua Moshiach, "Jesus the Anointed One" (or Jesus the Messiah): Jesus the Christ, later to be used simply as part of his name (Jesus Christ); the Messiah whose appearance is prophesied in the Old Testament, believed by Christians to be Jesus of Nazareth


To baptize (originally, to baptize into a particular Christian church); to give a name at baptism.


The dominion or kingdom of Christ on earth; those parts of the world where most of the inhabitants profess the Christian faith; Christians collectively.


Greek christianos, a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ. The disciples of Jesus were first called Christians ("Christ-ones") at the church of Antioch in the region of Pisidia in Asia Minor around A.D. 43 (Acts 11:26). Christians here were a mix of Gentiles and Greek and Aramaic-speaking Jews. The term was used by King Agrippa when the Apostle Paul attempted to convert him while imprisoned (Acts 26:28). The term was again used by Peter as a name to bear in suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:16).

Christian Brothers (Brothers of the Christian Schools)

Roman Catholic lay order that undertakes the teaching of youths.

Christian Era

The era beginning with the year thought to be the birth of Jesus Christ (circa 8-4 B.C.): B.C. marks the dates before and A.D. marks the dates during this era.


Christians collectively; Christendom; the Christian religion, based on the Old and New Testaments; a particular Christian religious system or sect.

Christian Name

The name of an individual given at baptism, distinguished from the surname or family name.

Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist)

Pseudo Christian religion founded by Mary Baker Eddy around 1866, upholding the idea that disease, sin, and death are caused by errors in thinking and have no real existence.


Like Jesus Christ in spirit or character.


Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, generally observed on December 25. The evening before is Christmas Eve. Christmastide is Christmas time from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day (or to Epiphany on January 6).


The study of the work and person of Jesus Christ and of the literature that relates to him.


An Old World spiny shrub (Paliurus spina-christi) of the buckthorn family, supposed to have been used for Christ's crown of thorns.


Latin and Greek chrysolithos, "topaz" -- also known as olivine, an orthorhombic silicate of magnesium and iron, existing usually as green crystals in many highly basic igneous rocks.


Latin chrysoprasus and Greek chrysoprasos (chrysos, gold + prason, leek) -- a light-green, semi-precious stone; variety of chalcedony.


Greek kyriake (oikia), Lord's (house) (from kyriakos, belonging to the Lord) -- a building for organized, public worship, particularly of the Christian faith; the body of all Christians as a whole; the ecclesiastical government of a religious group as opposed to secular government; profession of the clergy; a congregation or group of worshipers.

Church of England

The episcopal church of England; Anglican Church; an established church with the sovereign as its head.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Latter-day Saints, LDS, Mormons)


Church of Rome

Roman Catholic Church

Church Slavic

Old Church Slavic


Either of two lay officers chosen annually in every parish of the Church of England or of the Protestant Episcopal Church to usher at service and attend to certain secular matters.


Latin, "cup," from the Greek kiborion, seed vessel of the Egyptian water lilly -- a manmade canopy that rests on four columns, usually covering an altar; baldachin; a covered cup for holding the wafers of the Eucharist.


Latin, "about" -- used before an approximate date, usually abbreviated as c.

Circuit Rider

A traveling minister who preaches in his mapped circuit.

Circumcise (Circumcision)

Latin circumcisus, to cut around -- to cut off all or part of the foreskin of the genitalia; archaic term for purification or cleansing from sin. The circumcision of Jesus is generally celebrated January 1


A monk or nun of the French monastic order founded in 1098, which follows a strict interpretation of the Benedictine rule.

City of God

Heaven (Psalm 46:4).


Having the supposed ability to perceive things that are not seen; keen insight or perception.

Classical (Classic)

Latin classicus, relating to the highest classes of the Roman people (superior) -- well versed in or devoted to ancient Greek and Roman culture, literature, art, languages, etc. Classicism is the aesthetic principles or qualities regarded as characteristic of ancient Greece and Rome: objectivity, formality, balance, simplicity, restraint, etc. (generally contrasted with Romanticism); knowledge of the literature and art of ancient Greece and Rome; classical scholarship; a Greek or Latin idiom or expression.


A governing body in certain Reformed churches consisting of the ministers and representative elders from the churches in a district, or the district so governed.

Clement of Alexandria

Titus Flavius Clemens (circa A.D. 150-215), Greek Christian theologian.


Persons ordained for religious service (clergymen), such as priests, ministers, rabbis, etc. To collate is to appoint a clergyman to a benefice (an endowed church office providing a living for a vicar or rector).




Latin claustrum, shut in place -- portion of a monastery closed off to the laity; in general, a place of religious seclusion, such as a monastery, convent, abbey, or priory; monastic life; seclusion from the outside world; an arched way or covered walk along the inside wall or walls of a monastery, convent, church building, etc., with a columned opening along one side leading to a courtyard or garden.


The identifying dress of the clergy or the clergy collectively (such as the term "man of the cloth").


Latin, wooden tablet for writing (Late Latin, a book of laws) -- a manuscript volume, such as of classic literature or Scripture; a code or body of laws. For example, Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canan Law), the official body of laws governing the Roman Catholic Church since 1918.


Existing together eternally.


A clerical group that has been given the legal status of an ecclesiastical corporation, such as the College of Cardinals, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church who serve as a privy council to the Pope and for electing his successor. A collegiate church has a chapter of canons (although not a bishop's see); in Scotland, a church with two or more ministers serving jointly; in the U.S., a church associated with others under a joint body of pastors; in general, such an association of churches. Collegiality is the principle that authority is shared by the Pope and the bishops.


Latin, "conversation" -- an organized conference or seminar on some subject involving a number of scholars or experts.


French, "peddler" -- someone who goes from place to place distributing or selling Bibles or religious tracts.

Comenius, John Amos

(1592-1670) Born Jan Amos Komensky, Moravian educational reformer and theologian.


Agreement among cooperating Christian denominations to avoid duplication of churches, missions, or other similar establishments in specific areas.


(see Ten Commandments)


Medieval Latin dare in commendam, "to give in trust" (commandery) -- temporary holding of a benefice, with the right to its revenues, by a cleric or layman in the absence of proper incumbent.

Common Era

Christian Era

Communion (Holy Communion)

Latin communio, "a sharing" -- any of various Christian rites in which bread and wine are received as symbols in memory of the shed blood and bodily sacrifice of Jesus Christ; a sacrament of the Roman Catholic Eucharist in which the bread and wine are concecrated as the body and blood of Christ, also called the Lord's Supper; in general, a group of Christians professing the same faith and practicing the same rites.


Latin compunctus, to prick (Late Latin compunctio, the pricking of conscience) -- sharp feeling of uneasiness brought on by a sense of guilt; twinge of conscience; remorse; penitence.


Latin concelebratus, to celebrate a solemnity in large numbers -- prayers said in unison by two or more officiating priests, such as in celebrating the Eucharistic litergy jointly.


Doctrine, intermediate between nominalism and realism, that universals exist explicitly in the mind as concepts and implicitly in the similarities shared by particular objects.


Latin, a room that may be locked -- the private meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a pope; the cardinals collectively; in general, any private or secret meeting.


Latin concordans, to agree (concord) -- an alphabetical list of the important words used in a book, with references to the passages in which they occur.


Latin concordatus, agreement or harmony (concordance) -- an agreement between a pope and a government concerning the regulation of church affairs; in general, a compact, formal agreement, or covenant.


Acknowledgement of sin; admission of guilt; accept fault in a crime; declaration of one's faith or statement of religious belief; tomb or shrine of a martyr or confessor (a Christian who suffered for their faith but was not martyred). A confessional is a small, enclosed place where a priest listens to confessions.


Christian ceremony in which a person is admitted to full membership in a church; Jewish ceremony in which a person reaffirms their belief in the basic spiritual and ethical concepts of Judaism. A confirmand is the person confirmed in a religious ceremnoy. A confiteor is a formal prayer of confession, often said at Mass.


To accept and adhere to the usages of the Established Church.


A brotherhood or fraternal association comprised of laymen united in profession or vocation, such as a religious society, with a devotional or charitable purpose.


The ethical teachings of Confucius (Latin, "K'ung Fu-tse"), a Chinese philosopher and teacher (circa 551-479 B.C.), introduced into Chinese religion, emphasizing devotion to parents, family and friends, ancestor worship, and the maintenance of justice and peace.


Latin congregatio, an assembling (Medieval Latin, a religious community) -- an assembly or gathering of people, usually for religious worship, teaching, and fellowship; Biblically, the whole body or assembly of Israelites. In the Roman Catholic Church: a religious community bound by a common rule; division of an order made up of a group of monasteries; a committee of cardinals in charge of some department of church affairs.


A Protestant form of church organization established in colonial New England in which each congregation is self-governing -- a congregation being a settlement, town, or parish.


Latin conjurare, to swear together -- originally, to be sworn in a conspiracy; to summon a demon or spirit by magic spell as a primitive, superstitious rite; to practice magic or legerdemain. A conjurer is one who is a magician, sorcerer, or one skilled in legerdemain (trickery, sleight of hand, or stage magic).


Latin conscientia, consciousness, moral sense (noun) -- a knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right; moral judgment that opposes the violation of a previously recognized ethical principle, which leads to feelings of guilt if violated; consciousness; inner thoughts or feelings. Conscious (adjective) is awareness or cognizance; ability to feel and think in a normal waking state; having knowledge or feelings of inner sensations or external forces; aware of oneself as a thinking being or knowing what one is doing and why (self-conscious). Counsiousness is the totality of one's thoughts, feelings, and impressions (conscious mind).


To set apart as holy; make or declare sacred for religious use; to dedicate or devote entirely; to cause to be revered or honored (hallow); to make someone a religious ruler, such as a bishop, by a religious ceremnoy.


Tending to preserve established traditions or institutions and to resist or oppose any changes in these; moderate, cautious, or safe; designating the major right-wing political parties of Great Britain (Conservative Party) and Canada (Progressive Conservative Party); descriptive of the Republican Party (Grand Old Party) in the U.S., often upholding Christian values and morals; designating a movement in Judaism that accepts moderate adaptation of religious ritual and traditional forms to the framework of modern life.


Latin consistorium, council or place of assembly -- originally, a meeting place for a council or court; a church council or court, such as the papal senate or a council of deacons; a session of such a body.

Constantine the Great

Born Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (A.D. 280-337), Constantine I was emperor of Rome from A.D. 306-337.


Latin constellatus, "set with stars" -- a number of fixed stars arbitrarily considered as a group, usually named after some object, animal, or mythological being that they supposedly suggest in outline; the grouping of the planets at any particular time, especially at a person's birthday; one's disposition or fate as supposedly influenced by such a grouping.


Theological doctrine that the substance of the bread and wine of the Eucharist exists, after consecration, side by side with the substance of the body and blood of Christ but is not changed into it. (Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ.)


Latin contextus, a joining together -- the parts of a sentence, paragraph, discourse, etc., immediately next to or surrounding a specified word or passage and determining its exact meaning; the whole situation, background, or environment relevant to a particular event, personality, creation, etc.


Self-restraint, moderation, or temperance; abstinence in sexual activity.


Late Latin contritio, grief -- a feeling of remorse for sins or wrongdoing (see Penitence).


Latin conventus, "assembly" (Medieval Latin, religious house) -- a community of nuns living under strict religious vows; the building or buildings occupied by such a group, such as a cloister.

Conventual, Friars Minor

A branch of the Franciscan order under a modified rule that permits the holding of property in common.


Latin convertere, to turn together -- to cause to change from one religion, doctrine, or belief to another; a person so converted (convertite). Conversion is generally to change from a lack of faith to accept a religious belief or adoption of a religion.


An ecclesiastical or academic assembly that has been summoned to convene.


Arabic Quft or Qift, the Copts, Greek Aigyptios, Egyptian -- of the ancient, Afro-Asiatic inhabitants of Egypt, known as the Copts. The Coptic Church was the native Christian church of Egypt and Ethiopia, Monophysitic in nature (believing that Christ had only one nature, a composite of the physical and spiritual).


Old French cordelle, cord -- a monk of the Franciscan Observants, so named from the knotted cord worn as a girdle.


A person of the same religion or religious denomination.


A small linen cloth placed on the center of the altar, on which are placed the bread and the chalice for the Eucharist.


Latin corporeus, bodily form -- physical, bodily nature; of a material, not spiritual, substance or existance; tangible or percepible by the human senses.


Portuguese corpo santo and Latin corpus sanctum, "holy body" (see St. Elmo's Fire).


Latin, "body" -- a complete or comprehensive collection of laws or writings of a specified type, such as the Corpus Juris Canonici ("Body of Canon Law"), the body of laws governing the Catholic Church up to 1918 (superseded by the Codex Juris Canonici).

Corpus Christi

Latin, "Body of Christ" -- a Roman Catholic festival celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, in honor of the Eucharist.


Greek kosmos, "universe" or "harmony" -- the universe considerd as a harmonious and orderly system. Cosmogony is the theory of the origin or generation of the universe. Cosmology is the branch of philosophy and science dealing with the study of the universe as a whole and of its form and nature as a physical system. Cosmic is of the universe, exclusive of the earth.

Cosmic Energy

Supernatural energy derived or eminating from the cosmos.


The reform movement in the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, in answer to the Protestant Reformation.


From the Latin convenire, to come together, convene (Middle English covin, a group of confederates) -- a gathering or meeting of witches.


From the Latin convenire, convene -- a binding and solemn agreement made by two or more individuals or parties to either do or not do a specified act (compact); an agreement among members of a church to defend and maintain is doctrines, polity, faith, etc.; the promises made by God to man, whereby God swore upon his own name. The National Covenant was an agreement of Presbyterians in Scotland in 1638 to oppose episcopacy. The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the parliaments of Scotland and England in 1643 to extend and preserve Presbyterianism.

Coverdale, Miles

(1488-1568) English clergyman who translated the Bible into English in 1535.


Latin cucullus, cap or hood -- a monk's hood or a monk's cloak with a hood.

Cranmer, Thomas

(1489-1556) Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533-56.


The doctrine that ascribes the origin of life to God, as recorded in Genesis; theological doctrine that God creates a new soul for every human being born, as opposed to Traducianism.


French, "crib" (from the Greek krippe) -- a Christmas display of a stable with figures representing a scene at the birth of Jesus.


A small table at the side of the communion table on which the bread and wine are placed before consecration.


From the Latin credere, "creed" -- doctrines to be believed in matters of faith.


Latin credo, "I believe" (credere, to trust or believe) -- a brief statement of religious belief or a confession of faith, such as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed.


Turkish Muslim emblem, symbol of power.

Cross (Cruciform)

Latin crux, an upright post with a bar across it near the top on which the ancient Romans fastened convicted persons to die; a symbol of this device, representing the crucifixion of Jesus and of Christianity in general.


A reproduction of a cross with a figure of Jesus crucified on it as a Christian symbol.


The crucifying of Jesus by the Romans by nailing his hands and feet to a cross, often represented in art. Crucifixion was the capital punishment of ancient Rome, whereby a convicted criminal was either nailed or bound to a cross and left to die of exposure. Crucifixion is also a self-imposed act of mortification of the flesh for ascetic purposes.


From the Medieval Latin cruciata, to mark with a cross -- a series of Christian military expeditions sanctioned by the Catholic Church between the late 11th to the late 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims.


From the Latin crystallum, ice, and Greek krystallos, frost -- a solidified form of substance in which the atoms or molecules are arranged in a definite pattern repeated regularly in three dimensions; a clear, transparent quartz, often cut in the form of an ornament. Quartz is a brilliant, hexagonally crystalline mineral, silicon dioxide (SiO2), made primarily from sand. Crystal gazing is the practice of gazing into a ball of rock crystal (usually glass) and professing to see certain images or future events.


Latin cubitum, "elbow" -- ancient measure of length, about 18-22 inches, approximately the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger.


Latin cultus, cultivation -- a system of religious worship or ritual requiring strict devotion, a term often used by Christians regarding a pseudo-Christian sect that is either apostate or has integrated Christian beliefs into its basic tenants, along with teachings from various other religions.


Latin cuneus, wedge -- wedge-shaped form of characters used in the ancient inscriptions of the Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians.


Medieval Latin curatus, one responsible for the care of souls -- originally, any clergyman; a clergyman who assists a vicor or rector. Curé (derived from curatus) is a French parish priest.


Old English cursian and Old French corocier, to call down wrath upon -- a calling on God or the gods to send evil or injury on some person or thing; a person or thing that has been cursed or damned; a profane, obscene, or blasphemous oath or imprecation expressing hatred, anger, or vexation, often out of revenge.

Cutty Stool

A low stool, formerly a seat in a Scottish church in which offenders against chastity had to sit and be publicly rebuked by the minister.


Greek Kyrillos, "lordly" -- (A.D. 376-444) Christian theologian and archbishop of Alexandria from 412-444, saint whose day celebrated February 9; (A.D. 827-869) born Constantine, Greek prelate and missionary, apostle to the Slavs, saint whose day is celebrated July 7 (Cyrillic is the Slavic alphabet attributed to him, still used in Russia and Bulgaria).

        I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying tp pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galations 1:6-9)

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  Reference Sources: Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, published by Prentice Hall Press, ©1986 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.; Collier's Encyclopedia, ©1968 Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation; Larson's New Book of Cults, ©1982 and 1989 by Bob Larson, printed by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Jewish Virtual Library (