Dear St. Paul’s family,
Here’s another in our occasional series of “Words of our Worship”. This one is about Laying the Table.
When we lay the table for a dinner party we are careful to include the right forks, knives, condiments, place mats and dishes. The same goes for setting the altar for the sacrament of Holy Communion. Our altar guild does an outstanding job of making everything ready for the sacred meal each Sunday. As you might have noticed throughout the church, things take on special names when they are used in the liturgy. Instead of tablecloth, napkins, and plates, for example, we have fair linenpurificators, and  patens. Here is a short list of items on or near the altar:

  • Burse – Square case or purse of stiffened fabric which holds the other fabric items
  • Chalice – Silver, glass or pottery goblet used to administer the Eucharistic wine
  • Ciborium – (or breadbox) Container for Eucharistic wafers
  • Corporal – The white linen “place mat” in the center of the altar, from the Latin Corpus, meaning Body: this is where the Body of Christ is placed.
  • Cruet – Flask for wine or water to be used at the Eucharist
  • Fair Linen – The plain white tablecloth that covers the top of the entire altar
  • Frontal – A large sheet or tapestry that covers the front of the altar to the floor
  • Lavabo bowl – Bowl for washing the celebrant’s hands (from the Latin meaning “I will wash”)
  • Pall – White square of stiffened cloth or card used to cover thechalice. Also the large cloth draped over a casket or urn for a Requiem
  • Paten – Silver or pottery plate used to hold the Eucharistic bread
  • Purificator – Napkin used to wipe the chalice between communicants and to catch drips
  • Pyx – Small container for Eucharistic wafers, used to take Communion to the sick and homebound
  • Stack – The assemblage of paten, chalice, corporal, and purificatorsas they are placed on the altar
  • Stock – A small metal container for blessed oil, used for anointing the sick or at baptism
  • Veil – Large square of fabric draped over the entire Stack

Your sister in Christ,

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