An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms


A language that is commonly spoken in a locality, the native language of a place. In the early church, the vernacular was used as the language for Christian liturgy. However, language that was once vernacular may in time become archaic or disused as a common language of the people. For example, Latin became the vernacular […]

Versicles and Responses

Short sentences, often drawn from the Psalter, that are said or sung antiphonally in worship. Typically the versicle is said or sung by the officiant or celebrant, with the response made by the congregation. The versicles and responses may also be made between sections of the choir, or between the choir or cantor and the […]

Very Reverend, The

See Reverend, The.

Vesey, William

(c. Aug. 10 or Oct. 10, 1674-July 11, 1746). Early leader of New York Anglicanism. He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in 1693. He served as lay reader at Hempstead, New York, 1695-1696, and studied for ordained ministry. Merton College, Oxford, awarded him the M.A. on July 8, 1697. The […]


The early evening office of prayer in the church. The term is from the Latin word for “evening.” Lucernarium (lamp or lamp-lighting time) was an early name for vespers. Early Christians continued the Jewish custom of prayer at the time when daylight faded and the lamps were lit. The practice of Christian evening prayer dates […]

Vessels, Sacred

Vessels used in the eucharist, such as the paten and chalice. The term has also indicated the pyx, used to take communion to those unable to attend the eucharist, and items such as the monstrance and luna that are used in Benediction or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Sacred vessels have been distinguished from other […]

Vested Choir

A choir vested in cassock and surplice. A vested choir was often associated with a choral or sung service. The use of the surplice by choir members was one of the issues of dispute in the nineteenth-century controversy over ritual in the Episcopal Church. The introduction of the surpliced choir in England has been associated […]


See Narthex.

Vesting Room

A room near the sanctuary of a church where clergy and lay people vest. Ordained and lay ministers use this room to put on and take off vestments that are worn in the liturgy. Vestments are usually kept in this room, along with liturgical books and vessels, altar furnishings, and other items needed throughout the […]


The distinctive garments worn by leaders of the church’s worship. Many of the church’s vestments are descended from the ordinary dress of the imperial Roman society in which the early church came into being. Vestments worn by the celebrant at the eucharist typically include a stole and chasuble. These vestments usually reflect the liturgical color […]


In England the annual election of churchwardens took place in Easter week. The parishioners gathered at the church to hear the outgoing wardens render their accounts and elect their successors. The parishioners assembled in the vestry, the room off the chancel where the clergy vested. The assembled parishioners came to be known as the vestry. […]


Another word for vestments, the distinctive garments worn by leaders of the church's worship. See Vestments.

Via Media

Latin phrase translated as “middle way” or the “way between two extremes.” It is from the philosophy of Aristotle. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he found the virtues such as justice and courage to be the middle way between the extremes of either side. “Courage” was thus the via media between foolhardiness and cowardice. The via […]


The administration of communion to a dying person. It was given as sustenance for a journey. The practice of viaticum as a meal for the dead was a pagan burial custom from pre-Christian times. Communion was substituted as viaticum by the early Christians. The Christian practice of viaticum was apparently regarded as an ancient custom […]


In the Episcopal Church, the title generally applies to the priest in charge of a mission congregation. The diocesan bishop is the rector, and the priest representing the bishop is the vicar. The term is derived from the Latin vicarius, “substitute.” Historically, as early as the twelfth century in England, clergy known as vicars were […]


The vicar's residence. The vicarage may or may not be provided by the congregation served by the vicar.

Victimae Paschali

Latin incipit (opening words) of the traditional Easter sequence, “Christians, to the Paschal victim” (Hymn 183 in The Hymnal 1982). This plainsong chant hymn is ascribed to Wigbert (Wipo of Burgundy) in the eleventh century. It provides a dramatic celebration of Christ's victory over death in the context of a dialogue between Mary Magdalene and […]


1) A service at night prior to a major feast or other important observance. The vigil anticipates and begins the commemoration of the following day. It may allow the participants an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the next day's service. Scripture texts that will be used at the service on the following day […]

Vincent of Lérins

(See Vincentian Canon.)

Vincent of Saragossa

(d. 304). He was probably born in Osca, the modern Huesca, in Spain. Vincent is known as the Deacon of Saragossa. He was martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian. He was apparently subjected to torture and starvation before he died as a result of his sufferings. There are six ancient churches dedicated to […]

58 records

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.