An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Beatific Vision

The joy or blessedness given in the vision of God. It is reflected in the beatitude “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8) and Paul's confession that we shall see God “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). The vision of God serves as the primary metaphor for the end […]


From a Latin root that means “blessed” or “happy.” It refers to statements in the OT and NT which begin with a similar form: “Blessed are . . ., for. . . .” Emphasis in the OT is on the present state of the person addressed who has earned this special blessed status in relation […]

Becket, Thomas

(c. 1118-Dec. 29, 1170). Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr for the church. He was born in London and educated at the University of Paris. After serving for a time as archdeacon of Canterbury, he became chancellor to King Henry II. He and Henry were friends and allies. When Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, Henry saw […]

Bede the Venerable

(673-May 25, 735). Monk, priest, theologian, chronologist, and historian. He was born in Northumbria and at the age of seven was entrusted into the charge of Benedict Biscop at St. Peter's monastery at Wearmouth. Later he moved to St. Paul's monastery at Jarrow where he spent the rest of his life. He was ordained deacon […]

Bedell, Gregory Thurston

(Aug. 27, 1817-Mar. 11, 1892). Leading evangelical theologian and the third Bishop of Ohio. He was born in Hudson, New York, and attended William Augustus Muhlenberg's famous school at Flushing, New York. He graduated from Bristol College, Pennsylvania, in 1836 and from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1840. Bedell was ordained deacon on July 19, 1840, […]

Bedell, Gregory Townsend

(Oct. 28, 1783-Aug. 30, 1834). A leading evangelical preacher, who wrote several poems and musical compositions. He was born in Fresh Kill, Staten Island, New York, and educated at the Episcopal Academy, Cheshire, Connecticut. He graduated from Columbia College in 1811 and then studied for the ordained ministry. He was ordained deacon on Nov. 4, […]

Bedell, Harriet

(Mar. 19, 1875-Jan. 8, 1969). Missionary among indigenous peoples. She was born in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from the State Normal School in Buffalo in 1894. She taught in the Buffalo public schools, and then studied at the New York Training School for Deaconesses. In Dec. 1907, she began working as a missionary teacher […]

Beecher, Catharine Esther

(Sept. 6, 1800-May 12, 1878). Influential advocate of women's concerns. She was born in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, and was raised a Presbyterian. She was a daughter of Lyman Beecher, a leading clergyman who served Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Later in life she rejected the “soul-withering doctrines” of her family's Calvinistic background and […]

Believer’s Baptism

A term describing the practice of baptizing only those who consciously and knowingly affirm their faith in Christ. The practice normally requires prior instruction and precludes infant baptism. In contrast, the Episcopal Church allows infants and younger children to be presented for baptism by their parents and sponsors who “make promises in their own names […]

Bell, Bernard Iddings

(Oct. 13, 1886-Sept. 5, 1958). A leading American educator. He was born in Dayton, Ohio. Bell received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1907 and his S.T.B. from the Western Theological Seminary in 1912. He was ordained deacon on May 29, 1910, and priest on Dec. 18, 1910. From 1910 until 1913, Bell […]

Bell, Wilbur Cosby

(Apr. 1, 1881-Apr. 6, 1933). Theologian and Seminary Professor. He was born in Augusta County, Virginia. Bell received his B.A. from Hampden-Sydney College in 1900 and his M.Div. from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1905. He was ordained deacon on June 16, 1905, and priest on Feb. 4, 1906. Bell began his ministry at Trinity […]

Bells and Smells

” Colloquial term for the elaborate ritual style common in many Anglo-catholic parishes. In this expression, “bells” refers to the ringing of bells at various points during the eucharist. “Smells” refers to the use of incense. This term is used pejoratively by some, playfully by others.

Bene Esse

See Esse, Bene Esse, Plene Esse.

Benedicite, omnia opera Domini

Canticle from the Apocryphal book, Song of the Three Young Men, verses 35-65. It is also known as the “Benedicite.” It appears as Canticles 1 and 12 in the BCP (pp. 47-49, 88-90) and has been used at the morning office since the fourth century. The Benedicite is a continuation of the canticle Benedictus es, […]

Benedict of Nursia

(c. 480-c. 547). The “Patriarch of Western Monasticism.” He was born in Nursia in Umbria, Italy, and then educated at Rome. He did not like the degenerate life of the city, and withdrew to the country, where he lived as a hermit in a cave at Subiaco. Gradually a community grew up around him. Sometime […]

Benedictine Spirituality

Shaped by the Rule of St. Benedict (c. 540), Benedictine spirituality is essentially monastic. It focuses on the desire to seek God under the guidance of an abbot. The abbot was originally elected for life. The monks' chief work (opus Dei) is the praise of God, in the form of a community recitation or chanting […]


A blessing pronounced by a bishop or priest at the conclusion of a worship service. In a general sense, it may refer to any prayer that closes a meeting or gathering. See Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

A service of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In this service a large Host is placed in the luna of a monstrance on the altar so that the Host is visible to the congregation. The Host is censed while it is in the monstrance and used to bless the congregation by making the sign of […]


See Benedictus Dominus Deus.

Benedictus Dominus Deus

Canticle based on Zechariah's hymn of thanksgiving at the circumcision of his son, John the Baptist (Lk 1:68-79). The hymn blesses God “who has come to his people and set them free,” and celebrates the prophetic ministry that John the Baptist will have as forerunner of the Messiah. It is also known as “The Song […]

2647 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.