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The Worship Of The Church by Jacob A. Regester

Arrangement and Furniture of the Church

A person coming into one of our churches would recognize at once a difference between its interior arrangement and that of many other places of worship. If he thought out the purpose of this arrangement, its adaptation to various forms of divine service and religious uses, he would feel that |here is a place where people are taught to worship the Lord in holy rites, and where forms and spaces and objects are themselves teachers of holy truths.|

From the door a broad alley (commonly but improperly called an aisle), running lengthwise of the building, leads to the chancel. It suggests that the approach of the people, for the blessings and {38} consolations which are dispensed there, is made convenient and is invited.

The place of prominence in the furnishing of the church is given to the Altar -- a table of stone or wood on which the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated. It is raised several steps above the level of the choir and is railed in. Covering the Altar is an Altar-cloth, embroidered, and varying in color with the seasons of the Christian Year. The portion covering the front of the Altar is called the frontal; that covering the top of the Altar and simply a few inches of the front is called the super-frontal.

Back of the Altar, and raised above it, is a narrow shelf, called the retable, upon which the several ornaments of the Altar are placed. In the center is the Altar-cross, that this holy symbol of our Faith may be constantly before the eyes of all who worship. The vases to hold the flowers with which the Altar is beautified on festal occasions stand at either side of the Cross. The candlesticks, in churches where lights at the Holy Communion are used, stand at the ends of the retable.

Behind the Altar, in many churches, is the reredos -- a carved or sculptured screen of wood or stone, frequently extending the whole width of the {39} sanctuary. Sometimes a painting takes its place, or a dossal -- a decorated curtain of as rich material as circumstances will allow.

On the south side of the Altar is a small table or shelf, called the credence, on which are placed the elements of bread and wine until such time in the service as they are offered for consecration on the Altar. Here also the alms-basin is placed before the Offertory, and the cruets containing the wine and the water for the ablutions at the close of the service. When the communicants are not too many, a part of the wine from the cruet is poured into the chalice at the proper time; but if a large number are to communicate, the flagon, a large vessel of silver, is used to hold the wine and is placed on the credence.

Nothing should be placed on the Altar itself but the Altar-desk, for holding the book of the Altar-service, and the Altar-vessels. These are usually the paten, or plate for holding the bread at the Celebration, and the chalice, the cup for the wine. There is sometimes a spoon with a perforated bowl to use in case any foreign substance is found in the chalice. If possible these vessels should be of precious metal. They are sometimes adorned with jewels.

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A rubric directs that at the time of the Communion the Altar shall be covered with a |fair white linen cloth| (|fair,| that is, not only clean, but beautiful). Another |fair linen cloth,| commonly called the |linen chalice veil,| is also directed to be used for covering the consecrated elements after the communion of the people. To these custom has added other convenient and seemly appointments of linen and silk.

The |chalice veil| is a square of silk, embroidered and often fringed, used to cover the vessels before the consecration.

The |pall| is a square of cardboard covered with linen, used to cover the chalice during the Celebration.

The |corporal| is a square of linen spread upon the Altar at the Celebration, upon which the vessels are placed.

The |purificators| are small napkins of linen for cleansing the vessels after the service.

The |burse| is a square, stiff pocket of silk over cardboard, in which the Altar-linen is carried to and from the Altar.

The color of the chalice veil and the burse follows that of the season. The linen pieces are always white. They are supposed to represent the cloths {41} which were wound around our Lord's sacred body and wrapped about His head at His burial.

You will see the reason for thus making the Altar a place of dignity and beauty, and for these various provisions for reverence in the sacred rite celebrated there, if you will recall what we have already seen of its meaning. We show honor to and reverence the Altar and its worship as the place and the performance of the highest act of divine worship, in which, by the ministry of His Church and according to His own appointment, |a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ| is |celebrated and made before the Divine Majesty,| and as the place where God |vouchsafes to feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.| All is done for His honor.

|'Tis for Thee we bid the frontal
Its embroidered wealth unfold;
'Tis for Thee we deck the reredos
With the colors and the gold;
Thine the floral glow and fragrance,
Thine the vesture's fair array,
Thine the starry lights that glitter
Where Thou dost Thy light display.|

The font. -- The reverent administration of Holy Baptism, the other of the two great Sacraments {42} ordained by Christ as generally necessary to salvation, is provided for by the presence of the Font. As its name indicates (from the Latin word for a fountain or spring), this is the repository for the pure water which in this holy Sacrament is |sanctified to the mystical washing away of sin.| It is generally of fine stone and often richly carved. Sometimes a separate room is marked off from the rest of the church for it and called a baptistery. There should always be, for proper protection, a cover for the Font. A ewer for the water to be used, and a baptismal shell with which to dip from the Font the water poured upon the head of the person baptized, are frequently provided as seemly appointments.

The Font is often, following ancient custom, octagonal in form. The symbolism of this form is this, -- that |as the whole creation was completed in seven periods of time, the number next following, eight, may well be significative of the new creation,| and, again, that the octave, as a repetition of the first, is a symbol of Christ's resurrection, and therefore of the |death unto sin and new birth unto righteousness| in Holy Baptism.

The Font is usually placed near a door of the church. Its position thus symbolizes the truth that Baptism is the outward form of admission into the {43} Christian Church. It expresses what the child is taught in the Church Catechism to say of Holy Baptism: |wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.|

Always in sight, the Font is a constant invitation by its very presence, and shows that the Church is always ready to receive, and desires to receive, new members |into the congregation of Christ's flock.|

It should always remind those who have been baptized of the grace of their second birth, when they were made |members of Christ,| and of their duty, |being made the children of God, to walk answerably to their Christian calling.|

It should call to remembrance that |baptism doth represent unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him; that as He died, and rose again for us, so should we, who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness.| That is the main profession or business of a Christian man, and the Font, where Baptism constantly represents our Lord's death and rising again for us, should ever remind us of it and call us afresh to |mortify all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceed in all virtue and godliness of living.|

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The Lectern. -- The lectern, supporting the large Bible from which the Lessons are read, bears witness to the esteem in which our Church holds the Sacred Scriptures. It is worthy of note that our Church makes larger provision for the people |to hear God's most holy Word| than any other religious body in the world. Almost the whole Bible -- some parts of it several times -- is read publicly every year. Lessons from the Old Testament were read in the service of the synagogue. Our Lord's example shows how properly we follow this ancient custom of reading Scripture lessons in public worship: |As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias.|

The selection of suitable Lessons for each day is a matter of careful arrangement on the part of the Church. There will be found in the front of the Prayer-Book |The Order how the Psalter is Appointed to be Read,| and also |The Order how the Best of the Holy Scripture is Appointed to be Read.| Four |Tables of Lessons| are given -- for Sundays, for Holy-Days, for the forty days of Lent and the Rogation and Ember-Days, and for all the days of the year not otherwise provided for.

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Of the two Lessons appointed, one is from the Old, the other from the New Testament. Both are |God's most holy Word,| and taking the Lessons from both enables us to see the unity of thought and purpose in the two, and how the promises and predictions of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New.

The most common and, perhaps, the most appropriate lectern is that made in the form of an eagle, standing often upon a globe, bearing the Bible upon its outspread wings. The eagle, because of its lofty heavenward flight, is the symbol of inspiration, and its position upon the globe and its outspread wings remind us how the Word of God is to be carried into all the world.

There are, then, certain thoughts which the lectern should bring us: the reverent honor which |God's most holy Word| should ever receive from us; the privilege of its use as |a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my paths|; our missionary obligations and privileges -- to make the outspread wings of the eagle a reality and not merely a symbol.

The Pulpit. -- The pulpit suggests the thought of the sacred and important work of the Christian Ministry as preachers of the Word of God.

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It is a common thing to hear persons say that they care little for the sermon and speak lightly of preaching. They forget that the preacher is one |sent,| that our Lord Himself made preaching one of the great means for the spread of the Gospel and for the salvation of men. And as such persons do not reflect, in this disparagement of preaching, the mind of our Lord, so neither do they represent the estimate of the Church. The Church takes care to provide for it, and that, too, in connection with her most solemn act of worship, the celebration of the Holy Communion. Among the rubrics following the Creed in the Communion Office is this: |Then shall follow the Sermon.| So, also, the Church, through the Bishop, demands of the man who comes to be ordained, |Are you determined, out of the Scriptures, to instruct the people committed to your charge?| And when he is ordered a Priest, this is a part of the authority given to him: |Take thou authority to preach the Word of God.|

The discharge of this work, to do which the Minister is placed under vow, and for which he is given authority, is one of his most solemn obligations. The pulpit should, then, ever remind us of the loving care on the part of Christ and His Church for {47} our soul's health and our growth in grace, which is thus expressed.

But it should remind us of something else, also, -- of a duty on our part.

In |The Form and Manner of Ordering Priests| there is a prayer just before the Benediction, of which this is a part: |Grant that we may have grace to hear and receive what they shall deliver out of Thy most holy Word, or agreeable to the same, as the means of our salvation.| And so, again, we pray in the Litany, |That it may please Thee to give to all Thy people increase of grace to hear meekly Thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit.| This is the way the Church teaches us to think and to pray concerning our duty and privilege in reference to the instruction and exhortation which divine love sends to us from the pulpit.

The pulpit stands, then, for something God's love does for us: |Preach the gospel.| It stands also for something God's love demands from us: |Take heed how ye hear.|

The Choir- and Clergy-Stalls. -- It will be observed that the stalls for the clergy and choristers are generally placed on the two sides of the choir and face each other. The south side is called the {48} |decani side| and the north the |cantoris side,| as being, in cathedrals, the respective sides of the dean and the cantor (or precentor).

By this arrangement proper provision is made for the clergy as leaders of the worship of the congregation and for the choir as leaders of its praise in song. The singing in our churches is intended to be |common praise,| and this arrangement of the choristers marks their office as simply to lead it. They do not sing to the congregation; they sing with or for them to Almighty God. The people should sing with them, and not listen merely, as if attending a concert. Even when, as in a Te Deum or anthem, the music is too difficult for the congregation to join in it, the singers are still rendering to God the praises of all present, and all should take part in it in thought and in heart.

Because of this ministry as leaders of praise the choir are vested. Their vestments are the cassock and the cotta -- a modification of the surplice worn by the clergy.

Of the Litany-desk we have already learned in the section in reference to the nave.

The Bishop's Chair. -- In many churches there is found a |Bishop's Chair.| It has been felt as proper, in view of the dignity of the office of the {49} Bishop, to provide a special seat for him, and to have it occupied by no one else. In parish churches it is placed within the sanctuary at the north or |gospel| side of the Altar, facing the people. In cathedrals it is called a |Throne,| and its place is just without the rail on the decani side of the choir, facing like the choir-stalls.

Wherever placed, it is a reminder of the highest order in the Christian Ministry, and of the doctrine of Holy Orders our Church holds and acts upon. In the Preface to the Ordinal the Church makes this declaration: |It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church, -- Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.... No man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination.| What the Church here insists upon is what is commonly called the |Apostolic Succession.| This rule she rigorously applies. No minister of any of the denominations, no matter how learned and pious he may be, can {50} serve at her Altars until he has been ordained by a Bishop and is therefore commissioned by that Episcopal or Apostolic authority upon which the Church has always insisted.

The Bishop's Chair may remind us, then, of the Bishop's office and authority to ordain and to govern, of its essential importance in the life of the Church, and of how our Church's lineage and the authority of her Ministry are traced, through the succession of Bishops, directly back to the Apostles, and through them to Christ Himself, |the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls.|

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