Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Sanctuary Lamp / Eternal Light

The following is the sixth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Sanctuary Lamp - The sanctuary lamp is the name given to a candle (or electric light bulb) suspended from the ceiling or mounted on the wall near the Lord’s table. The lamp constantly burns throughout the week and, therefore, is also referred to as the “Eternal Light.”

This type of candle/lamp originates from Roman Catholic Eucharistic theology. In the Roman Catholic Church it is believed, based on Aristotle’s distinction between substance and accidents, that the substance of bread and wine, while still appearing (the accidents) to be bread and wine, has actually been transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. This is a doctrine called transubstantiation. Thus, for Roman Catholics, the sanctuary lamp indicates that Christ is eternally present in the reserved sacrament.

Wesleyans in general, and United Methodists in particular, while affirming the “real presence” of Christ in the sacrament, do not agree with the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Neither do they practice “reserving” the sacrament. Rather, in Untied Methodist usage, the sanctuary lamp signifies Christ’s presence in the church.

It is always important to remember, on the one hand, God does not dwell in houses made with human hands (Acts 7:48). In fact, we, as the people of God, the Church, are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22), and Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). On the other hand, this place has been consecrated and sanctified as a holy place wherein we gather to worship our God. And like Solomon’s Temple of old, we have asked that God’s “eyes may be open night and day toward this house . . .” (I Kings 8:27-30). Thus, the eternal light is a reminder to us that we do not gather alone, but rather, God is in this place.

(As a bit of a footnote:  How ironic is it when this [the above] is the bulletin insert for the very Sunday that the electrical light bulb just happens to burn out!  -  I had to explain that just because the light represents Christ's presence, it doesn't mean that He's not here when the bulb is burned out; Christ doesn't reside in the light bulb!)

Information gathered from the following resources:

Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church. Nashville, Abingdon P. 1984.

Staples, Rob L. Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality. Kansas City, MO. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1991.  (BTW, I highly recommend this book!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Stoles

The following is the fifth installment of my bulletin insert series: 

Stoles - Often times you will see clergy wearing stoles in worship. Stoles are long narrow bands of fabric. Usually, the stoles are in the liturgical color of the season or day based upon the Christian year. (More will be said about the Christian Calendar and the symbol of colors in a later insert.). Sometimes they have various symbols embroidered on them.

Stoles may be worn over robes, albs, or cassocks & surplices. (More about the cassock and surplice in a later insert.) They are worn by those who have been ordained as a deacon or an elder (presbyter/priest). Since Bishops are also elders, they, too, wear stoles in worship.

However, the way in which deacons and elders wear their stoles is different. Deacons traditionally wear their stoles over their left shoulder like a sash. It is then connected under the right arm. Elders (including Bishops) wear their stoles around the neck with the ends hanging down the front and just below knees.

Whereas robes, albs and even cassocks & surplices may be worn by any of the baptized, clergy and laity, alike, liturgical stoles are visible signs that one has been called by God and ordained to lead the community of faith in the sacramental life of the Church. The stole represents the “yoke of Christ” which the elder has assumed by virtue of his/her ordination.


Information gathered from the following resources:
Collins, Ken.  http://www.kencollins.com/  
Hickman, Hoyt L.  United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church.  Nashville. Abingdon P. 1984.
Lang, Jovian P., OFM.  Dictionary of the Liturgy.  New York. Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1989.
Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cambridge/Boston, MA. Cowley Publications. 2000.
Wilson, Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. New York. Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1938.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Alpha, Omega, and IHS

The following is the fourth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Α Ω / IHS - Each of these letters can be found in variuos places in the sanctuary and the church. For example, the Α Ω are seen on the children’s altar/table and the one in Calvary Chapel. IHS is also seen on both, as well as the clothes under the flower vases in the sanctuary. IHS is often seen on crosses. But what do these letters mean?

Well, first, they are Greek letters. The Α Ω are the letters, alpha and omega. They corospond to the sounds made by the English A and long O. However, in terms of placement in the alphabet, they corospond to the English A and Z. That is, they constitute the first and last letters of the alphabet.

That is significant, because in the Book of the Revelation Jesus says, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8); and “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13). Thus, these letters are symbols of Christ who is the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

IHS are letters that are sometimes mistakenly thought to mean “In His Service.” However, these letters are the Greek letters iota, eta, and sigma. They are also shown as IHC (the “C” being an older form of sigma), or sometimes with a “Σ” (the contemporary form of sigma) . Sometimes there is a horozontal line above the letters indicating that they are an abbreviation. Often, when shown in lowercase, the “h” is used to form a cross. These three letters are the first three letters (as well as the first two and last letter) in the Greek spelling of JESUS (IHCOYC, or IHSOYS, or ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). Thus, they are an abbreviation for Jesus.


Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room. 1962.

Whittemore, Carroll E., Ed. Symbols of the Church. (Revised Ed.). Abingdon P. 1987.