This glossary contains technical terms and foreign-language words that appear in my Sunday readings commentary.


Apocalypse (“ah-PAH-kah-lips”), from the Greek ἀποκάλυψις (“ah-poe-KAY-loo-psis”) = “to uncover” or “to reveal.” Apocalyptic writing is a specific literary style that describes current events in which the believers are suffering and offers a future consolation in which the believers will triumph. Examples of apocalyptic writings include the book of Daniel in Hebrew scripture and the book of Revelation in Christian scripture.

ancient catechumenate

The ancient catechumenate was the early ekklesia’s (second to fifth centuries) path of formation and teaching to initiate new members into the Christian way of life. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Roman Catholic church re-introduced elements of the ancient catechumenate using the RCIA process. See also RCIA.


Catechesis (“kah-tah-KEE-sis”), from Greek κατήχησις (“kah-TAY-kay-sis”) = “to teach orally” or “to instruct.” In Christian studies, catechesis is the process of teaching Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way to bring a student into the fullness of Christian life.


Someone seeking instruction (catechesis). In the RCIA process, a catechumen is an unbaptized person seeking initiation into the Roman Catholic church. See also RCIA.


From the Greek χριστός (“kriss-TOS”) = “anointed.” A translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (māšîaḥ) = “anointed.” See also messiah.

Christian scripture

Christian scripture or the New Testament is an agreed-on collection of stories and writings about the life and teachings of Jesus, and life and struggles in the early ekklesia (believing community) after Jesus’ resurrection. This collection, organized into 27 books and letters, capture the kerygma or key teachings of Jesus.

Early fathers, Church fathers, or Apostolic fathers

The Church Fathers are influential theologians and writers in the first five Christian centuries. Those fathers who wrote in Latin are called the Latin Fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Gregory the Great, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, and Jerome. The fathers who wrote in Greek are called the Greek Fathers, and include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, and the Three Cappadocian Fathers. The very earliest writing of the church, including the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and the Shepherd of Hermas are considered among the writings of the Church Fathers although their authors are unknown.


Ekklesia (“ek-klay-SEE-ah” or “ek-KLAY-see-ah”), from the Greek ἐκκλησία (“ek-klay-SEE-ah”) = “to call out [from a larger group.]” Ekklesia is a group of people who share common beliefs, a believing community, or an assembly. In Christian scripture and writings, English translators usually render ekklesia as “church.” This is sometimes confusing because the English word “church” can mean a church building, the organizational hierarchy, or the whole believing community.


Eschatology (“ess-kah-TOL-oh-gee”), from the Greek ἔσχατος (“ESS-kah-tos”) = “the furthest” or “the final.” In Christian studies, eschatology is “the study of the last things:” death, judgement, heaven, and hell.


Exegesis (“eks-ee-JEE-sis”), from the Greek ἐξήγησις (“eks-AY-gay-sis”) = “to lead out.” In Christian studies, exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a religious text. Exegesis can include a variety of analyses, including textual criticism (text history and origins), the author’s and the audience’s historical and cultural backgrounds, literary genre, and grammatical features of the text.

Hebrew scripture

The Hebrew scripture or Old Testament is an agreed-on collection of books by many different authors that tells the story of the Jewish people and their covenant with God. Hebrew scripture is divided into three parts: Torah (“law” or “instructions”), Nevi’im (“prophets”), and Ketuvim (“writings”). The Christian version of the Hebrew scripture differs slightly from the Jewish version of the Hebrew scripture in the order and number of books; Catholic and Protestant versions of Hebrew scripture differ slightly from each other in the number of canonical books.


Kerygma (“keh-RIG-mah”), from the Greek κήρυγμα (“KEH-roog-mah”) = “a proclamation.” In Christian studies, kerygma is the summary of faith proclaimed by the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. Kerygma includes the following proclamations: Jesus is the promised messiah. He performed mighty works. Although crucified and killed, he was raised from the dead, glorified by God. He appeared to his disciples. He now sits at God’s right hand. He calls everyone to repent (metanoia) and to be baptized before the coming judgement.


Koinonia (“KOY-noh-nee-ah”), from the Greek κοινωνία (“koy-noh-NEE-ah”) = “business-partner relationship.” In Christian studies, translators usually render koinonia as “fellowship,” “communion,” or “community,” but the meaning is richer and more complex. The early Christians writers, especially Paul, took over the everyday koinonia meaning (“business-partner relationship”) and broadened its meaning to include other relationships. Here are a few examples of koinonia shades of meaning:Each disciple has koinonia (“union”) with Jesus; therefore each disciple also has koinonia (“fellowship” or “communion”) with other disciples within the believing community. The communion meal or Eucharist expresses Jesus’ koinonia (“unity”) with all disciples as both a one-to-one union with Jesus (each one sharing Jesus’ body and blood) and a sign of the community’s shared unity in Jesus (the bread is broken and distributed to all; all drink from the same cup). These koinonia (“shared experiences”) with Jesus form the basis of the Christian fellowship. The word koinonia also implies action: disciples act in union, in community, or in fellowship with others.


Messiah (“mes-SIGH-ah”), from the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (māšîaḥ) = “anointed.” See also Christ.


Metanoia (“meh-tah-NOY-ah”), from the Greek μετάνοια (“meh-TAH-noy-ah”) = “after mind.” Metanoia is about the “after-mind” or “second-mind,” when someone rethinks something, turns his mind, or changes his mind. Usually translated as “repent” from a French word meaning “to feel sorrow strongly,” metanoia is not a feeling but an action, a conversion, and a change.


Mystagogy (“MISS-tah-goh-jee”), from the Greek μυσταγωγός (“mous-ta-go-GOSS”) = “a person initiated into the mysteries.” Mystagogy means “the study of the mysteries.” In the RCIA process, mystagogy or postbaptismal catechesis, is the third and final period of Christian initiation. It is a time for neophytes, new Catholics, and the community to deepen their understanding of the Paschal mystery and incorporate it into their lives through meditation on the Gospel, sharing the Eucharist, and doing charitable works (RCIA §244).


Paraclete (“PAH-rah-kleet”), from the Greek παράκλητος (“pah-RAH-klee-tos”) = “[someone] called to another’s side.” In the ancient world’s legal system, a paraclete acted as the accused person’s advocate. In the first century AD paraclete also meant mediator, intercessor, comforter, and consoler. In Christian studies, the Paraclete usually refers to the Holy Spirit, as described by Jesus in John’s gospel (Jn 14:15-16:11). John the Elder, author of the Johannine letters, uses παράκλητος to describe Jesus as “our mediator and advocate with the Father” (1 Jn 2:1).


Parousia (“pah-roo-SEE-ah” or “pah-ROO-see-ah”), from the Greek παρουσία (“pah-roo-SEE-ah”) = “arrival.” In Christian studies, the term refers to Christ’s second coming at the end of time.


The Pentateuch (“PEN-tah-took”), from the Greek πεντάτευχος (“pen-TAH-too-kos”) = “five scrolls.” Pentateuch is another word for the Torah, or the first five books of the Hebrew bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.) See also Torah.


Pericope (“peh-RIH-koh-pee”), from the Greek περικοπή (“peh-ree-koo-PAY”) = “a cutting out.” A pericope is a set of sentences or verses that forms one coherent unit or thought. In Biblical studies, it is a unit of text that contains a single story or idea that is suitable for study or public reading.


The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, is the process that the Catholic church uses to initiate new members into the Christian way of life, specifically in the Roman Catholic tradition. The RCIA is a reestablishment of the ancient catechumenate, which existed in the early church (second to fifth centuries). In the second half of the twentieth century, the Catholic church developed a set of documents that defined the rites that local churches should use in the restored catechumenate. The Rite includes four phases:

  1. Evangelization and Precatechumenate (or Inquiry) phase
  2. Catechumenate (or Catechesis [learning]) phase
  3. Purification and enlightenment (or Preparation) phase
  4. Mystagogy (or Reflective) phase

RCIA candidate

In the RCIA process, a candidate is someone who is already baptized and who is seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic church. See also RCIA.


Septuagint (“sep-TOO-ah-jint”), from the Latin septuaginta (“sep-too-ah-GIN-ta”) = “seventy.” In Christian studies, a translation of the Hebrew scriptures and some related texts into Greek. Sometimes called the Greek Old Testament. The Septuagint is the translation quoted by the Christian scripture authors (gospel and epistle writers) and also used by the Church Fathers. The “seventy” refers to the legendary seventy Jewish scholars who translated the Torah from Hebrew into Greek in the late second century BC. The name Septuagint is usually abbreviated LXX (the Roman numeral value for 70).


The Torah (“tour-AH”), from the Hebrew ךהוֹתּ = “instruction,” “teaching;” or most often “law.” Torah refers to the first five books of the Hebrew bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). See also Pentateuch.


Triduum (“TRIH-doo-um”), from the Latin triduum (“TRIH-do-um”) = “three days.” The Triduum–Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil (celebrated on Holy Saturday evening)–is the central celebration of the church. These three days are three acts in a continuous liturgy that celebrates the key events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. These are the holiest days on the church calendar, celebrating the great mysteries of the faith.