Glossary of Religion: C



Learn the definitions of religious terms and concepts with our extensive Glossary of Religion. Choose a letter above or explore the random terms below.

(khalif, "deputy, successor"). A political leader of the Muslim community. The most important of these were the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad.
(khalif, "deputy, successor"). A political leader of the Muslim community. The most important of these were the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad.
(Greek kanon, "rule" or "reference point"). A fixed group of writings considered inspired and authoritative. The New Testament canon consists of 37 books. Roman Catholics also consider the books of the Apocrypha to be canonical.
canon law
The body of ecclesiastical law, especially of the Roman Catholic Church as promulgated in ecclesiastical councils and by the pope.
Belonging to the accepted body of scriptures. For example, the Gospel of John is canonical but the Gospel of Thomas is not.
Process of determining the New Testament canon and declaring a person to be a saint.
Cappadocian Fathers
Three theologians from the region of Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey: Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-379), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) and Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) - whose development of Trinitarian doctrine remains highly influential in Orthodox Christianity.
Ankle-length garments of various types, but usually having long, narrow sleeves; worn by men and women, especially members of the clergy and others participating in church services.
(from Greek katecheo, "instruct"). A class or manual on the basics of Christian doctrine and practice, usually as a precursor to confirmation or baptism. Catechisms normally include lessons on the creeds, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, as well as the Hail Mary in Roman Catholicism.
(Greek katachesis, "instruction"). One who is being instructed in the basics of Christian doctrine, usually in preparation for confirmation or baptism.
Originally refers to puritan and ascetic separatists who followed the teachings of the Roman bishop Novatian in the 3rd century. In the Middle Ages the term came to refer to a highly organized sect that rejected sacraments and believed in a neo-Manichaean dualism in which good and evil were separate spheres and the material world was evil. Cathars led rigorously ascetic and celibate lives.
Universal. A term used by the early Christians to designate the universal Christian faith. When the eastern church split from the western in 1054 AD, the West retained this term and became known as Roman Catholic. Churches in the East are known as Greek, Eastern or Russian Orthodox.
Catholicism, Roman
Branch of Christianity characterized by a uniform, highly developed ritual canon and organizational structure with doctrinal roots based in the teachings of the Apostles of Jesus Christ in the first century, in the Alexandrian school of theology, and in Augustinian thought. In this religious branch, faith is considered an acceptance of revelation; revelation appears as doctrine.
"Common Era" or "Christian Era." Designation of years used by Jews and others who wish to avoid the affirmation of faith embedded in AD (Latin anno domini, "in the year of our Lord").
Priest or minister who presides over a service including the Eucharist. Compare with "officiant."
Celestial Master
(Chinese T'ien-shih). Title held by the hereditary leader of Orthodox Unity Taoism.
Celtic cross
Cross with a circle around the intersecting bars, often intricately decorated.
(Chinese, "enduring"). The permanent and eternal.
(Chinese, "air, "breath, "strength"). Life energy that flows throughout the human body and the universe.
(Japanese, "tea-way"). Tea ceremony in Zen Buddhism, intended to overcome ordinary consciousness and subject-object distinctions.
(Chinese). Ritual of purification.
Chang Kuo-lao
One of the Eight Immortals. Connected with a historical figure of the T'ang dynasty, his symbol is a fish-drum.
Chang San-feng
Taoist immortal traditionally considered the founder of t'ai-chi ch'uan.
Nine-branch candlestick used on Hanukkah. More commonly, though not accurately, called a menorah.
An ordained member of the clergy who is assigned to a special ministry, such as the armed forces, a university, or a hospital.
Outermost garment worn by bishops and priests in celebrating the Eucharist. In Eastern Orthdoxy, it is often also worn at solemn celebrations of the morning and evening offices and on other occasions. The Lutheran Church retained the chasuble for some time after the Reformation and the Scandinavian Churches still use it.
chevra kaddisha
(Hebrew, "holy society"). In Judaism, volunteers who care for a body and prepare it for burial.
Chi Rho
Forms appearing like the letter "P" crossed by the letter "X," actually the first two letters of the Greek word for "Christ," chi and rho, used to symbolize the name in Christian iconography.
(Chinese, "semen", "seed"). Vital essence.
Christ Pantocrator
Christ as "Ruler of the Universe," a common image in Orthodox iconography.
A Christian sect founded in Richmond, Virginia in 1848 by John Thomas (1805-71), who had previously been a follower of Thomas and Alexander Campbell. John Thomas wanted to return to the beliefs and practices of the earliest disciples, hence the name meaning 'brothers of Christ.' The name was adopted during the American Civil War to justify the follower's pacifism. The doctrines of the Trinity and of the pre-existence of Christ were rejected by Thomas.
Christian Science
A Christian denomination and movement founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) that seeks to reinstate the Christian message of salvation from all evil, including sickness and disease as well as sin. Eddy, a semi-invalid who was interested in cures not involving medicine, claimed a recovery from a bad injury without medical assistance in 1866. Afterwards, she devoted herself to restoring the healing emphasis of early Christianity.
The religion and culture that developed in the 1st century CE based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Christian feast and festival observed on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Its observance is first documented in Rome in 336, as a Christian replacement for the pagan festival held on the winter solstice to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun.
Area of theology dealing with the person of Christ. Treats such topics as the relation between Christ's human and divine natures, and the meaning of his sacrificial death (atonement). The vast majority of Christological doctrine was developed in the period leading up to the Council of Nicea in 325.
Chuang-tzu (Zhuangzi)
Taoist text named for its primary author, "Master Chuang" (c. 369-286 BCE). Also known as Nan-hua chenching (“The Pure Classic of Nan-hua”). Composed in the 4th or 3rd century BCE.
Commandments that have no known reason behind them.
Chung-li Ch'uan
One of the Eight Immortals. He is depicted as a stout man with a near-bald head but a long beard. His symbol is a fan, indicating power to raise the dead.
(Hebrew, "canopy"). Also spelled huppah. Canopy under which the Jewish marriage ceremony takes place, representing the marriage chamber or the couple's new home. The term is also used colloquially for the marriage ceremony as a whole.
Institutions that maintain places for public Christian worship.
Church of England
A Christian denomination sometimes considered a "middle way" between Catholicism and Protestantism. Originating with King Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, it is the state religion of the United Kingdom.
Arrogance, guts, presumption. Generally meant positively.
Class Meeting in Methodism
A meeting of a small part of a Methodist congregation, usually held weekly, in which collections are taken and inquiries are made into the conduct and spiritual progress of the group's members. The class leader is appointed by the minister of the congregation. The institution dates from 1742.
Religious officials or functionaries prepared and authorized to conduct religious services or attend to other official religious duties.
conch shell
Symbol of the fame of the Buddha's teachings.
1. A profession of faith (e.g. by the martyrs) or statement of doctrine (e.g. Augsburg Confession). 2. Admission of sin, either directly to God in prayer, generally to the congregation, or privately to a priest.
One of the seven Catholic sacraments, and a practice in some Protestant churches, in which a baptized young adult (usually aged 13) confirms his or her continuing commitment to the Christian faith. Confirmation is usually preceded by a period of education called catechism.
Source of values, scholarly tradition, and social view inspired by the teachings of Confucius in the sixth century BCE in China. The belief system, based on understanding the past and conserving cultural traditions, exerted profound cultural influences in East Asia, dominating government, society, education, and family life in the region.
conqueror's cross
Greek cross with the first and last letters of "Jesus" and "Christ" on top, and the Greek word for conquerer, nika, on the bottom.
Conservative Judaism
Religious movement and Jewish branch espoused by Zacharias Frankel (1801-1875) that endeavors to preserve particular elements and customs of traditional Judaism while allowing for limited modernization such as the support of the secular Zionist movement.
The doctrine according to which the substances of both the body and blood of Christ and of the bread and wine coexist in the eucharistic elements after being consecrated. The concept is attributed to Luther, who was opposed to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Luther illustrated the concept with the analogy of an iron in a fire: the fire and the iron are united in the red-hot iron yet both are still present.
Coptic Orthodoxy
National Christian church of predominantly Muslim Egypt. Egyptians before the Arab conquest of the 7th century identified themselves and their language as Aigyptios in Greek (Westernized as Copt) and later when Egyptian Muslims stopped calling themselves Aigyptioi, the term became the distinctive name of the Christian minority. Since the 5th century these Christians have been Monophysites, meaning that they acknowledge only one nature in Christ.
Branch of systematic philosophy that deals with the character of the universe as a cosmos, combining speculative metaphysics and scientific knowledge.
Council of Nicea
Council of Christian bishops convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 in modern-day Iznik, Turkey. Condemned Arianism as a heresy and produced the Nicene Creed.
Council of Trent
The 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, which took place over the period 1545-63. A very important council in that it reformed numerous aspects of church practice (e.g., abolished the sale of indulgences) and clarified Catholic doctrine in response to the challenges by Reformers.
Counting of the Omer
(Hebrew Sefirat ha-Omer). The counting of days between Passover and Shavuot.
In Christian thought, the bringing of the universe into existence out of nothing by God. Other traditions, including those much older than Christianity, conceive of creation as the fashioning of the cosmos out of some pre-existing material by some divine being or principle. .
Originally, and in Catholic theology, this term refers to the belief that God creates a soul for each individual person at conception or birth, in contrast to the belief in a soul's pre-existence. In the Middle Ages it was thought that this occurred 40 days after conception for a male baby and 80 days after conception for a female baby. While Augustine thought creationism and original sin were contradictory, Aquinas held that not believing in this tenet constituted heresy.
Creator's star
A six-pointed star representing the six days of creation and six attributes of God the Creator.
An object consisting of two intersecting bars, most commonly used as a Christian symbol or devotional object. Crosses come in a variety of forms and materials and may be small or large, plain or richly decorated.
cross of St. Peter
Inverted Latin cross, representing the martyrdom of St. Peter by upside-down crucifixion.
("cross-bearer"). Acolyte who carries the cross in a church procession before the service. The crucifer is followed by the choir, the acolytes, the lay ministers, and then the clergy in order of rank (highest last).
(Lat. cruciata, "cross-marked") Wars fought against enemies of the Christian faith, primarily the Muslim Turks in the period 1095 to 1291, but later against other infidels and heretics.
cult of the saints
The body of religious beliefs and practices pertaining to the veneration of saints and their relics. Prayers are addressed to the saints in the hope that they will intercede with God on the behalf of believers. Saints are believed to have accumulated a "treasury of merit" which can be used for the benefit of believers.
In Anglicanism, assistant pastor whose duties commonly include visiting the sick and shut-ins.

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Title Glossary of Religion: C
Last UpdatedFebruary 13, 2021
MLA Citation “Glossary of Religion: C.” 13 Feb. 2021. Web. Accessed 24 Jul. 2021. <>