Glossary – B


The ancient city of Babylon (or Babel) lay on the left bank of the Euphrates River not far south of the modern city of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.  The term also sometimes refers to the state of Babylonia which surrounded it.

Babylon, like Egypt and Assyria, was one of the powerful neighbours of the Israelites in Old Testament times.  From 587-539 BC many Jews were held in captivity in Babylon in a period known as The Exile.  In 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem.  Only after his defeat in 539 by Cyrus of Persia were the Jews allowed to return from exile.

Baptism (N.1212-1284)

Baptism “is the basis of the whole Christian life”.  With Confirmation and Eucharist it makes up the Sacraments of Initiation through which a person is fully initiated into the Catholic Church.  The term baptism comes from a Greek word meaning to “plunge” or “immerse”.  This refers to the ceremony of baptism by which a person is immersed in water or has water poured over them.  This immersion is a symbol of the new Christian’s burial (to sin) with Christ and their resurrection with Christ as “new creatures”.  This new birth in the Holy Spirit joins the newcomer to the Body of Christ, and makes them sharers in the mission of the Church.

Before the time of Christ Jewish religion used immersion baptism as a purification rite and as a rite of entry for converts to Judaism.  John the Baptist practised a baptism of repentance which Jesus, who was ‘without sin’, underwent to emphasise his identity with sinful humankind.  The early Church following Jesus’ command (Mark 16:15-16) baptised “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (see Acts 2:37-41).  Although immersion seems to have been the common form of baptism in the early church, the practice of baptism through the pouring of water soon arose.  Both forms are used by the Catholic Church today.

Baptismal Font

A water container where the Sacrament of Baptism is celebrated.  According to present Church guidelines fonts should allow for the immersion of infants and the pouring of water over the entire body of an adult or child.  Fonts are generally required to be fixed and must be well-designed and made of suitable materials.  They are located either in a separate baptistery, near the entrance of the church, or in the community’s midst.


The term for certain official buildings at the time of the Roman Empire.  These were later handed over to Christians and adapted for worship.  Later the term referred to the architectural style of such buildings.  Examples in New Zealand are the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Wellington and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch.


A town about 7 km south of Jerusalem.  The name in Hebrew translates as ‘house of bread’.  It is famous as the home of the family of King David and as the birth place of Jesus (Mt 2:1ff and Luke 2:4ff).


Bishops, who are usually the pastoral leaders of a diocese, are priests who enjoy “the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders” (Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church n.15).  Diocesan Bishops may be assisted by a Coadjutor Bishop who has the right of succession or an Auxiliary, who does not.  The word bishop comes originally from the Greek ‘episkopos’, meaning overseer or supervisor.  A Bishop’s main role is to be the spiritual and pastoral leader and teacher of the faithful of the diocese.  By ordination each Bishop becomes a member of the worldwide college of Bishops headed by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.  As such, each Bishop is a symbol of unity within his own diocese and within the wider Catholic Church.  Acting together with the Pope as their head in an Ecumenical Council (e.g. Vatican II 1962-65), the Bishops exercise supreme authority in the Church.

Bishops also meet in national or regional Episcopal Conferences to act together for the good of the Church. Meet the New Zealand Bishops and find out more about the New Zealand Bishops’ Conference.

Blessed Sacrament

In general, a term for the Eucharist denoting its pre-eminent place among the seven sacraments.  More narrowly, it is a term for the consecrated host reserved for use outside the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly for distribution to the sick, or for devotions such as Benediction.

Blessing (N.1077-83)

In everyday language a blessing is any happy event or state of affairs.  In biblical terms blessings call down God’s gifts on the people or express the people’s thanks for the gifts bestowed.  Liturgically a blessing is a ritual in which the Church sanctifies or makes holy a person or an object.  Usually this involves the priest making the sign of the cross with his right hand over the person or object to be blessed.  The celebration of the Eucharist concludes with a blessing of the congregation.