Glossary – P


Palestine is one of the names for the “Holy Land” or the “Bible Lands”. The name is a Greek corruption of “Philistia”, the Land of the Philistines who occupied the coastal strip of the “Promised Land” at the time the Israelites moved into the “land of Canaan” after the Exodus from Egypt. By the time of Jesus the area between the Jordan valley and the Mediterranean Sea was generally referred to as Palestine. It was slightly more extensive than the modern State of Israel.


The parables of Jesus are extended figures of speech, usually in the form of stories, which are drawn from everyday life and designed to catch the attention of the listeners and to challenge them to action. Jesus’ parables were told in a specific situation, often in answer to a particular question, and examples used were the ones the listeners would be familiar with. Jesus wanted people to think out the answers to the question as it related to their own lives. We are meant to get involved in the story, to put ourselves in the place of the characters and in this way be drawn into seeing the implications of the question for us. Thus the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) confronts us with the question ‘What does being a “neighbour” mean?’

Paschal Candle

The Paschal or Easter Candle is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection from the dead for our salvation. It is usually a large candle. It is lit at a special ceremony at the start of the Easter Vigil and is marked with the signs for Alpha and Omega (Christ, the beginning and the end) and the numbers of the current year. The Paschal Candle is lit during the Liturgy in the Easter Season and is used throughout the year at baptisms and funerals for its Easter symbolism.

Passion Narrative

The passages in the Gospels which recount the story of Christ’s suffering and death (Matt 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19).

Passion (Palm) Sunday

See entry for Holy Week.

Passover Meal (N.1164)

A major Jewish religious feast. It celebrates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It takes its name from the Hebrew ‘pesah’ – Exodus 12:13 “When I see the blood I will pass over you – – – – when I strike the land of Egypt”.

At the Passover meal Jewish families eat food symbolic of God’s saving events at the time of their flight from Egypt. Thus lamb is eaten in remembrance of the lambs sacrificed at the time of the Exodus. In Christian terms Jesus becomes the Passover Lamb – ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’.

According to the synoptic Gospels Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples just before his death. In his ‘Last Supper’ lie the origins of much of our Eucharistic celebration of today.


From a Latin word for a broad, shallow dish. A paten is a saucer-like container used during the celebration of the Eucharist to hold the bread to be consecrated and, later, the consecrated Host.

Patron / Patroness

A saint venerated as a special protector or intercessor. Individual persons, occupations, Churches, dioceses or particular problems may be under the protection of patron saints.

Penitential Rite

This is part of the Introductory Rites in the celebration of the Eucharist. Often the penitential rite is sung or chanted.


The word comes from the Greek meaning “the fiftieth day”. It is the name given to the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles fifty days after Easter (see Acts 2:1-41). It is also the name for the feast day in the liturgical calendar that celebrates this event.


A sect or movement of lay people within Judaism noted for their strict observance of the Law of Moses. The Gospels record several incidents of mutual hostility between Jesus and the Pharisees whom he accused of hypocrisy. (Used as an adjective with a small ‘p’, the word pharisee in English means a hypocrite.) St Paul, before his conversion, and Nicodemus (Jn 3:1) are identified as being Pharisees.


A pilgrim is someone who makes a journey for religious reasons. A pilgrimage is such a journey. Hindus make pilgrimages to their sacred sites such as the River Ganges, and Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land have been popular in Christianity since early in the history of the Church. In mediaeval times many other sites of pilgrimage developed, eg to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostella in Spain, or to that of St Thomas à Becket in Canterbury. Last century Marian shrines such as those at Fatima and Lourdes have developed. The Church is often regarded as a pilgrim people on a journey through life towards the heavenly Jerusalem.

Pontius Pilate

The Roman official (prefect) in charge of Judaea 26 – 36 A.D. All four Gospels portray Pilate presiding over the trial and condemnation of Jesus.


One of the Evangelical Counsels. Those who take a vow of poverty in religious life do so voluntarily in order to show a dependence on God, and in order to provide a more generous service of others in imitation of Jesus who even gave his own life for the sake of others (see Evangelical Counsels).

Prayer of the Faithful

This is the general intercessory prayer at the end of the Liturgy of the Word during Mass. The usual subjects are the Church and its ministers, civil leaders, the world and its peoples, the sick, those who have died and those who mourn.


The one who oversees any act of public worship. The presider’s responsibility is to animate the liturgical texts and inspire the assembly to active participation.

The priest is the presider at the Eucharist where he acts in the person of Christ, the head of the Body.

Presentation (of Jesus)

According to the Law of Moses (Ex 13:2, 12) each first-born child, or animal, among the Israelites was to be dedicated to God. In bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple for this ceremony Mary and Joseph are shown to be devout Jews.

Priestly Traditon

When the Hebrews went into exile under the Babylonians in 597 to 586 BC a school of priests preserved the faith of Israel during this crisis by gathering together many of their cultic and legal traditions. The first creation story (Genesis 1) with its account of the “days of creation” is attributed to these Priestly authors. The Priestly tradition forms the fourth (and final) source which makes up the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. All four sources were edited by the Priestly school after the exile ended in 539 BC.

Primacy of Sunday (N.1166-67, 2168-88)

Through a tradition extending back to the apostles the Church has celebrated Christ’s passion and resurrection every seventh day. Thus the Lord’s Day, or Sunday, is a special day for Christians as a day for worship and as a day of rest – following the Jewish custom of the Sabbath. The Eucharist is the chief form of worship of God and also the chief source of strength for the life of the Christian community. The Church therefore places a serious obligation on the faithful to participate in the Eucharist on Sundays (and certain Holy Days) unless prevented by grave cause.

Promised Land

When the Hebrews came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses they wandered in the desert for some forty years before reaching the land of Canaan, which was seen as the Promised Land, a prosperous land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8,17), promised by God to Abraham and his descendants as their heritage (Genesis 12:7). It was under Joshua’s leadership that the people entered the Promised Land.


A word used to describe one of the thousands of separate Christian church bodies (and their members) that have formed and spread throughout the world during the last four and a half centuries. Protestantism is a sixteenth century religious movement that originated in Western Europe as a reaction or protest against what was seen as abuses within Roman Catholicism.

Psalms (N.2585-2589)

The Psalms are a collection of 150 Israelite lyrics, poems and prayers found in the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament. They represent the work of several centuries and some may be the work of King David to whom many are ascribed.

The Book of Psalms (or Psalter) is the ‘masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament’. The Psalms contain many forms of prayer, such as lamentation and thanksgiving, but all in praise of God. The Psalms are part of the liturgy and for centuries have been among the best-loved prayers of Christians.


From the Latin, purificare, “to purify”. A small cloth used for wiping the paten and drying the chalice (after rinsing the latter with water) at Mass. It is made with absorbent linen and folded in thirds. A small red cross decorates it in the centre.