Glossary – S

Sabbath (N.348, 2168-2188)

From the Hebrew word shabbat meaning to “stop” or “rest”. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the Jewish week. Following the Law of Moses (Ex 23:12, 34:21, Lev 23:2-3) Jews observe the Sabbath by refraining from work and devoting the time to special prayers and observances. The early Christians eventually transferred the day from Saturday to Sunday – the day of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Sacrament (N.774-76)

In its broad sense the term sacrament refers to ways in which the invisible saving power of God is made visible through created things. But properly speaking a sacrament is ‘a visible sign of invisible grace’. Thus the Second Vatican Council spoke of Christ as the sacrament of God, and the Church as the sacrament of Christ. In particular it refers to the seven sacraments of the Church which are signs and instruments of Christ’s grace.


A liturgical book which contains the prayers needed by the presider for Mass.

Sacraments of Initiation (N.1212ff)

These are the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. They are so-called because they lay the foundations of every Christian life and initiate members into the Church.


A preparation and vesting room, often located to one side of the sanctuary. Vestments, altar linens, eucharistic vessels, and other liturgical wares are stored there. It is a place where the presider and other liturgical ministers prepare for liturgical ceremonies.


One of the ruling groups in Judaism at the time of Jesus. They were descended from Zadok, a high priest at the time of King David, and were associated with Temple worship. They held conservative views and did not, like the Pharisees, believe in life after death.


Samaritans were inhabitants of a city and its surrounding district, Samaria, in North-Central Palestine. Samaria was capital of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, before it was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC. After the Exile, the Jews who settled around Jerusalem did not regard the Samaritans as true Israelites. The Samaritans were of mixed descent and differed in their beliefs. They recognised only the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. Given the enmity between the two groups and the degree to which Samaritans were despised by Jews, Jesus’ dealings with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-42) and his famous parable (Lk 10:29-37) are all the more remarkable.


The part of a Church immediately around the altar. The English comes from a Latin word meaning holy place. You can take a virtual tour of a Catholic Church and see where the sanctuary is in relation to the rest of the Church.

Sanctuary or Tabernacle Light

The sanctuary or tabernacle light or lamp is normally surrounded by red glass. It is kept lit in Catholic churches and chapels whenever the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle. It is a reminder of the presence of Christ.


At the time of Jesus the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious council of the Jews, had 71 members. It was composed of three classes; the elders, the high priests, and the scribes (see entry). This council tried Jesus before taking him to Pontius Pilate (see entry). The Sanhedrin had power to arrest people and bring them to trial, but could not carry out capital punishment.


One of the prominent “matriarchs” of the Old Testament. She produced her son Isaac at a time when she was thought to be past child-bearing thus proving that “nothing is impossible with God”. Thus, with her husband Abraham, she became the grandparent of Jacob, or Israel, from whom God’s people took their name.


The first king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel. He ruled from about 1020 – 1000 BC.

Saviour (N.430, 594)

A saviour is one who rescues another from danger or harm. Christians call Jesus their Saviour because by his life, death and resurrection, Jesus saves them from the harm or evil of sin and enables them to share in the very life of God. This salvation in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is offered to all people. In the Gospels Jesus is called ‘Saviour’ in the good news brought to the shepherds of his birth (Luke 2:11). The angel tells Joseph to name Mary’s child ‘Jesus’ because he was to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21).

School Philosophy

What the school aims to achieve for and by its community of students, parents and staff, and how it hopes to achieve these aims.


In ancient times scribes were simply a class of professional people who could read and write. In New Testament times the scribes are the professional lawyers i.e. experts in the Law of Moses. Many scribes appear to have been Pharisees (see entry). The Gospels portray the scribes as hostile to Jesus perhaps because he was a threat to their influence (eg Mt 5:20).


In the ancient world books were written in a rolled-up form rather than with pages. These scrolls consisted of pieces of papyrus, leather or parchment sewn together and rolled smoothly round a stick. A reader would unroll the manuscript off the stick onto another. Much of the Old and New Testaments were written on Scrolls (see Luke 4:16-21).

Sea of Galilee

See Lake of Galilee.

Season of Advent (N.524, 1093-95)

From the Latin adventus meaning “coming”. This is a four week season immediately preceding Christmas. It is a period of joyful preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas (the Incarnation) and for his Second Coming at the end of time.

Season of Christmas

This season of the Liturgical Year extends from midnight on Christmas Eve to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Season of Easter

The Easter Season in the Liturgical Year Calendar extends from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.

Second Coming (N.668 –682)

This is the awaited return of Jesus ‘from the right hand of the Father’ to ‘judge the living and the dead’. This Last Judgement will announce the fulfilment of the Kingdom or Reign of God inaugurated by the first appearance of Jesus.

Second Vatican Council

This was the 21st ecumenical (world-wide) council of the Catholic Church. It was opened by Pope John 23rd in October 1962. The Council had several sessions and ended in December 1965. Vatican II, as it is usually called, was attended by over 2,800 Bishops. It made significant decisions for the life of the Church which are contained in the sixteen documents issued by the Council. The most important of these are those on Divine Revelation, the Liturgy, the Church and the Church in the Modern World.

Seeds of the Word

This phrase is from the writings of the early Christian philosopher and ‘apologist’ St Justin Martyr who was beheaded around 165. Pope Paul VI used it in his well-known work ‘Evangelisation in the Modern World’ (1976). Pope Paul VI writes that non-Christian religions are “impregnated with innumerable ‘seeds of the word’ and can constitute a true ‘preparation for the Gospel’”. This understanding that the Holy Spirit, working in the hearts of peoples of other religions and cultures, has planted a rich store of spirituality and seeds of the ‘Good News’ is an important part of the concept of inculturation (see entry) promoted by recent popes.


The image we have of ourselves in terms of physical, mental and emotional make-up. This may or may not be an accurate picture/reflection of who we really are.


An understanding we have of our own worth and an attitude of valuing ourselves, even when others may put us down. Our self-esteem will depend to a large extent on how much we see ourselves as being able to contribute to the well-being of others.


From the Latin seminarium meaning “seedbed”. The name for the training programme and place where candidates are trained for the priesthood.


Signs and symbols are an important part of the way people communicate. This is particularly so in the spiritual or religious dimension of life. A sign is anything that points to something beyond itself, e.g. smoke is a sign of fire and a red traffic light is a sign meaning Stop. A symbol is usually regarded as a type of sign that has a meaning beyond what is pictured or represented, i.e. a symbol carries a deeper meaning than a sign, e.g. for New Zealanders the Kiwi means more than a bird. It has become a symbol of Aotearoa New Zealand and all that the land and people stand for. However, in practice the term sign is often used to include symbol as well. Thus the Sign of the Cross is full of deep symbolic meaning for Christians about the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus and all that stands for in terms of salvation.

Sign of the Cross

A religious gesture of blessing which was already in use by the time of Tertullian (d. ca. 225). It takes several forms. The large form is made by touching the fingers of the right hand to the forehead, the breast, the left shoulder and the right shoulder. Usually an expression of faith in the Trinity is said at the same time – “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. Another form is to trace a small Sign of the Cross on the forehead, mouth and breast. This is normally done by the priest and congregation as the Gospel reading is announced. A Sign of the Cross is also traced on the foreheads of candidates for baptism and confirmation.

Sin (N.385-421, 1440-1460, 1846-76)

Sin is a ‘failure in genuine love for God and neighbour…’. As such sin is something that harms, or even breaks, our relationship with God and with other people.

Solomon (1 Kings 3-11)

Son of David and Bathsheba and third king of Israel, he ruled from about 962 to 922 BC. He built the temple in Jerusalem and is credited with great wisdom. After his death, he was succeeded by his son, Rehoboam, but the northern tribes rebelled and established the northern kingdom of Israel under the rule of Jeroboam I.

Special Character

For Catholic schools in New Zealand this Special or Catholic Character is defined in the Integration Agreement as follows: “The school is a Roman Catholic school in which the whole school community, through the general school programme and in its Religious Instructions and observances exercises the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ. These values are as expressed in the Scriptures and in the practices, worship and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, as determined from time to time by the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese.


Refers to spiritual matters and may be defined as ‘our way of being religious’. So we may speak of Hindu spirituality or Buddhist spirituality. In the same way we may speak of Christian spirituality as ‘our way of being Christian’. Spirituality involves the total way we live our life in relation to God and others. This includes our everyday behaviour as well as more obviously ‘spiritual’ activities such as worship or prayer. There are varieties of Christian spirituality. Thus we may speak of Quaker spirituality or charismatic spirituality or monastic spirituality.

Within the Catholic Church there are also various way of relating to God and others so that we may speak of Jesuit or Franciscan spirituality. Cultures also exert an influence in this area so we speak of Celtic or Polish or Maori spirituality. This simply means the way in which people shaped by those cultures express themselves as Christians.

Stations of the Cross

A Catholic devotion commemorating Christ’s Passion. The ‘stations’ are traditionally fourteen crosses each with a representation of a scene from Jesus’ Way of the Cross (see entry). These are commonly found in churches and chapels. In recent times a fifteenth station, for the Resurrection, has often been added.

St Clare of Assisi

Founder of the Poor Clares, a religious community of women. Clare was born in Assisi, Italy around 1193. When she learned of the activities of Francis and his group of Friars, she refused an arranged marriage and in 1212 committed herself to follow the Gospel in the same spirit as Francis. Throughout her life Clare fought to maintain the ideal of rigorous poverty for the Poor Clares. She died in 1253 and was canonised in 1255. Her feast day is 11 August.

St Francis of Assisi

One of the greatest and best-loved saints, Francis di Bernadone was born in Assisi in central Italy in 1181. Founder of the Friars Minor, usually called ‘Franciscans’, Francis was noted for his compassion, his devotion to prayer and to ‘Lady Poverty’ and for his love for all creation. He died in 1226 and was canonised in 1228. He is the patron Saint of Italy and of the environment. His feast day is 4 October.


The responsibility given by God to humankind to care for the rest of creation. The origins of stewardship are found in God’s command that humankind exercise dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28) and in the directive that the first man name all the animals (Genesis 2:19). This responsibility does not legitimise human exploitation of the earth for human ends. Humans must be mindful that they are acting on God’s behalf and in the interests of the whole of creation.


A long, narrow piece of fabric, somewhat like a scarf, worn over both shoulders outside the alb by priests and bishops when they preside at the celebration of the Eucharist or any other sacrament. A deacon also wears a stole but diagonally over one shoulder.


A container for holding holy water. Fonts were located at the entrances to ancient churches and monasteries so that individuals could wash their hands prior to entering church. This act of washing evolved into blessing oneself with Holy Water.

Supreme Being

A term used to indicate that God is greater than all other beings, spiritual as well as material.


A synagogue is a Jewish place of prayer, study and instruction. The name comes from a Greek word meaning assembly. Synagogues arose after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 587 BC and the dispersion of Jews during the Exile. By New Testament times synagogues were found throughout Palestine and beyond in towns of any size where there was a sizeable Jewish community. Services were held on the Sabbath and feast days.

Synoptic Gospels

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. They are called ‘synoptic’ because they can be ‘viewed together’ or compared in a parallel fashion. Scholars believe that Matthew and Luke are based on Mark and on another source called “Q” – from the German Quelle “source”. This common basis would account for their similarity.