We continue our examination of Anglican vocabulary. My plan is to examine a word or two to help you learn some of our “Anglican-isms”. I believe they will help enrich your experience of following Christ as an Anglican Christian. This week we move to the “F”s,

Fair Linen

A long white cloth that covers the top of the altar. It typically hangs down some distance over the ends of the altar. The BCP directs that at the Eucharist the altar “is spread with a clean white cloth during the celebration”. Historically, in the early church, a small table was brought out and put in place for the liturgy of the table. A white cloth was spread on the table at this time. As late as the eighth century, a white cloth was spread upon the holy table during the Eucharist by deacons after the liturgy of the word.

It is appropriate for the altar cloth to be spread on the altar before the service or at the offertory. It may be embroidered with five crosses, one on each corner and one in the center (representative of the five wounds of Christ). References to the fair linen date from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer.


A large vessel with handle and spout, shaped like a pitcher. It is used as a container for wine or water at the Eucharist. It may be made of metal, pottery, or glass. The Prayer Book directs that only one chalice is to be on the altar during the Great Thanksgiving. This emphasizes the symbolism of the common cup. If more wine is needed, a flagon of wine may be consecrated at the Eucharist. Additional chalices may be filled from the flagon after the breaking of the bread.