Actually, you shouldn't feel afraid to ask what these things all mean -- we're always happy to explain. While it might look ritual-bound, everything we do in the service has some symbolic meaning that forms another layer of interpretation to the worship, and engages our multiple senses in the expression of our faith.
People often have commented on the beauty of our services, but we know it can seem a little daunting at first. Please know that you are welcome to participate in as little or as much as you wish.
Actions of the body
We stand for prayer and praise, to express our worship of God with our bodies. We sit to receive instruction, and we kneel in penitence and at certain solemn moments. We genuflect (literally 'bend the knee') when we enter the church building and come before the sacramental Throne of Jesus to acknowledge His presence.
Sign of the Cross
The cross represents the way our Lord died, and by making the sign of the cross, we acknowledge God's blessing and sacrifice, and worship and adore him through it.
This is used to bless and purify, and as a reminder of our baptism.
Incense represents our prayers rising to God and alludes to the smoke arising from sacrificial offerings. As well, it is used to set apart and honour sacred objects, areas and the people participating. We also cense persons as we ask God to bless them.
We ring bells to signify the call to devotion, and to focus our attention at important parts of the liturgy, such as: uniting in the singing of unending praise in the company of saints, angels and archangels ("holy, holy, holy Lord" or, in Latin, "Sanctus"), and at the consecration of the bread and wine.
Vestments are used to mask the personal identities of the servers and ministers to allow focus on the ministry itself. The presiding priest's vestments include the chasuble, symbolising our Lord's seamless robe, over a white alb, which hearkens to Jesus' command to those who would serve.
The colours of the priests' robes and the altar draperies are meant to call attention to the 'rhythm' or theme of the day, service or season:
|This colour ...||signifies...
||White||purity, joy, the colour for Easter
|Gold||also joy with an element of glory
|Red||martyrdom, blood, the colour for Holy Week; also represents the Holy Spirit, and is thus the colour of Pentecost
|Purple||a colour associated with penitence, preparation and royalty, and therefore the colour for Lent and Advent
|Blue||used by some as the colour for Advent to differentiate it from Lent