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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A brass pyx for carrying the consecrated Host.
Pyx is also the abbreviation for the constellation Pyxis.

A pyx or pix (Latin: pyxis, transliteration of Greek: pyxis, box-wood receptacle, from pyxos, box-tree) is a small round container used in the Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican Churches to carry the consecrated Host (i.e., the consecrated Eucharist), to the sick or invalid or those otherwise unable to come to a church in order to receive Holy Communion. The term can also used in archaeology and art history to describe small round lidded boxes designed for any purpose from antiquity or the Middle Ages, such as those used to hold coins for the Trial of the Pyx in England.



Silver gilt pyx, south of France or Spain, 15th century (Musée de Cluny).

The word pyx comes from the Greek word πυξίς, "pyxis" meaning box or receptacle. The plural is pyxides. While the word may be applied to any covered carrier, in the modern usage the term is usually applied to small, flat, clamshell-style containers often about the size of a pocket watch and usually made of brass or other metals, traditionally lined with gold. A fabric or leather pouch in which the pyx may be carried is known as a burse. Typically, this kind of burse can be securely closed and is fixed with cords so that the priest or other Eucharistic Minister can affit it to his or her person during transport to prevent the consecretated host(s) from being accidentally lost.

The term pyx is also a standard term used in the Catholic Church to refer to a flat, circular container, sometimes called a lunette, composed of a ring of metal (usually lined with gold) holding two glass or crystal disks, to create a round, flat, glass-enclosed space for the Eucharistic Host. This is used together with a monstrance for exposition and Benediction services. The lunette is often kept in another object, itself sometimes called a pyx, luna, or custodia, which is usually a round box often on a small stand, giving the impression of a faceless, old-fashioned, alarm clock.

All of these objects, whenever they contain a consecrated host, are normally kept within the church tabernacle when they are not being carried. The tabernacle may be behind the main altar, at a side altar, or within a special Eucharistic chapel.

Liturgical history

Drawing of an ancient peristerium.

In late antiquity, the custom developed in the East of suspending a vessel in the form of a dove (Greek: peristerion, Latin: peristerium) over the altar, which was used as a repository for the Blessed Sacrament. This custom is mentioned by Gregory of Tours in his Life of Saint Basil, and in several ancient French documents. The custom probably came to France from the East, for it never seems to have existed in Italy.[1] Examples of this practice may still be found in use today; for instance, in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow.

Eastern Christian

In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches, the pyx is the small "church tabernacle" which holds the Lamb (Host) that is reserved for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during Great Lent. This pyx may be either kept on the Holy Table (altar) or on the Prothesis (Table of Oblation) on the north side of the sanctuary.

See also

Notes and References

  1. ^ Catholic History (March 1997), "Dove. Symbol of the Holy Ghost", The Seraph, XVII No. 7,, retrieved 2007-08-01  

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PYX (Gr. irvis, a box or chest), a term for various forms of receptacle. In ecclesiastical usage it is the sacred vase or tabernacle in which the Host is reserved. In the English Mint the pyx is the chest in which are placed one coin from every 15 lb of newly coined gold and one from every 60 lb of newly coined silver to await the "trial of the pyx" (see Mint). This chest was formerly kept in the Chapel of the Pyx in Westminster Abbey.

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FIG. t. - Head of Boa canina. Q the letter which immediately succeeds P in the alphabet of Latin and the modern languages of western Europe. It represents the Koppa of the earliest Greek alphabets surviving in that form of the Ionic alphabet, which ultimately superseded all others, merely as the numerical symbol for 90. In the Phoenician alphabet a sibilant Zade (Tzaddi) stands between q and p. Hence Q is the nineteenth letter in the Phoenician alphabet, the eighteenth in the Greek numerical alphabet, which alone contains it, the sixteenth (owing to the omission of 8 and E) in the Latin, and (from the addition of J) the seventeenth in the English alphabet. Its earliest form is a rough ellipse transfixed by an upright line, cp. In various Semitic alphabets this has been altered out of recognition, apparently from the writing of the symbol in cursive handwriting without lifting the pen. As a result forms like 1, P, I) ! are developed. In Greece the head of the symbol is generally circular, and only in a few early inscriptions is the upright carried through the circle, p. The common form is ? with the upright stem short. This is also the earliest form in the Latin alphabet, but forms with the upright turned to the right as in a modern Q are found in the Republican period, while this tail becomes longer and curved in the early Empire. The pronunciation of the Semitic Koph (Qof) was that of a velar guttural produced against the back part of the soft palate with great energy (hence called an "emphatic" sound). In Greek there is no evidence that ? was pronounced differently from K; hence no doubt its early disappearance in most dialects. It survived longest when followed by o or v, as at the beginning of the name of the town of Corinth. In Latin it is regularly used in combination with u. In classical Latin its use is confined to the cases where, as in English quill, &c., the u is pronounced as w before a following vowel, but in old Latin it is found also in other combinations. Many languages find the combination qu, when both sounds are consonantal (qw), difficult; q being the deepest guttural while u (English w) is a lip sound, the points of production are nearly as far separate as they can be. There is thus a tendency to assimilation, and instead of a guttural followed by a labial semi-vowel, a new labial consonant p is produced. In Greek this is common when the combination is followed by the vowel o, as in irW. roi, &c., from the same stem as the Latin quo, qui, &c. This, however, is not found in all dialects alike (see GREEK LANGUAGE). In other languages, like Oscan and Umbrian which are closely akin to Latin, or the Welsh branch of the Celtic languages, p occurs regularly without regard to the nature of the vowel following. Thus, corresponding to the Latin quattuor, we find the Oscan petora, the Gaulish petor-ritum, " four-wheeler," the Welsh pedwar, " four," &c., while the Irish cethir, " four," corresponds more closely to the Latin. (P. GI.)

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