An altar server is a lay assistant to a member of the clergy during a Christian liturgy. An altar server attends to supporting tasks at the altar such as fetching and carrying, ringing the altar bell, among other things. A young male altar server is commonly called an altar boy, whereas a young female altar server is commonly called an altar girl.
While the function of altar server is commonly associated with children, it can be and is carried out by people of any age or dignity.
"Mass should not be celebrated without a minister, or at least one of the faithful, except for a just and reasonable cause."
As in other churches, altar servers are sometimes called acolytes in the Latin Church. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Saint Tarcisius as "presumably an acolyte, that is, an altar server". However, within the Latin Church, the term "acolyte" is also used in a more restricted sense, often specified as "instituted acolyte", to mean an adult man who has received the instituted ministry of that name. Acolytes in this narrower sense are not necessarily preparing for ordination as deacons and priests. They are authorized to carry out some functions, in particular that of cleansing the Eucharistic vessels, that are not entrusted to ordinary servers. Those who are to be ordained to the diaconate must be instituted as acolytes at least six months previously. This ministry was long classified in the Latin Church as a minor order, as by the Council of Trent. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which does not use the term "server" and instead speaks of altar servers generically among "other ministers", treats in detail of the functions of the "acolyte", often specifying "instituted acolyte".
An altar server is a substitute for an acolyte, who is the proper minister for these acts. When the Council of Trent developed the seminary system where men in minor orders would go away to schools for training to be a priest rather than study under a parish priest, it became customary for men, particularly young boys, to substitute for acolytes in parish churches without being ordained to minor orders. However, it had previously been customary in convents of women for nuns to perform the ministry of acolyte without being formally ordained to that minor order. So in a sense, women were the first altar servers.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law altered the juridical situation: without distinguishing between male and female, it declared: "Lay persons can fulfill the function of lector in liturgical actions by temporary designation. All lay persons can also perform the functions of commentator or cantor, or other functions, according to the norm of law." On 30 June 1992, the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts issued an authentic interpretation of that canon declaring that service of the altar is one the "other functions" open to lay persons in general, without distinguishing between male and female.
In reference to this authentic interpretation, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent on 15 March 1994 a circular letter to presidents of episcopal conferences, clarifying that the canon in question is only of permissive character. It does not require the use of female altar servers. It is thus for each diocesan bishop to decide whether to allow them in his diocese.. A later document, from 2001, states that, even if a bishop permits female altar servers, the priest in charge of a church in that diocese is not obliged to recruit them, since nobody, male or female, has a right to become an altar server. The document also states that "it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar".
As priests in charge of churches are not obliged to avail of a diocesan bishop's permission in this matter, those belonging to traditionalist Catholic groups such as the FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King and some other priests do not.
The vestment common to all ordained and instituted ministers of whatever rank is an alb, which is to be tied at the waist with a cincture unless the alb is made to fit without cincture. Acolytes, readers and other lay ministers (such as altar servers) may wear either an alb or other appropriate attire as determined by the local episcopal conference. All who wear an alb should use a cincture and an amice, unless the form of the alb makes these unnecessary.
In the Byzantine Rite, altar servers assist the higher clergy during services. They might carry the cross, candles or liturgical fans in processions and entrances; maintain the censer, ensuring it has enough live charcoal, loading it with incense and handing it to the priest or deacon when required; preparing the hot water (zeon) in time for it to be added to the chalice at the Divine Liturgy; prepare the antidoron for the people to receive after Holy Communion; and any other necessary tasks so that the priest need not be distracted during the service. An altar server is vested in the sticharion only.
In the early Church, before someone could be a server he had to be tonsured. Nowadays, in many places it is not necessary to be tonsured before one is allowed to serve (since the tonsure must be done by a bishop or higher-ranking priest). The rites of "Setting Aside a Taper-bearer" and "Tonsuring a Reader" have now been combined into one service. It is the custom in some traditions, such as the Greek Orthodox or Melkite Catholic, to allow tonsured altar servers to also vest in the orarion, worn crossed over the back like that of a subdeacon but with the ends hanging parallel in front. Among the Russians, however, the orarion is not usually worn by servers, but only by duly ordained subdeacons and deacons, with the exception that laymen who are blessed to perform some of the functions of subdeacons may sometimes be blessed to wear the orar.
Before vesting, the server must fold his sticharion and bring it to the priest for him to bless. The priest blesses and lays his hand on the folded sticharion. The server kisses the priest's hand and the Cross on the vestment, and then withdraws to vest. Any server who has not been tonsured must remove the sticharion when he receives Holy Communion, because communicants receive the Mysteries according to their order within the Church (so tonsured clergy vest while laymen remove their vestments). Before divesting at the end of the service, the server must receive the priest's blessing.
The minimum age varies by local circumstance, but boys must be mature enough to carry out their duties without disrupting the sanctity of the altar. Although it is common in North America for boys to act as altar servers, in some places this practice is virtually unknown and these duties are always carried out by adult men. In other places where altar servers are normally boys, adult men will not vest if called upon to serve. In yet other places, boys are not permitted to serve in the Altar on reaching their teens on the grounds that the young man is no longer innocent enough to serve in the altar.
Altar servers, regardless of age, are subject to all the normal restrictions for those not of higher clerical position. Anyone who is bleeding, or has an open sore, is not permitted to enter the altar. They may not touch the altar table or anything on it under any circumstances, nor the prothesis without a blessing. They may not touch the sacred vessels, the chalice and diskos (paten) at any time. They may not stand directly in front of the altar table or pass between the front of it and the iconostasis, but must cross between the altar and the High Place if they need to move to the opposite side.
In general, women do not serve in the altar except in women's monasteries. In that case they do not receive the clerical tonsure (though they must be tonsured nuns), and do not vest in the sticharion, but wear their normal religious habit for attending services, and serve at a certain distance from the actual altar table. Normally, only older nuns may serve in the altar; but the Hegumenia (Abbess) is permitted to enter even if she is younger. A few parishes have begun to use women as altar servers.
In Anglo-Catholic and some Episcopal Churches however, the vast majority of roles associated with an altar server are the same as those in the Catholic Church, and the same titles for each individual role are retained from Catholic tradition – mostly restored during the Oxford Movement in the 19th century.
An acolyte is an assistant or follower assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession. In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone who performs ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles.
In others, the term is used for one who has been inducted into a particular liturgical ministry, even when not performing those duties.Altar candlestick
Altar candlesticks hold the candles used in the Catholic liturgical celebration of Mass.Chaplain of His Holiness
A Chaplain of His Holiness is a priest to whom the Pope has granted this title. They are addressed as Monsignor and have certain privileges with respect to ecclesiastical dress and vestments.Communion-plate
A communion-plate is a metal plate held under the chin of a communicant while receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Its use was common in the last part of the nineteenth century and during most of the twentieth.Confessor
Confessor is a title used within Christianity in several ways.Consecrator
In the Roman Catholic Church, a consecrator is a bishop who ordains a priest to the episcopal state. The term is also used in Eastern Rite Churches and in Anglican communities.Credence table
A credence table is a small side table in the sanctuary of a Christian church which is used in the celebration of the Eucharist. (Latin credens, -entis, believer).
The credence table is usually placed near the wall on the epistle (south) side of the sanctuary, and may be covered with a fine linen cloth. It is sometimes tended by an acolyte or altar server, and contains on it the implements that are used in the Eucharistic celebration, which may include the bread and wine prior to their consecration, a bowl, perforated spoon, ewer and towel for the lavabo and the ablutions after Holy Communion, etc. The wafers for the communion of the faithful may be stored in a ciborium, or host box (sometimes erroneously referred to as a pyx). The wine and water for the chalice will be in cruets. The chalice, and paten, covered with their cloths and veil (see chalice cloths for details) may be placed on the credence from the beginning of the service until the Offertory, at which time they are moved to the altar.Crucifer
A crucifer or cross-bearer is, in some Christian churches (particularly the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutherans, and United Methodist Church), a person appointed to carry the church's processional cross, a cross or crucifix with a long staff, during processions at the beginning and end of the service.The term "crucifer" comes from the Latin crux (cross) and ferre (to bear, carry). It thus literally means "cross-bearer".
Use of the term "crucifer" is most common in Anglican churches. In the Catholic Church the usual term is "cross-bearer".In the Latin Catholic Church the function of the crucifer/cross-bearer was generally carried out by a subdeacon until Pope Paul VI decreed in his motu proprio Ministeria quaedam of 15 August 1972 that "the major order of subdiaconate no longer exists in the Latin Church". In line with that document, the functions previously assigned to the subdeacon are now entrusted to the acolyte and the reader.A seventeenth-century Council of Milan stated that a crucifer should, when possible, be a cleric and that, if a lay person be selected, that "the most worthy of the laity should be selected for the office." For more solemn processions, the cleric should be vested in amice, alb, and tunic. On less solemn occasions he may just be vested in surplice. During the procession the staff is held with both hands such that the cross is well above the head. The cross-bearer leads the procession except when there is a thurifer and is accompanied by two servers on the more solemn occasions.Diocesan bishop
A diocesan bishop, within various Christian traditions, is a bishop or archbishop in pastoral charge of a diocese or archdiocese.
In relation to other bishops, a diocesan bishop may be a suffragan, a metropolitan (if an archbishop) or a primate. They may also hold various other positions such as being a cardinal or patriarch.
Titular bishops in the Roman Catholic Church may be assistant bishops, coadjutor bishops, auxiliary bishops, nuncios or similar papal diplomats, officials of the Roman Curia etc. They may also hold other positions such as cardinal. The see of titular bishops only nominal, not pastoral.Epanokalimavkion
An epanokailimavkion (Greek: επανωκαλυμμαύχιον, also epanokalimafko (επανωκαλύμμαυχο) is an item of clerical clothing worn by Orthodox Christian monastics who are rassophor or above, including bishops. It is a cloth veil, usually black, which is worn with a kalimavkion.
The epanokamelavkion is attached to the front of the kamilavkion and extends over the top to hang down the back, with lappets hanging down on each side. In some traditions, monks leave the lappets hanging over the shoulders, but nuns bring them together and fasten them  behind the apostolnik.
In the Russian tradition, the kamilavkion covered by its epanokamelavkion is collectively referred to as a klobuk.
Hierodeacons (i.e., monastic deacons) will remove the epanokamelavkion when they are vested and serving at liturgical services; if they are not serving, however, they will wear it whenever attending services. Monks who have been ordained to minor orders (subdeacon, reader, altar server) do not wear the kamilavka when vested. Hieromonks (monastic priests) always wear the epanokamelavkion whenever they wear the kamilavkion.
In the Russian tradition, the epanokamelavkion of an archbishop has a jewelled cross stitched to the front of it near the crown of the kamilavkion. A metropolitan wears a white epanokamelavkion with the same jewelled cross. The Patriarch of Moscow's epanokamelavkion is often richly embroidered with seraphim or other symbols on the lappets and is attached to a conical kamilavkion called a koukoulion. The Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, which is not in communion with Moscow, also wears the kamilavkion.
The Patriarch of Bulgaria wears a white epanokamelavkion with small cross. The Patriarch of Romania also wears a white epanokamelavkion.
On Mount Athos, particular practices may vary from monastery to monastery, but generally speaking—in the Greek monasteries, at least—the epanokamelavkion is not attached to the kamilavkion, but is merely laid over it. The reason for this is that the Athonite typicons call for it to be removed from the kamilavkion and laid over the shoulders at certain moments during the services.Funghellino
The funghellino (Italian for "small mushroom") is a short mushroom-shaped stand used in the Roman Catholic liturgy. It is placed on the altar at a Pontifical Mass to hold the bishop's and higher prelates' skullcap (zuchetto) during the Eucharistic prayer.Grimoaldo of the Purification
Blessed Grimoaldo of the Purification (4 May 1883 – 18 November 1902) - born Ferdinando Santamaria - was a Basque Roman Catholic clerical student from the Passionists. He had expressed his inclinations towards the religious life from his childhood when he served as an altar server and was exposed to the Passionist charism; but he did not join until 1899 once his father approved of his dream and he was professed in 1900. He then continued his studies - though this time for the priesthood - but died from meningitis before he could achieve this dream.Santamaria's reputation for holiness was well-noted in his hometown during his life and it increased after his death while devotion to him soared in Rochester once his widowed mother and sister immigrated there. Pope John Paul II presided over his beatification in 1995. Although controversial, Grimoaldo was a strong believer of ethnic cleansing also claiming that Basques were descendants from Adam and Eve.Mea culpa
Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that means "through my fault" and is an acknowledgement of having done wrong.
Grammatically, meā culpā is in the ablative case, with an instrumental meaning.
The phrase comes from a prayer of confession of sinfulness, known as the Confiteor, used in the Roman Rite at the beginning of Mass or when receiving the sacrament of Penance.
The expression is used also as an admission of having made a mistake that should have been avoided, and may be accompanied by beating the breast as in its use in a religious context.Oblation
Oblation, meaning an offering (Late Latin oblatio, from offerre, oblatum, to offer), is a term used, particularly in ecclesiastical use, for a solemn offering or presentation to God.Preacher
A preacher is a person who delivers sermons or homilies on religious topics to an assembly of people. Less common are preachers who preach on the street, or those whose message is not necessarily religious, but who preach components such as a moral or social worldview or philosophy.Processional cross
A processional cross is a crucifix or cross which is carried in Christian processions. Such crosses have a long history: the Gregorian mission of Saint Augustine of Canterbury to England carried one before them "like a standard", according to Bede. Other sources suggest that all churches were expected to possess one. They became detachable from their staffs, so that the earliest altar crosses were processional crosses placed on a stand at the end of the procession. In large churches the "crux gemmata", or richly jewelled cross in precious metal, was the preferred style. Notable early examples include the Cross of Justin II (possibly a hanging votive cross originally), Cross of Lothair, and Cross of Cong.The Venerable
The Venerable is used as a style or epithet in several Christian churches. It is also the common English-language translation of a number of Buddhist titles, and is used as a word of praise in some cases.Thurible
A thurible (via Old French from Medieval Latin turibulum) is a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services. It is used in Christian churches including the Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Oriental Orthodox, as well as in some Lutheran, Old Catholic, United Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian Church USA, Anglican churches (with its use almost universal amongst Anglo Catholic Anglican churches). In Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican churches, the altar server who carries the thurible is called the thurifer. The practice is rooted in the earlier traditions of Judaism in the time of the Second Jewish Temple.Beyond its ecclesiastical use, the thurible is also employed in various other spiritual or ceremonial traditions, including some Gnostic Churches, Freemasonry (especially in the consecration of new lodges), and in Co-Freemasonry. Thuribles are sometimes employed in the practice of ceremonial magic.The workings of a thurible are quite simple. Each thurible consists of a censer section, chains (typically three or four, although single-chain thuribles also exist), a metal ring around the chains (used to lock the lid of the censer section in place), and usually (although not always) a removable metal crucible in which the burning charcoals are placed. Many thuribles are supplied with a stand, allowing the thurible to be hung safely when still hot, but not in use. Burning charcoal is placed inside the metal censer, either directly into the bowl section, or into a removable crucible if supplied, and incense (of which there are many different varieties) is placed upon the charcoal, where it melts to produce a sweet smelling smoke. This may be done several times during the service as the incense burns quite quickly. Once the incense has been placed on the charcoal the thurible is then closed and used for censing.A famous thurible is the huge Botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, SpainThe word "thurible" comes from the Old French thurible, which in turn is derived from the Latin term thuribulum. The Latin thuribulum is further formed from the root thus, meaning incense. Thus is an alteration of the Greek word θύος (thuos), which is derived from θύειν (thuein) "to sacrifice".Due to the ceremonial use of incense, its cultural importance in western Catholicism can be seen e.g. in the introduction of a incense smelling fragrance "Avignon" in 2002. Avignon was created for Comme des Garçons as a part of their incense series by Bertrand Duchaufour. Thus the introduction of incense in Christian worship here and there within various denominations is paralleled by wider cultural interest turning again back from the oriental mysticism also to western use of incense.Zeon (liturgy)
Zeon (Greek: "boiling", "fervor") is a liturgical action which takes place in the Divine Liturgy of the Rite of Constantinople, during which hot water is added to the chalice. The same term is used as a noun to describe the vessel used for this purpose.
Immediately following the fraction, the altar server hands the deacon a vessel of hot water. The deacon presents it to the priest and says, "Bless, Master, the hot water." The priest blesses it with his right hand saying, "Blessed is the fervor of Thy saints, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen." The deacon pours a portion of the hot water into the chalice, making the Sign of the Cross with the water, as he says, "The fervor of faith, full of the Holy Spirit."The historical beginnings of the ritual are unknown; however, it is clearly of ancient origin. Symbolically, the warm water represents the water which flowed from the side of Jesus at the time of the Crucifixion; and also the Christian belief that the Body of Christ is life-giving. Orthodox Christians believe that they partake of the Resurrected Body and Blood of Christ, and the warmth of the chalice is a reminder of that doctrine.
The type of vessel used differs depending upon whether the Greek or Slavic Rite is used. In the Greek practice, the zeon vessel tends to be shaped like a very small ewer set on a tiny plate. The Slavic practice, by contrast, uses a larger vessel shaped like a cup with a flat handle, set on a somewhat larger plate. Both traditions use enough to heat the entire chalice.
|Order of Mass|
|Parts of the|
Sanctuary / Altar
|Candles and lamps|
of the Roman Rite