Serving the Lord in His Holy Altar at St. Paul’s
This would be a good time for young men (and their parents) to think about the privilege of serving the Lord in the Altar next year. You have to be at least ten but there is no upper limit on the age (there have been men in their late 80s serving). There have been new Acolytes who have been in high school and several men who are adult servers (the boys call them “the Men in Black” since they wear black robes). The boys can continue to serve even when they go on to college. One young man who attended a university in Southern California served occasionally for several years after graduating from high school.
We use the term Acolyte for the young men you see in robes on Sunday serving in the holy Altar. The word Acolyte is derived from the Greek word acolytos, meaning companion, attendant, or helper. The acolyte ministry has its roots in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, where the prophet Samuel is seen assisting Eli, the Levite priest, and Elisha is seen assisting Elijah the Prophet.
At St. Paul’s, young men are blessed to be Acolytes only one time a year, on the Sunday before Church School begins. If you know of someone who may want to serve in the Holy Altar, they should approach Father Steve early in the summer to express their desire. If they come forward too late, they will have to wait until the following year.
This is a wonderful experience for the boys. Not only do they have the privilege to serve with the Priests at the Divine Liturgy, they experience the Liturgy in a very personal way. It is also a growth experience since the boys learn responsibility and develop leadership. A few of the older boys are chosen to be acolyte captains. The captains really organize and run all the activities in the Acolyte room; the adult supervisors are just there to support the captains and to provide advice and training. Being an Acolyte captain is an experience that the young men re-member for the rest of their lives. And leadership opportunities are not limited to just the captains since there are times – due to all of the demands of modern life – that the captains cannot be at a service so someone else is appointed to be captain for that particular Liturgy.
Some insight into the job of those who already serve in the Altar: You see the Acolytes when they bring Father the censor and the hot water or when they are in a procession, but they do other things that are not seen. They cut the bread (antidoron) that is in the bowls after Communion. They clean the acolyte room, fill the candles, and do whatever else is needed to keep the services running smoothly. Some of the more special events for the acolytes occur during Holy Week. Examples are holding the cloth symbolizing the burial shroud of the Lord Jesus when Father takes the Icon of Christ down from the Cross during the Good Friday afternoon service and helping to change the colors in the Church after the Good Friday evening service from purple to white.
There are currently 25 young men who serve as Acolytes at St. Paul’s
– John Britigan, acolyte supervisor