What’s An Acolyte?
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
What Does An Acolyte Do?
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.
What Is It Like To Be An Acolyte?
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 remember for the rest of their lives. 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.
Who Can Serve?
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.
When Can I Start?
At St. Paul’s, young men are blessed as 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.
What’s Expected of Acolytes at St. Paul’s
Good Behavior & Attitude
Our attitudes and behavior reflect the fact that we are standing in the presence of God within His Holy Sanctuary! By our actions we will show ourselves to be prayerful and reverent, and also we will always pay attention to what is taking place around us.
Cleanliness & Neatness
The Sanctuary will be kept clean and neat at all times. Acolytes are responsible for maintaining its cleanliness as well as the neatness of the robes and other items used in the processions (i.e. we remove wax from candle holders and/or clean the fans and cross). We also keep the counter clean after cutting the antidoron (bread), and put everything back into its proper place.
As acolytes, we prepare ourselves to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus as often as possible. We fast on the appropriate days (i.e. Wednesdays and Fridays and throughout other fast periods) as well as by limiting our thoughts, words, and actions to those things that glorify God.
Making the Sign of the Cross
When we make the sign of the cross we reaffirm our identity as Christians. When we serve as acolytes, we show our reverence to the Lord by crossing ourselves at the moment we enter the Sanctuary, walk behind the Altar table, observe Father crossing himself, or whenever the Holy Trinity is commemorated during Divine Services.
When we are asked to serve, we will arrive properly dressed at least 10 minutes before the service. Remember that we serve as examples to the other young people in our church community.
Learn by Heart
Acolytes learn by heart as much as possible, especially the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and the Prayers before Communion. We also learn and remember our responsibilities during the Divine Liturgy and the other services of the Church.
Going to Confession
Acolytes, just as all Christians, participate in Holy Confession during the Advent Fast and during the Great Lenten Fast, at least. This is part of our preparation for serving and celebrating throughout the Church year.
Acolytes respect the concerns and directions of Father Steve and/or other clergymen who are serving our community, as well as Mr. Britigan and the other adult supervisors.