Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Altar Server

Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is Risen! 

In the Orthodox Church, an Altar Server ( historically known as an acolyte ) is a term used for someone who, although unordained, performs liturgical duties, assisting the major orders throughout the Divine Liturgy ( and most holy services of our Church ).   

The Orthodox Church no longer possesses the title 'Acolyte' ( as used in the Early Church ) as the role has fallen into disuse with other minor orders. There used to be a rank of minor clergy called the 'taper-bearer,' responsible for bearing lights during processions and liturgical entrances, however this rank has been subsumed by that of the reader ( with the tonsuring of the reader mentioning these functions ). These functions of an acolyte, or taper-bearer are therefore carried out by readers, subdeacons, or by unordained men and boys, wearing the sticharion alone. Interestingly, St John the Russian's holy relics were clothed in a sticharion very similar to that of an altar server.  

The term acolyte was used for someone preparing for the major orders of clergy, however this is not necessarily the case today. However, for around 1800 years the important role of altar servers has brought about countless priestly vocations, and lives fully dedicated to Christ's Church. 

Serving at the altar is a great and holy privilege, especially in the light of the fact that our Tradition does not allow most people ( male or female ) to enter the Holy Sanctuary. 

'Only fear the Lord, and serve him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you.' (1 Sam 12:24)

'If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him.' (John 12:26)

The term 'Acolyte,' coming from the word 'akolouthos,' means attendant or follower. This humble ministry has its roots in the Old Testament, with the Prophet Samuel assisting Eli, the Levite Priest; and Elisha assisting Elijah the Prophet. Therefore the Acolyte ( or altar server ) attends to the Bishops or priests, assisting them during services. In addition, the historical term can also be linked to 'akolytos' meaning free from stain or sin - which highlights the importance of a server having exemplary behaviour, not only in the altar, but also in and out-with the life of the parish.

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