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. If young, the server is commonly called an altar boy or altar girl. In some Christian denominations, altar servers are known as acolytes.
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. As in other churches,   altar servers are sometimes called acolytes in the Latin Church.
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The 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.
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In reference to this authentic interpretation, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments sent on 15 March 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..
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. In the absence of instituted acolytes , some of their functions at Mass may be carried out by altar servers.
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. Servers often wear cassock and surplice , with black and red being the most common colors for a server's cassock. 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.
Cold At 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. Yellow lives at the center of our being, our solar plexus. Seeing as this journey through colors is all about how they can help us find Balance in our life, I found it very fitting to offer contemplation on how work-life balance lives within this color and also to notice how it is showing up in your life.
i stand here
For many, work-life balance is a hard concept to grasp. We are forced for many reasons to work, work, work. To multi-task, to not take breaks, to continue forward despite the fatigue, the stress, and the depletion. But, I think we all know deep down inside, that this is not a sustainable way to live. Practice for the week: Choose one of the above and practice it at least once this week. Get out your calendar and plan it in. Set a reminder and stick to it just like any other important appointment you would not dare to cancel.
Make this appointment with yourself that important! You are worth, your body is worth it, and you deserve a radiant, balanced life. It is up to you to take action in your life and carve out the time. I encourage you to take a stand here this week not only for yourself but for the whole, the collective.
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