The Altar Server is a term used for someone who is privileged to serve in the Holy Altar area where the Holiest of the Holies are present and where the Lord dwells.
Although the Altar Server is not ordained, he performs liturgical duties such as lighting altar candles, preparing the censor with charcoal and incense, and assisting the Clergy with the Divine Services. The Holy Altar area is a very sacred place in the Church and only the clergy and the Altar Servers are permitted to enter. No laymen or women are permitted entrance to the Holy Altar area without a special blessing by the Bishop.
The responsibilities of the Altar Server and the sacred task are as follows:
- Altar Servers must be clean and neat. They must wear a dress shirt, slacks and good shoes. Hair must be neat, combed and finger nails cleaned.
- All Altar Servers must be in the Sanctuary at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy or other scheduled services. The Divine Liturgy begins at 9:00 am.
- Upon entering the Sanctuary, the Altar Server gets his robe and neatly folds and presents it to the priest or the bishop (if he is present) to be blessed. The Altar Server says: “Father, Bless the Robe, or for the Bishop “Master, bless the robe.”
- He then goes to his assigned place at the right or left of the Altar Table. When he crosses the large Crucifix behind the Holy Table, he always makes the sign of the cross. He never crosses in front of the Altar Table.
- Only the clergy, the Bishop, Priests and Deacons are permitted to stand or walk in front of the Holy Table.
- During the Divine Liturgy, as the choir concludes the hymn " O Monogenes Ios ...Only Begotten Son…" two Altar Servers with lighted candles will prepare for the Small Entrance.
- During the reading of the Epistle, two Altar Servers are to prepare themselves with the Candles for the Gospel reading.
- While the Cherubic hymn is being sung, the Altar Servers prepare the Candles, Fans (Exapteryga), the Cross (Stavrou) and Censer (thymiata) with incense for the Great Entrance.
- During the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father…), one Altar Server prepares the Zeon (boiling water for the Holy Communion).
- When the priest says, "Proskomen, ta Agia tis Agiis" (Let us attend, The Holy Things for the Holy), the Altar Server brings the Zeon to the Priest. Then re-fill the Zeon and bring to the Prosthesis Table.
- After the Consecration of the Holy Gifts, and we kneel, One Altar Server should immediately prepare the Censor upon standing up, while two or three Altar Servers get the Antidoron (Blessed Bread) Bowls to receive a blessing at the Altar.
- After the Priest receives Holy Communion, the two Altar Servers should prepare the Antidoron in the bowls, and two Altar Servers make ready to assist with the Communion Clothe.
- At the conclusion of Holy Communion, one Altar Server as he enters the Altar area prepares the Censor.
- After the Divine Liturgy, one Altar Server brings the Antidoron to the solea for distribution by the priest. Another Altar Server extinguishes all the candles in the Altar except the candle on the censer stand by the Proskomide (this candle on the censer the Priest extinguishes himself after the consumption of the Holy Communion).
- When the service is over, all Altar Servers must carefully and neatly hang their robes.
- When in the Holy Altar area, and Altar Server is close to God Himself. Therefore, no idle talking, laughing, chewing gum, whistling, eating or horse-play will be tolerated.
- An Altar Server must prepare himself to receive Holy Communion. He prepares himself by praying, meditation, fasting and Holy Confession.
- Every Altar Server will always kiss the hand of the Priest whenever he hands him something or when the Priest returns something to him. We kiss the Priest's hand because 1. we show respect for him and his work and 2. because his hands hold the Holiest of the Holies, the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Herman the Wonderworker of Alaska & First Saint of America; The Holy Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes of Greater Armenia; Lucia the Virgin-martyr; Gabriel the Hieromartyr, Archbishop of Serbia