Basic Rules for Acolytes

When you are trained to serve as an acolyte, your priest will give you precise instructions on how to vest, where to stand, when and how to hand over a needed item to the priest or deacon, etc. You will learn where to walk, how fast to walk, how to bow, and many other things. These instructions vary among Orthodox jurisdictions — Antiochian, Greek, Romanian, Serbian, Slavic, etc. — and even from parish to parish depending on local practice, but there are some basic guidelines that are universal for servers:

The Sanctuary is holy, and access to it is restricted to a very few men. Do not abuse the privilege you have been given to enter the sanctuary for service by being disrespectful or entering the holy place unnecessarily.

Arrive early for services, according to the instruction of the priest in charge, so you have time to prepare and vest without rushing. Late entries may distract the priest from his duties/prayers (e.g., preparing the Holy Gifts at the Table of Oblation during proskomedia).

Prepare for service with fasting, prayer, and frequent Holy Confession. Abstain and plan to partake in Holy Communion at every Liturgy. (Even if you are not scheduled to serve, prepare as if you were. You may be asked to replace a server who is ill or absent.)

Follow the dietary rules for Wednesdays, Fridays, and the four fasting seasons seriously.

Dress properly for serving God. Shorts, jeans, T-shirts, tennis shoes, and other casual clothing are not appropriate, even when “hidden” by a robe. (Most priests require that servers wear dark-colored dress pants, button-down shirts, and black or brown leather street shoes.)

Mind your personal appearance. Come to serve with clean hands and face, and neatly combed hair cut in a conservative style. Leave distracting jewelry — including earrings — at home.

Be alert for hand signals and other instructions given by the priest, deacon, or senior altar servers. When an instruction is given, follow it exactly and immediately.

Do not talk or whisper in the sanctuary or while in procession in the Nave, unless it is to ask an important question about your duties. Giggling, laughing, and fidgeting are not appropriate.

When you are not performing a specific task, stand to the side and follow the service in your service book. Sing the responses, and read the prayers silently along with the priest.

Never walk in front of the Holy Altar (i.e., between the Altar Table and the Royal Doors). Only the bishop, priest, and deacon may stand in front of the Altar while serving.

Take care of your robe (e.g., folding it neatly after services, letting the priest know if a button is loose, etc.).

Clean up the sanctuary following services according to your priest’s instructions; this may include replacing candles or filling oil lamps, cleaning and polishing the censer and other brass items, or vacuuming. Be sure to tidy up the area where the antidoron is cut.

Adapted from A Manual for Altar Servers, produced by the OCA Diocese of the Midwest/Cleveland Deanery. X

by Nichola Toda Krause

© 2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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