When we gather to pray together in the Church, especially, on Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Kyriaki in Greek) in the Divine Liturgy, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to communicate and grow our relationship with God, the Holy Trinity. By praying as a family we are able to feel and experience the great joy of being with the Lord and sharing in His eternal love. This is the same joy that the Mother of God and Theotokos, the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul and all the Saints share in heaven. Praying and serving our Lord in the Holy Altar is a great joy and very rewarding.
The Altar Server’s main role is:
a) to pray and serve at the Holy Altar.
b) to help the Priest in the Divine Liturgy and the Holy Services.
It is a great honor and privilege to serve in the Holy Altar but a great responsibility too. As servers in the Church, your behavior in the Altar will be a strong example to the parish family. One must bear in mind that the Holy Altar is the most holy place, and that it is required that one stand therein with the utmost reverence. To help the Altar Server understand the seriousness and importance of their role in the Worship of the Greek Orthodox Church, Altar Server retreats are held periodically.
Remember: The Robe worn by the Altar Server symbolizes their commitment to serve the Church. When you wear the Altar Server’s robe, you are a servant of God at His Holy Altar.
- Altar Servers should participate in the Holy Sacraments of the Church (for example, always be ready to receive Holy Communion, participate in Holy Confession, etc.). They must live a Christian life (church, school, friends, work, home)
- Be on time. Arrive before the Divine Liturgy starts and be ready for your duties! This way the Priest can focus on praying in the Holy Service and NOT if he has help. Also, you will make sure not to miss out on any parts of the Holy Service. Remember, it is considered rude behavior to be late for an appointment like dinner at friends’ house or especially when God calls us to His table. Finally, when we are on time it shows that we are responsible and mature and that we set the example for the people (It is not ok to be late)
- Learn the order of the Divine Liturgy so that you know what comes next
- Sing & Pray along with the Priest and the people. Keep your mind on the Holy Service
- Know the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed
- Proper behavior. In the Holy Altar one should not engage in conversations, nor laugh, nor should one walk about the Church, and particularly is this so during the Divine service itself. Sitting down, while wearing the Altar Server`s Robe, is not permitted. Do not let your mind wander
- The bathroom should be used only when absolutely necessary. (Remove your robe before entering)
- Be responsible and help the Priest and keep the Holy Altar clean and organized.
Altar Servers should dress in Sunday clothes to show proper respect for God and the holy work they are about to do.
- Shirt (collared dress or casual, buttoned all the way up).
- Dark pants (dress pants are preferred, NO jeans or shorts!).
- Black dress shoes, black socks.
- Hair must be kept clean and combed.
- Be clean. Wash your hands and brush your teeth.
Entering the Holy Altar
Remember: The Altar Table in the Holy Altar is where the Priest celebrates the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Sacraments and Holy Services .
- Stand in front of South Door (Archangel), cross yourself, kiss the icon of the Archangel in front of you and enter.
- Find and fold your Robe and Orarion (belt) and receive a blessing from the Priest. Extend your hands and say “Father Bless” or for a Bishop “Master Bless”. Kiss his hand and get vested.
- Receive a Divine Liturgy book and take your place around the Holy Altar Table. Follow along in the Service.
Exiting the Holy Altar (At the end of the Divine Liturgy)
- Make sure the Priest has enough Antidoron (Blessed bread) to distribute/give out to the people.
- After the Antidoron is given out, return to the Holy Altar; make sure everything is ready for the next Holy Service (for example, clean up any mess like bread crumbs).
- Get the blessing from the Priest to remove your Altar Servers Robe and put your robe back in its proper place, the way you found it.
- Cross yourself and kiss the icon of the Archangel as you exit the Holy Altar.
During the Service
- Pay attention to the Priest. Assist the Priest.
- Lead processions during the Divine Liturgy.
- Follow along in the Divine Liturgy book.
- Stand around the Holy Altar Table as evenly as possible. Only the Altar Server closest to the Priest to his left should be getting the Censer (Thymiato) and Zeon (hot water).
- Make the sign of the cross every time you;
a) approach the Holy Altar Table.
b) leave from the Holy Altar Table.
c) pass behind the Holy Altar Table.
d) the Priest says “Father, Son and the Holy Spirit now and forever and to the ages of ages.”
- Walk in front of the Holy Altar Table. Only the Priest or Bishop stands there.
- Look at the congregation through the Beautiful Gate.
- Touch the Holy Altar Table without the permission of the Priest.
- Talk across the Holy Altar Table or to the person next to you when standing at the Holy Altar Table.
- Play with your Orarion/belt.
- Drop your Divine Liturgy book.
1st or Small Entrance: When the Priest goes around the Church with the Holy Gospel.
- At the beginning of 2nd Antiphon “Save us o Son of God, who rose from the dead…” the Altar Servers line up at the North Door only holding Candles.
- As the Priest picks up the Holy Gospel and starts going around the Holy Altar Table, the Altar Servers process down the right aisle of the Church to the back of the Church, turn left and left again to come up the center aisle. The Priest will follow the Candles.
- When the Altar Servers reach the Solea (platform in front of the Holy Altar) they stand in front or on the double-headed eagle on the Solea floor, bow together facing the Holy Altar, and line up on either side of the Beautiful Gate (center doors of the Holy Altar) in two lines facing one another.
- When the Priest enters into the Holy Altar with the Holy Gospel, the Altar Servers immediately go back to the double headed eagle on the Solea and turn to face the Holy Altar, bow together and then enter through the doors on their own side.
2nd or Great Entrance: When the Priest goes around the Church with the Holy Gifts.
- This procession is exactly the same as in the 1st or Small Entrance, however, we use the Candles, the Fans, the Cross and the Censer (Thymiato).
- The order is: Candles; Fans; Cross; Censer; Priest.
- Whoever holds the Censer, censes the Priest who holds the Holy Gifts as he walks around the whole Church.
- After the Priest enters into the Holy Altar, the Altar Server holding the Censer bows first and enters through the South Door (Archangel) and stands to the right of the Priest in the Holy Altar. Then follows the Cross alone, then the Fans, then the Candles, bowing and entering through the doors on their own side.
Special Processions (Example: Sunday of Orthodoxy)
- The Altar Servers process down the right aisle and stop at the back while the Priest begins the Litany.
- They turn left and continue passing the center aisle until they reach the left aisle and stop while the Priest continues the Litany.
- They process up the left aisle and stop at the Solea while the Priest continues the Litany.
- They take their places on either side of the Beautiful Gate (center door of the Holy Altar) where the Priest completes the Litany.