During the early years of the Church, the Disciples of Christ found that they were not spending enough time doing the job Christ chose them to do. They were so busy tending to the needs of the early Christians that they didn’t always have enough time to go out and tell other people about Christ and His love for us. So, the Disciples chose some of the people who were involved in the Christian communities to help. They chose seven, worthy men and ordained them to be deacons – with the task of aiding the Disciples in ministering to their communities and to preach the Good News of our salvation through Christ.
As the Church continued to grow, so did the need to serve it. Especially during the Divine Liturgy, the clergy found it would be beneficial to have more assistance. Thus, the acolyte was invented. The word ‘acolyte’ is defined by the dictionary as an altar attendant, coming from the Greek verb ακολουθώ, meaning to follow. Acolytes help the clergy (hierarch, priests, and deacons) in the Holy Altar.
The Divine Liturgy is a sacrifice; bread and wine offered by the faithful people becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which He willingly offered to save us. The priest takes on the role of Christ in that, by the Grace of God through the laying on of hands (Apostolic succession), he has been found worthy to offer this bloodless sacrifice for the people of God. The acolytes, who are the priest’s attendants, are really Christ’s attendants, therefore, are representing the angels! The Altar, which is more properly called the Holy of Holies, is the most sacred area of the Church. This is where the bread and wine are offered and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ through the descent of the Holy Spirit. Only Hierarchs, Priests, and Deacons are allowed in the Altar. Because Acolytes have a specific role, they are given the blessing from the priest to enter the Holy Altar and to serve. No one else, whether a man or woman, boy or girl, is permitted to go into the Holy Altar. To be an acolyte is a special honor and a blessing. Not everyone deserves this great honor. It is important to always be prayerful and to pay attention while serving the Holy Altar.
With the Priest’s approval and blessing, if they wish, boys may begin serving on the Holy Altar as young as age eight, depending on maturity. The Priests generally conduct an initial orientation session for new boys, and then the boys receive ongoing on the job training.
Boys are expected to arrive at services on time, help the Priests with services, and conduct themselves with dignity and propriety.
Acolytes should know the Lord’s Prayer and the Symbol of Faith (The Nicaean Creed) in English and Greek. Below you will find the texts in both languages, including Greek phonetics