If there is a defining characteristic of an altar server, it is youthful service during our liturgies.
There are focal points during our liturgies. The first point is the altar, where the Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place. Another point is the ambo from which the word of God is proclaimed: Old Testament, Responsorial Psalm, New Testament, and the Gospel. A third focal point is the presider’s chair. It is from the chair that the presider leads the assembly in the opening and closing prayers, penitential rites, Gloria, Creed and the Intercessions. Because our liturgies are dynamic, we need individuals who can assist and meet the needs of the presider, deacon, cantors, psalmists, lectors and Eucharistic ministers, at and around the focal points. These individuals are altar servers.
During the entrance procession, a server carries the processional cross with two other servers carrying torches. The remaining servers in procession give body to the procession, making the statement that we are in a very important time and place. Processions give us a sense of transition and mission and our altar servers are involved in all of them: entrance, gospel, offertory, communion and exit processions.
When the altar servers post their torches at the ambo, it designates that point as important. Later, during the gospel procession, two altar servers retrieve the torches from the ambo and accompany the Book of the Gospels during the gospel procession and return back to the ambo for its proclamation.
When it is time to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, many servers are involved simultaneously: posting lighted torches at the altar, escorting the gifts to the altar, assisting with the reception of the gifts, bringing sacred vessels to the altar and placing them in their proper places and washing the presider’s hands. The servers perform all these tasks with reverence and never cause undo attention to themselves.
We are called to restore to creation all its original value, where creation is governed by the life of grace drawn into the Risen Christ. The Paschal Mystery (Christ’s saving Death and Resurrection) is the central focus of every liturgy. Our servers help us keep our focus.
The altar server is an icon of service and dedication. Each altar server functions as a model of what it means to have full, conscious and active participation in our liturgies, in essence to stay focused on the Paschal Mystery and how it is celebrated throughout the liturgy. It is my hope that our altar servers will spend a lifetime serving the Church in many other ways and remember this ministry as a time when God gave joy to their youth. This Sunday we will install 12 new altars servers. They will join the already installed brown alb servers, bringing our number to 120 active altar servers.