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The Order of Acolyte
The Acolytate -- the 4th and highest of the Minor Orders
|according to the Traditional
Catholic Rite of Holy Orders
by A. Biskupek, S.V.D
Mission Press, 1954
May 4, 1942 Charles Michel, S.V.D. Provincial
May 4, 1942 + Samuel A. Stritch, D.D.
Archbishop of Chicago
The acolytate is the highest of the minor orders. The term is
derived from a Greek word which signifies to follow, to accompany. The acolyte's
duty and privilege was and is to assist members of the major orders at the
celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice and other liturgical functions; he
takes care of the light and serves the wine and water at holy Mass.
Light was always extensively used at divine services, even in the Old Testament,
because of its deep significance. To the symbolic reasons was added the
practical necessity, when services were held at nighttime or, as it frequently
happened during the times of persecution, in the catacombs.
For a long time, acolytes performed other very important functions, at least in
the Church of Rome. At the Communion of the Mass they received the sacred
species in linen bags, hung around their neck, and presented them to the priest
or bishop for distribution to the people. As we know from the story of St.
Tarsicius, acolytes were employed to bring the Blessed Eucharist to the absent,
especially the confessors of the faith detained in prison; they, likewise,
carried consecrated particles from the pope's Mass to the priests, who
celebrated the sacred mysteries in the parish churches of Rome; finally, they
were the bearers of the blessed bread, eulogia, which bishops exchanged among
themselves as a symbol of their communion in the charity of Christ.
In the course of time, however, some of these functions were discontinued, others
were taken over by members of the major orders. And, because of the practical
difficulty of having ordained acolytes stationed at every church, laymen,
especially boys, were admitted to act as Mass servers and torchbearers, and the
order of acolyte merely served as a transition to the major orders.
If the acolytate is conferred during Mass, this is done:
Saturday before Passion Sunday: after the Kyrie.
Holy Saturday: after the Gloria.
Saturdays of Ember weeks: after the fourth lesson.
On other days, if the Mass has Gloria: after the Gloria; if the Mass has no
Gloria: after the Kyrie.
The Call. The bishop, with miter on sits on the
faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates
come forward; the notary reads their names:
Let those come forward who are to be ordained to the office
of acolyte: N. N., etc.
Each one answers adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the
burning candle in his right hand.
The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop
addresses them as follows:
Dearly beloved sons, about to receive the office of
acolyte, consider what it is that you receive. The duty of the acolyte is to
carry the candlestick; to light the lights of the church, to minister wine and
water at the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Here the candles are laid aside.
Hence, endeavor to discharge worthily the office received. For you cannot be
pleasing to God if in your hands you carry the light for God and in your works
are slaves of darkness and thus give to your fellowmen the example of
Rather, as the Truth says: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see
your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." And as the apostle
Paul says: "In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, shine as lights
in the world, holding forth the word of life. Therefore, let your loins be girt
and burning lamps in your hands, that you may be children of the light. Cast off
the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. For you were heretofore
darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light."
What is to be understood by that light on which the Apostle insists so much, he
himself explains when he adds: "For the fruit of the light is in all goodness
and justice and truth."
Be fervent, therefore, in all justice and goodness and truth, that you may
enlighten yourselves and others and the Church of God. For then you will
worthily minister wine and water at the divine Sacrifice when you have offered
yourselves as a sacrifice to God by a chaste life and good works. May the Lord
in His mercy grant it to you.
The Bestowal of the Office. The bishop now presents
to each candidate a candlestick with an unlighted candle. Each one touches both,
the candlestick with the thumb, and the candle with the index finger of the
right hand, while the bishop says:
Then an empty cruet is presented to them. They touch it, while the bishop says:
Prayer. The candidates kneel. The bishop rises, with
miter on, and, turned toward them, prays:
Dearly beloved brethren, let us humbly beseech God, the
Father Almighty, to + bless these His servants in
the order of acolyte, that as they carry the material light in their hands, they
may also send forth a spiritual light by their conduct, through the help of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who with Him and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God,
forever and ever. R. Amen.
The bishop, with his miter off, turns to the altar and says:
Let Us Pray
Turning again to the candidates kneeling before him, the bishop prays:
Let us bend our knees. R. Amen.
Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, Thou hast sent the
light of Thy glory into this world through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, and
His apostles, and hast willed that, in order to blot out the ancient debt of our
death He should be fastened to the most glorious standard of the Cross and that
blood and water should flow from His side, for the salvation of the human race.
Vouchsafe to +
bless these Thy servants for the office of acolyte, that they may faithfully
serve at Thy holy altars, attend to the lighting of Thy Church, and minister
wine and water for the consecration of the blood of Christ, Thy Son, at the
Eucharistic Sacrifice. Enkindle, O Lord, their minds and hearts with they love
of Thy grace, so that, alight with they splendor of Thy countenance, they may
faithfully serve Thee in holy Church. Through the same Christ our Lord. R.
Procedure after an ordination.
Let Us Pray
Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, who didst speak to Moses and Aaron that
lamps should be lighted in the Tabernacle of the Testimony, bless
+ these Thy servants, that thy may be acolytes in Thy Church. Through
Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
Let Us Pray
Almighty, everlasting God, Fountain of light and Source of goodness, who has
enlightened the world through Jesus Christ Thy Son, the true light, and hast
redeemed it through the mystery of His Passion, vouchsafe to
bless these Thy servants whom we ordain to the office of acolyte. We beseech
Thee in Thy mercy to illumine their minds with the light of knowledge, and to
refresh them with the dew of Thy tender love, that with Thy help they may so
fulfill the office assumed as to attain an everlasting reward. Through the same
Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
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