JERUSALEM – After several months of work, the Latin Patriarchate’s Liturgical Office, in cooperation with the Christ the King Bookstore, recently published its new manual on serving the altar for all parishes in the diocese.
What does serving the Mass entail? Who can do it? What are the different ranks of an altar server? Who organizes the role of each? And how can an altar server be prepared? Until now, the answers to these questions were more or less defined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the priest, seminarian, sister or lay leader of each parish. From now on, this will no longer be the case; the Patriarchate’s Liturgical Office, which is responsible for publishing liturgical books and organizing the diocese’s liturgical activities, has just published a manual on the subject in order to unify altar service throughout the territory of the Latin Patriarchate.
“The goal is to supervise and coordinate all groups of altar servers in all parishes,” explains Fr. Aziz Halaweh, head of the Patriarchate’s Liturgical Office. “We also want to create a general secretariat that would bring together all these groups, so that the altar service is unified, correct, and worthy of the celebration of the Holy Liturgy. The purpose of this secretariat will also be to organize spiritual and recreational activities, such as visits, to strengthen the sense of belonging to the Diocese of Jerusalem and their parishes among our altar servers.” Since it will be composed of the tutors of the altar servers from all the parishes, such a secretariat would also allow the ideas and activities proposed by each one to be heard and coordinated by all.
Although they are part of the faithful and not the clergy, altar servers have nevertheless an active role to play in the liturgy, as they participate directly in the celebration of the Mass by serving the priests who celebrate it. Hence the need to supervise their activity, which is indispensable for the proper conduct of the services. Written in Arabic, the new manual of the Liturgical Office is available in two versions: one for altar servers and one for their tutors. Both booklets are enriched with photos of the parishes as well as explanatory tables.
The booklet for altar servers covers a wide range of topics. There is a presentation of the different ranks of altar servers, according to age; an abridged missal with prayers and meditations; spiritual stories about different patron saints, such as the Holy Curé of Ars, St. Mary of Jesus Crucified, and the newly beatified, Carlos Acutis; a selection of hymns; and finally, general instructions for altar servers, as well as a small catechism handbook.
As for the booklet for the tutors, it contains an introduction to the liturgical year, space, book, colors, and vestments. There is also a collection of liturgical catechism lessons based on the age of the servers, as well as explanations on how to serve the different liturgical and paraliturgical ceremonies, especially the sacraments and sacramentals (baptisms, weddings, funerals, veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross, Holy Week celebrations, etc.). Sacristans can thus know exactly what to prepare for these celebrations, and how to organize the altar service. “At the end, there is also a guide entitled ‘How to organize a group of altar servers in your parish,’ as well as a small liturgical ritual for instituting altar servers,” describes Fr. Aziz.
Now available in hard copy, this manual will soon be distributed throughout the entire diocese, so that all those concerned can have access to it.
By: Cécile Leca/ lpj.org