Altar Servers' Guide
PRAYERS TO KNOW
To Parents and Altar Servers
ALTAR SERVER DUTIES
Ablution: The cleaning of the chalice and paten after Communion. Also, the cleansing of the celebrant’s fingers to remove any particles from the consecrated hosts. Some parishes do this in the sacristy after Mass.
Advent Wreath: A Festive wreath of greens arranged to hold four candles. The candles are lighted on the Sunday of Advent. Sometimes a center candle is lighted at Christmas. The candles stand for the light of Christ, which gets brighter as we approach Christmas.
Alb: A long, white garment, which covers the entire body. This is always worn by the celebrant. In some parishes, the servers also wear albs. This was the ancient garb of a Roman citizen.
Altar: The place where the sacrifice of Jesus is offered to the Father and made present to us. The Lord’s Table, where the Eucharist is celebrated. It is treated with respect. It also represents Christ, who is the center of our parish life. Servers show respect to the altar by bowing when passing in front of it.
Altar Cloth: The long white that covers the top of the altar and hangs over the ends. It is like a tablecloth on a dinning room table.
Ambo: A stand or lectern where the readings are done. A church may have one or two of them.
Ambry: A special box in the wall of the church where the holy oils are kept safe.
Antependium: A large, decorative cloth that is sometimes hung in front of the altar.
Benediction: A service of special devotion to the Eucharist. This is different from a Mass.
Boat: A small container that holds the incense, this is usually carried by the server in the right hand.
Cassock: A long robe that reaches from shoulders to ankles, it is usually black. Many parishes have the servers wear a cassock with a surplice over it.
Celebrant’s Chair: The central chair, which is used by the celebrant during Mass. It is usually just in back of the altar. Servers often sit on both sides of this chair. It can also be called the Presidential Chair.
Chalice: The cup used by the celebrant when he consecrates the wine into the Blood of Christ. It is usually made of god or silver, but can be made of other materials.
Chalice Veil: A cloth covering that goes over the chalice while it is on the credence table. It is white or matches the color of the chasuble.
Chasuble: A long, flowing robe that goes over the celebrant’s head. This is the vestment that people see; it is the color of the year.
Ciborium: A covered container used to hold the consecrated host during the Mass. The ciborium may also be kept in the tabernacle.
Cincture: A knotted rope, tied around the waist over the aib. When a parish uses albs for the servers, a cincture is also worn.
Concelebration: The celebration of one Mass by many priests. This usually happens during Holy Week, at Confirmation and on other special occasions.
Cope: A long cape that is worn by the celebrant during some ceremonies. It is open in the front, and held together by a clasp. It is often the color of the Church season.
Corporal: A square piece of white cloth, which is spread over the altar cloth. It is put on the altar where the celebrant will say Mass. The chalice and paten are placed on it.
Credence Table: A side table in the sanctuary where all objects used for Mass is put before and after they are used.
Cruets: Covered, bottle-like containers that hold the water and wine. They often have a small dish or plate under them.
Dalmatic: A coat-like vestment worn by the deacon. It is usually open at the sides, but is the same color as the chasuble. A deacon may wear this or just an alb and stole.
Genuflect: To briefly touch the right knee to the floor. This is done by a server whenever passing in front of the tabernacle, as a sign of respect for the Eucharist.
Host: The round piece of bread made without yeast used for Mass. The celebrant uses a larger host so that everyone in church will he able to see it.
Humeral Veil: A long cloth, usually white, which goes over the celebrant’s shoulders and covers his arms. This is attached by a clasp in the front. It is used during Benediction or processions with the Blessed Sacrament.
Incense: A mixture of resins, bark and other natural material, which give off, a sweet-smelling smoke when burned. This smoke rises and represents our prayers rising to God. The use of incense is always optional in a parish, the celebrant will tell the servers when it will be used.
Lavabo: The washing of the celebrant’s hands before the Eucharistic Prayer. The servers bring a bowl, the water cruet, and a towel while the celebrant prays for forgiveness.
Lectern: A stand used to hold the Lectionary while the reader is proclaiming the passages from the Bible (See Ambo).
Monstrance: A large metal container to display or show the host. 11 is often gold or silver-colored. Benediction is the ceremony when the monstrance is most often used.
Oils: the Bishop and the priests of the diocese bless the holy oils during Holy Week. One is called “Oil of the Sick”, used for the sacrament called the Anointing of the sick. Another is called “Oil of Catechurnents”, used in Baptism. The last one is called “Chrism” used in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.
Pall: A large white cloth, which is spread over the casket at a funeral. It represents the white garment given by the celebrant to a baby at Baptism. In some parishes, it is also a cloth-covered square that fits over the chalice.
Paschal Candle: A large wax candle in a floor candlestick to symbolize the light of the Risen Christ. It is blessed at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. It stays in the sanctuary until the end of Pentecost, and is lighted during every ceremony. After Pentecost, it is placed near the baptismal font, and used during Baptisms and funerals.
Paten: A round metal plate, which holds the host used by the celebrant during Mass. It is also the plate sometimes used by the celebrant during Mass.
Presidential Chair: The central chair, used by the celebrant during Mass. It is usually directly behind the altar. It can also be called the Celebrant’s Chair.
Purificator: A small white cloth used to clean the chalice and paten after Communion.
Pyx: A small container used to bring Communion to the sick and housebound. It is sometimes kept in the sacristy.
Sacramentary: The large book which contains all the prayers said by the celebrant during Mass. The server at the beginning and end of Mass often holds this book. It is placed on the altar for the Eucharistic prayer.
Sacrarium: A special sink in the sacristy where the water goes directly into the ground. It usually has a metal cover. The cloths and vessels used for Mass are washed here.
Sacristy: The room in the church where the celebrant prepares for Mass. Most of the objects used for Mass are kept in this room. The servers prepare in a special sacristy of their own.
Sanctuary: The area around the altar.
Sanctuary Candle: There is always a single candle burning by the tabernacle to show the presence of the Eucharist. This shows the presence of Christ, the light of the world, in the church. It also represents our watchfulness before Christ.
Stole: Along band of cloth worn during ceremonies by a Bishop, by priests and by deacons. This is a symbol of the sacrament of holy orders. It is usually of the color of Church season, or special day. A deacon wears a stole over the left shoulder. Priests and Bishops wear their stoles over both shoulders.
Surplice: A white garment that is half the length of a cassock. It is worn over the cassock in parishes that use it.
Tabernacle: The place where the Eucharist is kept during the week. Many churches have a special chapel or shrine on the side for the tabernacle. Some churches have it behind the altar. As a sign of reverence, a server genuflects whenever passing in front of the tabernacle.
Thurible: The metal container that holds the hot charcoal for the incense. This is carried by the server in the left hand. It can also be called the censer.