Altar servers perform most of the functions of the former "minor order" of ordained clerics known as acolytes (from the Greek word akolouthos or 'attendant'). Church writings from the second and third centuries discuss the role of acolytes, giving the office great importance and honor in the history of the Church. Altar servers today are not ordained, but are 'commissioned' by their parish priest (Book of Blessings, Chapter 62).
The primary role of the altar server is to assist the priest in the celebration of the liturgy during Mass. This is done through specific actions and by setting an example to the congregation by active participation in the liturgy (hymns, responses, etc.), by 'looking alert' and by sitting or standing at the appropriate times.
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