Wednesday 26 February 2020

Ceremonies Explained for Servers - Bishop Peter J. Elliott

Ceremonies Explained for Servers: A Manual for Altar Servers, Acolytes, Sacristans, and Masters of Ceremonies
Bishop Peter J. Elliott
Clara Fisher (Illustrator)
Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781621642992
eISBN 9781642291025

This book is a true treasure. It is a book that should be in every parish. Or in the hands of all who help to form altar servers. I, myself, have served at the altar off and on for the last 40 years. First as a child. Then while at university, then when in university a second time, and now as an adult who serves when there are no alter servers or with my own children. And I can state I would have loved to have come across a book like this years ago.

I was expecting a book that would be very text heavy. Broken into chapters and lots of dense paragraphs. That is not what you get with this volume. From the Forward to the Index there are 180 Sections in the book. But each section is written in a series of points. And there are a total of 1037 point in the book from the first section to the final appendix. The chapters in the volume are:

1. The Server
2. The Liturgy
3. Ceremonial Actions
4. The Mass
5. The Traditional Latin Mass
6. The Sacraments
7. Funerals
8. The Liturgy of the Hours
9. Other Ceremonies
10. Holy Week
11. Serving the Bishop

A sample from the first section is on the server:

1. The Server

1. You are a server. As you assist the priest, who leads the worship of the Church, so you make Catholic worship more reverent, efficient, and beautiful. Your work for God is very important, and this manual is designed to help you.

2. At the altar, your service is directed firstly to God, secondly as help to the clergy, and thirdly as assistance to the people who have been gathered by God for worship. Your actions are visible. You appear in public, but you are never a performer. By your faithful duty, you remain always a servant of Jesus Christ in the community of his Church.

3. A good server is not only skilled in a “craft” or duty at the altar but a humble and sincere person. The good server is a member of a team, working together in harmony with others, serving for the glory of God, learning that work at the altar is prayer in action. The good server is careful and reverent, even if there is only some small duty to perform.”

Another sample section is:

Serving Today

11. The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) authorized a great reform and renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, the public worship of the Catholic Church according to the Roman Rite that developed in Western Europe. As we are part of the Roman Rite, we have to work out the best ways we can all play the various roles given us by the Church in celebrating her liturgy, for example, those who sing in the choir. But servers in particular have an important place in the celebration of Mass and the sacraments. Their efficient and devout assistance is second only to the action of the priest and deacon in its power to enhance, enrich, and strengthen the liturgy in our churches.

12. What does the Church expect of you? Obviously the Church expects you to know what you are doing. Servers should not wander around the altar, uncertain, clumsy, and confused. This manual has been written to promote efficient serving, which can only occur when servers know what they are doing. Great care has been taken in this manual to bring together the official directions of the liturgy and the best practices of style and technique. Serving is a craft, which the Church expects us to carry out well.

13. The Church also expects something deeper than knowing how to serve. An altar server is a Christian lay person who plays a key role in the celebration of the liturgy by carrying out a true liturgical ministry. That word “ministry” means “service”. By assisting the priest, the Church sees your service as a ministry to God, a ministry to God’s People.”

This book would have been great benefit to share with my children. Especially the section on serving with the bishop. My Children have served at confirmation masses and other masses where the bishop has visited our parish. To be able to prepare better for these occasions would have been a blessing. Of other importance are the sections on serving at Funerals, or the Liturgy of the hours.

This is truly a wonderful resource. It was great to read, and even just reading it for my own was edifying and will help me serve better and help me help my children to serve better. I know I stated it before, but this book should be in ever parish. It will help to form servers, and all who assist on the altar. It can be used as a guide for training. And sections can be shared with servers before preparing for special services. A much-needed book to restore the holy to the practice of serving at the altar. I cannot recommend this book to you enough.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Bishop Peter Elliott:
Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year: A Manual for Clergy and All Involved in Liturgical Ministries
Ceremonies Explained for Servers: A Manual for Altar Servers, Acolytes, Sacristans, and Masters of Ceremonies
Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite: The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours: A Manual for Clergy and All Involved in Liturgical Ministries
Clergy, Sacristans, Teachers, Masters Of Ceremonies, And All Involved In The Ceremonies Of The Church
Prayers of the Faithful
The Cross And The Ensign; A Naval History of Malta 1798-1979
Liturgical Question Box
Receiving the Lord: Prayers for Communion
What God Has Joined: The Sacramentality Of Marriage


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