What is serving as an altar boy in the Church all about?
Serving in the church as an altar boy is the most one can do in terms of sacrificial service to God in the temple by persons who have not been ordained to a higher clerical rank.
How are sacrifice and service to God expressed?
Altar boys sacrifice to God the following:
1. the time taken to perform the duties;
2. by free will, the voluntary willingness to fulfill what is needed during divine services;
3. from one’s reason—attentiveness during divine services;
4. from one’s heart—love for the Church and for divine services;
5. from one’s physical powers—exerting them for the fulfillment of one’s duties;
6. from one’s spiritual qualities—humility and submission;
7. from one’s soul—fervent inner prayer.
Serving as an altar boy is service to God, for it is participation in the ritual of divine services. Altar boys must remember that they are not serving a bishop or a priest, but the Lord God Himself, Who receives the service and praise of an innumerable multitude of angels, and still, by His goodness, receives the service we perform from the heart, just like the widow’s two coins in the Gospel. That is why all the duties and responsibilities taken during divine services are sanctified and honorable.
Altar boys must understand that they are given a great honor in participating in serving the King of Kings, Who is served by even the angels with trembling.
Whom do altar boys represent during services?
Since our earthly divine services represent Heavenly service, the bishop represents Christ Himself, priests—the Apostles, deacons—the Seraphim and Cherubim, and altar boys—Archangels and Angels, who all invisibly to us served Christ during His earthly life and eternally praising him in Heaven.
So just as Angels in Heaven have a strict hierarchy and submission of the younger to the elder, there must be a strict hierarchy among altar boys. Younger ones must without grumbling fulfill the instructions of older acolytes, just as Angels immediately fulfill instructions from their elders.
At the same time, one must not seek to be an elder acolyte, remembering the words of the Lord: “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26-27).
One must eagerly fulfill every assigned task, heeding the words of the Lord: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Archbishop John (Maximovich)
Russky Pastyr No. 20, 1994.