This video is an excellent video on what it means to serve at the Altar, and the importance of doing it reverent and well. It made me reminisce back on the “older” days of when I was a little server and first learning how to serve. Luckily I had several great young men and one much older in age “emcee”; to help me and show me the beauty behind it. And I have been graced to be able to serve under the direction of several fantastic priests who are very skilled when it came to matters of the Liturgy. Now after serving at the Altar for 10 years, my eleventh year serving is as a seminarian. Serving has played a major role in my discernment to begin seminary studies. Now after being a Seminarian for about 8 months I have had the privilege to serve in even more a variety of Masses than I did as a server. I have been able to serve for the Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem, a number of Bishops/ArchBishops, and serve in my Diocese’s Cathedral during Diocesan Events. And I owe it all to three priests, 4 seminarians (2 of who are now priests, 1 who is married, and one who will be ordained a deacon this Spring), 3 priests, and one kind man. So kudos and thanks to them for getting me started with serving. I am forever grateful for the skills they have taught me and the memories I have shared.
I have included the following description from Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, as I think that he does an excellent job in describing the video and offering some reflection points. The original article may be found here.
What makes the video so good is that it inspires a spirituality for the server that includes some of the following encouragement and advisement:
- That the Mass is mystical, beyond mere human sight, and that the server must learn to be sensitive to what lives beyond ordinary perception and become more spiritually aware.
- In so doing he should lead others to greater reverence by the example of supreme awareness of the presence of God.
- He should also, by his reverence lead others to understand that what takes place on the altar is the making present of the most important moment in all of human history.
- The Altar server also provides practical leadership for the congregation as to when to sit, stand and kneel.
- Even the folded hands, pointed upward are meant to direct attention upward to God.
- The manner of his clothing (e.g. dress shoes, pressed trousers etc) are meant to and ought to show that what he is doing is a matter of utmost seriousness and importance.
- Our body, (posture etc) and our clothing impact our disposition, so all we do should be to help our hearts worship, and lead others to the same.
- Prayer, especially the rosary, is a good way to prepare one’s heart to be a better server.
- The goal is to have your heart in the right place.
A couple of other things I like about the video, that the man interviewed models well a piety that is serious but not somber looking. Not everyone gets this balance right, and some who are trying to look prayerful merely look sad, angry, or bored. But the man in this video shows an appropriate balance, a kind of natural and serene sobriety well suited to the Mass.
The images throughout the video are also beautiful and the photography is wonderful.
I suspect (sadly) that not all will be happy with some of the more traditional elements in the video: the ad orientem celebration of mass and the expressed preference for the cassock and surplice, rather than the alb. There is also no reference to girls serving. However, none of these aspects is forbidden. Perhaps a word about each.
- The ad orientem celebration of Mass (I speak here of the Ordinary Form), while less common, is not forbidden. I use it occasionally, after proper catechesis, in smaller settings in my parish. We have several side altars in the Church that I use on occasion, and I have also used the high altar for that purpose from time to time. The catechesis I use includes the fact that the priest does not have his back to us. Rather we are all facing God, looking to the liturgical east for Christ to come again. I will say I would not adopt this position in my main Sunday liturgies at this time without consulting with the Bishop, simply out of respect for the fact that he is the chief liturgist of the diocese. But for smaller liturgies of a more private or intimate character, I do use the eastward orientation occasionally.
- The cassock and surplice – the preference here for this vesture is traditional. And while the current norms speak of the alb as being the common vesture for ministers of every rank in the Mass, (GIRM # 336). However the cassock and surplice are not forbidden and tend to be worn today especially by clerics who assist at mass but are not celebrating or concelebrating. As such, the cassock and surplice have a more priestly look. For this reason I think it unadvised that a girl or woman should wear the cassock and surplice. In my own parish the seminarians that assist us, as well as some of the older men wear the cassock and surplice. The younger boys and all the girls and women wear the alb.
- That only males are envisioned as servers – Here again, while it is common in most parishes today that box sexes serve, it is not required that the pastor observed this permission. For pastoral reasons, such as encouraging priestly vocations, the pastor may employ only men and boys as servers if he sees fit. In my last parish that is what we did. In my current parish, I inherited a server program that uses both sexes, and younger as well as older people. The mix is good and I see no reason to change it. But it is neither wrong for a pastor to make use of only males in this role. Neither is it wrong for the lay faithful to seek to encourage this sort of approach, as the video makers do.
I hope you will find this video as inspiring and beautiful as I do. And, just as the video we looked at last week did not please all, I do pray and ask for charity toward, and the presumption of good will by those who have made and produced this video. It is a good effort and has an important message in regard to reverence and spiritual preparation for altar servers.