The word “Acolyte” means “follower” or “servant,” and those are precisely the kind of terms Christ used to describe His own ministry among us. The service an Acolyte provides mirror’s the divine activity in Heaven, where in Hymn 600 it beautifully proclaims, “Ye holy angels bright, who wait at God’s right hand, and through the realms of light fly at your Lord’s command.” Acolytes serve at God’s altar here on earth, as the Archangels Michael and Gabriel serve at God’s Heavenly throne.
To be an acolyte is a privilege. Acolytes wear special vestments to denote that their service is meant to evoke reverence and praise of God Almighty, much like Moses took off his sandals as he beheld God’s presence in the burning bush atop Mount Sinai. The cassock is the long red or black vestment acolytes wear. The cotta is worn over it.
In the Middle Ages, the order of acolytes flourished. They carried the cross and torches during processions of the Mass. They also received the offerings of the congregation and prepared the bread and wine for the Holy Eucharist.
Many of the tasks of their predecessors are still performed by acolytes and from their time serving at God’s altar, many boys and men have discovered a calling to the ordained ministry. Others, not so called, learn a lifelong love of worship and service to God and His Church.