Project Canterbury

The Server's Manual
by Robert Frederick Lau

New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1917.


The purpose of this Manual is to show the men and boys of the American Church how to serve at the Holy Mysteries in a simple and reverent manner. As our servers are, for the most part, young men and boys, they have been kept in mind throughout this booklet; but the compiler ventures the suggestion that no little benefit would accrue to the Church if men of mature age were more often seen acting as servers, especially at the main service on the Lord's Day.

In order to make the book generally useful it has been deemed advisable to omit some of the ceremonial employed in parishes where the services are elaborate; such omissions can easily be supplied. As many priests prefer to simplify the service (especially in small sanctuaries), the inclinations made by the server when passing the midst of the altar and when serving the priest have been placed within parentheses. In every case the server will be guided by the directions of the Parish Priest.

It is the earnest hope of the compiler that this Manual will not only prove helpful to servers but also tend to increase the number of churches in which the laity are represented in the sanctuary. Such an increase will surely result when the people (and many priests) realize that our boys are eager to learn how to serve at the altar, that their interest furnishes us with a needed point of contact with them, and that many recruits are won for the Ministry from the ranks of those who have in this way come to know and love God in the Sacrament of the Altar.

R. F. L.
St. Matthias' Day, 1916.


Rise early so that you may have ample time to prepare yourself spiritually and physically for the duties you are to perform during the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. Have you never looked at a server and decided that he must have covered the distance between bed and church in the quickest rather than in the best way? You will not present such an appearance while in the sanctuary. The American Boy is a gentleman, and a gentleman is courteous in his relations to God. Therefore rise early, say your prayers carefully, and make your ablutions thoroughly. Be sure that your shoes are polished, your nails trimmed and cleaned. On your way to church keep your mind on the sacredness of what you are about to do. As soon as you enter the church kneel down and say this prayer:

O most merciful God, incline thy ears to my prayers, and enlighten my heart with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that I may be enabled worthily to minister at thy Mysteries, to love thee with an everlasting love, and to attain everlasting joys; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray also for the priest who is to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice;

For the people who will be present;

For those who will receive the Blessed Sacrament;

For those prevented from attending the service.

Offer your intercessions in your own words. Then go to the vesting room and put on a cassock.


Lay out the priest's vestments in this order:--chasuble, front down, the lower part of the back folded over; stole, the ends parallel with the sides of the chasuble, the middle part crossing the vestment, forming the letter H; maniple, across the middle of the stole, parallel with its ends; girdle, doubled, lying on stole and maniple in the form of the letter S; alb, front down, the lower part neatly folded up so that the hem of the skirt will lie on the edge of the vesting table; amice, spread out with inner side down.

Now go to the sanctuary to prepare the altar and the credence. Keep your hands joined before your breast when you are not carrying anything. Always make an inclination toward the altar when you enter or leave the sanctuary, when you cross from one side of the sanctuary to the other. Remove the coverlet, folding it neatly from either end toward the middle. Place the book-rest with book closed on the altar at the Epistle end.

In the center of the credence, towards the front, place the box with the breads; back of this box and somewhat to the right the wine cruet, to the left the water cruet, the handles of the cruets turned away from you; in some convenient place, preferably at the extreme left, the bowl and napkin for the washing of the priest's hands.

Put on a surplice, light the taper and with it the candles, beginning at the Epistle end. The priest will tell you how many to light. It is advisable to carry a box of safety matches with you, as the taper may be extinguished by a draught on your way to the altar.

Assist the celebrant with his vestments. Be sure that the middle of the stole is pushed well up under the fold of the amice, and that both chasuble and alb hang evenly.


When the priest indicates that he is ready to begin the service precede him at a moderate pace, with hands joined. If on the way to the sanctuary in which the Holy Mysteries are to be celebrated you pass the high altar, bow towards it. Other altars are generally disregarded, unless the Blessed Sacrament is on them, in which case you will make the proper reverence with the priest. Arrived at the sanctuary, move slightly to one side, to the right if you are to take the celebrant's biretta, otherwise to the left. Bow towards the altar with the priest. If you are not to join in the private prayers go to the Gospel end and kneel on the lowest step; but if you are to make the responses kneel slightly to the left of the priest, on the level below the lowest step.


In many churches it is customary for the celebrant, after having arranged the corporal and the vessels, to descend the steps and use the following form (or a similar one) in preparation for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice. If you are instructed to make the responses do so in a subdued voice.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
P.--I will go unto the altar of God.
S.--Even unto the God of my joy and gladness.

Psalm 43.

P.--Give sentence with me, O God, and defend my cause against the ungodly people: O deliver me from the deceitful and wicked man.
S.--For thou art the God of my strength, why hast thou put me from thee: why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?
P.--O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me: and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling.
S.--And that I may go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness: and upon the harp will I give thanks unto thee, O God, my God.
P.--Why art thou so heavy, O my soul: and why art thou so disquieted within me?
S.--O put thy trust in God: for I will yet give him thanks, which is the help of my countenance and my God.
P.--Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost.
S.--As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.
P.--I will go unto the altar of God.
S.--Even unto the God of my joy and gladness.
P.--Our help is in the name of the Lord.
S.--Who hath made heaven and earth.
P.--I confess to God Almighty .... therefore I beg .... you, my brethren, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
S.--Almighty God have mercy upon thee, forgive thee thy sins, and bring thee to everlasting life.
S.--I confess to God Almighty, and to thee, father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault. Therefore I beg thee, father, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
P.--Almighty God have mercy upon you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life.
P.--The Almighty and merciful Lord grant unto us pardon, absolution, and remission of all our sins.
P.--Wilt thou not, O God, turn again and quicken us?
S.--That thy people may rejoice in thee.
P.--O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
S.--And grant us thy salvation.
P.--O Lord, hear my prayer.
S.--And let my cry come unto thee.
P.--The Lord be with you.
S.--And with thy spirit.

During this Preparation you will have been kneeling at the left of the priest. As he ascends the steps of the altar rise (bow in the midst) and kneel on the lowest step at the Gospel side.


P.--Our Father, etc.
P.--Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name; through Christ our Lord.

If the Ten Commandments are said, respond after the first nine:

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

And after the last

Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.


Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Here, if the Decalogue hath been omitted, shall be said:

P.--Lord, have mercy upon us.
S.--Christ, have mercy upon us.
P.--Lord, have mercy upon us.

Here will follow one or more Collects. Always say "Amen" at the end of a prayer. Immediately after the Collect for the Day the minister will read the Epistle. When he concludes and places the book on the book-rest, rise, (bow in the midst), go up to the altar and take the book-rest firmly in both hands; turn by your left (so as not to turn your back to the cross) and go by way of the step below the foot-pace to the Gospel side (bowing in the midst). Set the book-rest on the altar obliquely, so that the book will point Northeast. Go to the step below and North of the foot-pace. If the celebrant approaches you and says "The Lord be with you," answer "And with thy spirit." After the priest has announced the Holy Gospel say:

Glory be to thee, O Lord.

Turn by your right, descend to the level below the lowest step and go to the Epistle side (bowing as you pass the cross). Stand facing the book during the reading of the Gospel. At the end, if it be the custom in your parish, say "Praise be to Thee, O Christ."


During the recitation of the Creed stand facing the East, the place of light. As regards bowing, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross, it is well to govern yourself according to the customs of the celebrant, unless you are directed otherwise. Especially is this advisable at the words "And was incarnate." Even if it is not the custom in your parish, genuflect with the celebrant who may happen to be ministering at the altar. Courtesy demands it.

I BELIEVE in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver-of-Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the life of the world to come. Amen.


When the priest begins the reading of the Offertory Sentence go to the credence, take the box of breads and bring it to the Epistle end of the altar. Always offer things to the priest with your right hand. Uncover the box with your left (and bow slightly as the priest approaches). As soon as he has taken the necessary number of wafers (bow to him and) replace the box on the credence. Remove the stoppers from the cruets. Take the wine cruet in your right hand, the water cruet in your left, the handles turned away from you. Present the wine cruet to the priest (bowing to him) and immediately transfer the water cruet to your right hand. Receive the wine cruet with your left, at the same time presenting the water cruet with your right. Transfer the wine cruet to your right hand so that you can receive the water cruet with your left from the priest. It is courteous to present things with your right hand, and convenient to receive them with your left from the priest who observes the same courtesy toward you. Return the cruets to the credence (after bowing to the priest), placing them with the handles turned toward you.

At this time you may have to take the alms from those who have collected them and bring them directly to the priest at the altar, ascending the steps to his right. If he does not return the basin to you immediately, remove it from the altar after the Prayer for the Church.

Now place the basin for the washing of the priest's hands securely in the palm of your left, hang the napkin, unfolded lengthwise only, over your left arm, take the water cruet in your right hand and return to the priest. (Bow to him.) Pour water over his fingers as he holds them over the basin, then turn slightly to the right so that he may readily take the napkin from your arm. When he returns the napkin (bow and) go to the credence. Put the basin, napkin and cruet in their places. Replace the stoppers in the cruets. Go to your position at the Epistle side, facing the East. Kneel on the lowest step or remain standing until the words "devoutly kneeling" at the end of the Invitation to Communion.

Give close attention to the Great Intercession, the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church Militant, not forgetting to say the "Amen" at its conclusion. Take the alms-basin from the altar if you have not already done so. Join in the General Confession.


Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.

We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.

Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

Listen to the Absolution and remember that each one of the Comfortable Words is meant for you personally.


P.--Lift up your hearts.
S.--We lift them up unto the Lord.

P.--Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
S.--It is meet and right so to do.

P.--It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God. Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

S.--Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.

During the Prayer of Humble Access, if you are not going to make your communion, pray for those who intend to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Say the "Amen" at the end of this prayer. While the celebrant is preparing the paten and the chalice prepare yourself for a supreme act of adoration of our Lord about to come to us in so heavenly and spiritual a manner. During the Prayer of Consecration try to recall the Institution of the Lord's Supper, worship the Lord Jesus Christ sacramentally present, offer His sacrifice to the Father, and present yourself, soul and body, a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice to God. At the end of this prayer say the "Amen" with reverent deliberation.


During the celebrant's communion occupy yourself with preparation for your own reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord. When it is your turn to receive, which will be after the celebrant has made his communion (unless others of the clergy present themselves at the altar), rise, genuflect, and ascend the steps at the Epistle end, kneeling on the foot-pace. After your communion descend to the level below the lowest step, genuflect, and go to the Epistle side of the sanctuary. If you do not intend to make your communion you will go there as soon as the celebrant turns to communicate the people. Kneel, facing across the sanctuary. Do not look at the communicants. The following devotions may help you.

Jesus! my Lord, my God, my All!
How can I love Thee as I ought?
And how revere this wondrous gift,
So far surpassing hope or thought?
Sweet Sacrament! we Thee adore!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Had I but Mary's sinless heart
To love thee with, my dearest King!
O with what bursts of fervent praise
Thy goodness, Jesus, would I sing!
Sweet Sacrament! we Thee adore!
O make us love Thee more and more!

He comes! He comes! the Lord of Hosts.
Borne on His Throne triumphantly!
We see Thee, and we know Thee, Lord;
And yearn to shed our blood for Thee.
Sweet Sacrament! we Thee adore!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Ask God that you may continue His faithful servant unto your life's end.

O Jesu Christ, Thou Sun of righteousness,
Whose radiant presence doth this temple fill,
Make Thou Thy face to shine upon my soul,
And cleanse my heart, and strengthen Thou my will.

O Thou whom hosts of glorious angels serve,
About Thy great white Throne above the skies,
Accept the service which this day I bring,
Look graciously upon my sacrifice;

And let me e'er Thy faithful servant be,
As here before Thy sacramental Throne
So in the world at large; and, this life o'er,
Grant me Thy praise, and claim me as Thine own. Amen.

When all have been communicated the celebrant will return to the Lord's Table and reverently place upon it what remains of the consecrated Elements. As he veils the Blessed Sacrament, rise, go to the midst, and genuflect when he does. Then resume your normal position, kneeling on the lowest step at the Epistle side, facing East.


Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Remain kneeling for the Prayer of Thanksgiving and say the "Amen." Stand for the Gloria in Excelsis.

Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; 0 lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.

For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

In many churches it is the custom to read the final prayer before the Blessing at the Epistle end of the Altar. If that is done in your church you will, towards the end of the Gloria in Excelsis or the hymn which has been used instead, go to the midst, genuflect, take the book-rest, and carry it by the step below the foot-pace to the Epistle end, genuflecting as you pass the midst. Descend to the level below the lowest step, genuflect in the midst, and kneel on the lowest step on the Gospel side.


As soon as the celebrant has pronounced the Blessing, rise, genuflect in the midst, and go to the credence. Take the wine cruet in your right hand, the water cruet in your left, this time by the handles, and turn to the priest. If he has not consumed all of the consecrated Elements, genuflect; then, rising, wait until he holds out the chalice to you. Step forward on the footpace and pour a little wine into the chalice. Return immediately to the step below the foot-pace at the Epistle side. When the priest approaches you with the chalice pour a little wine and then rather more water over his fingers. Should he turn to you with the paten, pour a very small quantity of water into it. Replace the cruets on the credence.

If the "Last Gospel" is read you may be required to carry the book to the Gospel end as you did for the reading of the Liturgical Gospel. Open the book to the Gospel for the second celebration of the Holy Communion on Christmas Day (St. John i. 1). Observe the ceremonies suggested for the reading of the Holy Gospel earlier in the service. Genuflect with the priest. Remove the book to the Epistle end as directed above at the conclusion of the Gloria in Excelsis, not genuflecting in the midst, however, unless the Blessed Sacrament be reserved.

Return to the level below the lowest step at the Epistle side and remain standing facing the East, until the celebrant begins to leave the altar. Go to the midst, reverence the altar with him, turn by your left, and lead the way to the sacristy, observing the directions given for the approach to the altar.

After the prayer in the sacristy go to the sanctuary and extinguish the lights, beginning at the Gospel side. Return to the vesting room and take off your surplice. Remove the cruets, bread box, basin, and napkin from the credence. Place the book-rest with book on the credence. Put the coverlet on the altar, unfolding it from the center towards the ends.

Kneel and make an act of thanksgiving to God.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever. Amen.--St. John the Divine.

Let us bear in mind of what things Christ has deemed us worthy, let us give thanks, let us glorify Him, not by our faith alone, but also by our very works, that we may obtain the good things that are to come, through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, world without end. Amen.--St. Chrysostom.

Blessed, praised, and adored be Jesus Christ upon His throne of glory, in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, and in the hearts of His faithful people!

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