At the moment of communion the acolytes received in linen bags the consecrated Hosts to carry to the assisting priests.
It is now worn in a considerable number of churches not only by the clergy but by acolytes and servers at the Communion.
These are 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists and readers, together with doorkeepers.
The Latins, and Armenians who have borrowed from the Latins, have subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, readers and doorkeepers.
The head of the house (paterfamilias) is the natural priest and has control of the domestic worship: he is assisted by his sons as acolytes (camilli) and deputes certain portions of the ritual to his wife and daughters and even to his bailiff (vilicus) and his bailiff's wife.
Though the office is found at Carthage, and St Cyprian (200?-258) makes many references to acolytes, whom he used to carry his letters, this seems to be the only place in Africa where they were known.
Tertullian, while speaking of readers and exorcists, says nothing about acolytes; neither does St Augustine.
The duties of the acolyte, as given in the Roman Pontifical, are identical with those mentioned in the Statuta Ecclesiae Antigua of Arles: "It is the duty of acolytes to carry the candlesticks, to light the lamps of the church, to administer wine and water for the Eucharist."
It might seem, from the number fortytwo mentioned by Pope Cornelius, that at Rome the acolytes were divided among the seven ecclesiastical regions of the city; but we have no proof that, at that date, there were six acolytes attached to each region.
From the ancient division of the Roman acolytes into Palatini, or those in attendance on the pope at the Lateran palace, Stationarii, or those who served at the churches where there was a "station," and Regionarii, or those attached directly to the regions, it would seem that the number forty-two was only the actual number then existing and not an official number.
When the pope rode in procession to the station an acolyte, on foot, preceded him, bearing the holy chrism; and at the church seven regionary acolytes with candles went before him in the procession to the altar, while two others, bearing the vessel that contained a pre-consecrated Host, presented it for his adoration.
It is headed by a thurifer carrying a smoking thurible; then comes the sub-deacon carrying the cross between two acolytes with lighted tapers; the clergy next in order, the celebrant corning last with the deacon on his left, all carrying branches and singing antiphonally, so long as the procession lasts, the account of the entry into Jerusalem, ending with "Benedictus qui vent in nomine Domini: Hosanna in excelsis."
The new prince, who was compelled to purchase his elevation with a heavy bribe, proceeded to the country which he was selected to govern, and of the language of which he was in nearly every case totally ignorant, accompanied by a horde of needy hangers-on; he and his acolytes counted on recouping themselves in as short a time as possible for their initial outlay and in laying by a sufficiency to live on after the termination of the prince's brief authority.
In the Eastern Church, to this day, there are no lights on the high altar; the lighted candles stand on a small altar beside it, and at various parts of the service are carried by the lectors or acolytes before the officiating priest or deacon.
This, so far as its potestates ordinis are concerned, is divided into seven orders: the three " major orders " of bishops and priests, deacons, and subdeacons (bishops and priests forming two degrees of the ordo sacerdotium), and the four " minor orders " of acolytes, exorcists, readers, and door-keepers.
Hitherto the chasuble had been worn indifferently by all ministers at the eucharist, even by the acolytes; it had been worn also at processions and other non-liturgical functions; it was now exalted into the mass vestment par excellence, worn by the celebrant only, or by his immediate assistants (deacon and subdeacon) only on very special occasions.