During the mass an acolyte bore the thurible (Ordo VI.) and three assisted at the washing of the hands.
The office of acolyte may have been suggested by the attendant assigned to heathen priests.
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.
This office of bearing the sacrament is an ancient one, and is mentioned in the legend of Tarcisius, the Roman acolyte, who was martyred on the Appian Way while carrying the Hosts from the catacombs.
At most pontifical functions, moreover, the bishop - as the representative of Christ - is preceded by an acolyte with a burning candle (bugia) on a candlestick.