My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
EXPLANATION OF THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS
The Prayer of the First Antiphon
Gracious and Merciful Lord, forbearing and generous in mercy, hear our prayer and heed the voice of our entreaty. Give us a sign of Your favor. Lead us in Your way, that we may walk in Your Truth; gladden our hearts, that we may be in awe of Your Holy Name, for You are great in the wonders You perform. You alone are God, and among all deities none is Your like, O Lord: Mighty in mercy and Benevolent in might, helping, comforting, and saving all who trust in Your Holy Name. For all glory, honor and worship are You due, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is of very early and, in a sense, practical origin; practical in that it was seen as the means for the faithful to commune of the Mysterion (Sacrament) on days when the Eucharistic Liturgy could not be celebrated. In early times, at least until the fourth century, Communion was considered so much a part of the Eucharistic Sacrifice that it was unthinkable to attend without partaking. In fact, the faithful sometimes received the Sacrament (Mysterion) more often than they attended the Liturgy, usually celebrated on Sunday only, the Lord's Day, and this by virtue of taking the Sacrament (Mysterion) home, in a special "area" fashioned for this purpose. Tertullian (Christian historian) testifies to the practice when he asks:"Will not your husband know what it is that you secretly consume before any other food?" In Syria the practice was still current in the 6th century. John Moschos, a spiritual writer of the period, speaks of the faithful taking home with them on Holy Thursday enough of the Eucharist to last the year.
Of all the Lenten rules, one is unique to Orthodoxy, and so gives us a key to its liturgical spirit: it forbids the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on weekdays in Lent, as incompatible with fasting, the sole exception being the Feast of the Annunciation. But so as not to deprive the faithful of "the food of immortality," the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is prescribed, that is, a "Eucharistic synaxis" without the Consecration. The festal nature of the Eucharist is thus reserved for Saturdays and Sundays in Lent, while on the days of total fasting, Wednesdays and Fridays, the people receive the Holy Gifts that were sanctified on the previous Sunday.
The Presanctified was from the start an evening service, Communion following Vespers (Esperinos), to be conducted after the Ninth Hour, i.e., three o'clock in the afternoon. The daylong fast was thus broken early in the evening, much as the total fast on Sunday is broken after Communion. It is likely that this service was not always confined to Lent, but was common to all of the Church's fasting seasons. However, permeated as it is with "bright sadness" of Lent, it has taken on special beauty and solemnity. As we pray for the Catechumens, those being made ready for Holy Baptism on Pascha Saturday, we sense a direct connection with the Christian Church of the early centuries, and understand the initial character of Lent as preparation for Baptism and for Pascha.
But it is the Prayers of the Faithful that really illuminate the Lenten road, giving us a fuller understanding of the meaning and purpose of the Lenten discipline.
"Liberate all our senses from killing passion, setting over them as benevolent sovereign our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from evil sight, and the ear be deaf to idle talk. May the tongue be purged of unseemly speech. Purify these lips that praise You, Lord. Make our hands abstain from wicked deeds, doing only such things as are pleasing to You, thus sealing with Your grace all our members, and our mind."
Then, as we prepare for the Entrance of the pre-consecrated Gifts: "Behold, His spotless body and Life-Giving Blood are about to make their entrance at this hour, to be laid on this mystical table, invisibly attended by a multitude of the heavenly host. Grant that we may receive them in blameless communion, so that as the eyes of our understanding see the Light, we may become children of Light and of Day."
Master, let the light of Your countenance shine on those who are being made ready of Holy Illumination, and who yearn to thrust aside the defilement of sin. Illumine their minds; confirm them in the faith; sustain them in their hope; perfect them in love; make them precious members of Your Christ, Who gave Himself as a ransom for our souls. For You are our illumination, and to You we offer up glory: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God