My beloved spiritua 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.
THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS: Its Meaning and Practice in Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
The First Prayer of the Faithful
Priest: (inaudibly) O God, Great and Praised, through the Life-Giving death of Your Christ, You have borne us from corruption to immortality. Liberate all our senses from killing passion, setting over them as a benevolent sovereign our inner reason. Let the eye be averted from every 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.
For all glory, honor and worship are Your due: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.
The Eucharistic Divine Liturgy is not celebrated in the Orthodox Church on Lenten weekdays. In order for the Orthodox Christians to sustain their Lenten effort by participation in Holy Communion, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served. The service is an ancient one in the Orthodox Church. We officially hear about it in the Canons of the 7th century, which obviously indicates its development at a much earlier date.
"On all days of the holy fast of Lent, except on the Sabbath (Saturday), the Lord's Day (Sunday), and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be served." (Canon 52, Quinisext, 692 AD).
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is an evening service. It is the Solemn Lenten Vespers (Katanyktikos Esperinos) with the administration of Holy Communion added to it. There is no consecration of the Eucharistic gifts at the Presanctified Liturgy. Holy Communion is given from the Eucharistic Gifts sanctified on the precious Sunday at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, unless, of course, the Feast of the Annunciation should intervene; hence its name of "Presanctified."
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served on Wednesday and Friday evenings, although some churches may celebrate it only on one of these days. It comes in the evening after a day of spiritual preparation and total abstinence. The faithful Orthodox Christians who are unable to make the effort of total fasting because of weakness or work, however, normally eat a light Lenten meal in the early morning. (In some cases of Orthodox Christians, who have health issues and may have to take medicines with food, may do so, but not any later than six hours prior to receiving the Holy Communion.)
During the psalms of Vespers (Esperinos), the Presanctified Gifts are prepared for communion. They are transferred from the altar table where they have been reserved since the Divine Liturgy, and are placed on the table of oblation (Prothesis). After the evening hymn, the Old Testament Holy Scriptures of Genesis and Proverbs are read, between which the celebrant blesses the kneeling congregation with a lighted candle and the words: "The Light of Christ Illumines all," indicating that all wisdom is given by Christ in the Church through the Holy Scriptures and Mysteries (Sacraments). This blessing was originally directed primarily to the catechumens--those under religious instruction preparing to be baptized on Pascha--who attended the service only to the time of the Communion of the faithful.
After the readings, the evening Psalm 141 is solemnly sung once again with the offering of incense. Then, after the litanies of intercession and those at which the catechumens were dismissed in former days, the Presanctified Eucharistic Gifts are brought to the holy Altar in a solemn, silent process while all Orthodox Christian faithful are kneeling. The song of the entrance calls the faithful to Holy Communion.
"Now the heavenly powers (i.e., the Angels) do minister invisibly with us. For behold the King of Glory enters. Behold the Mystical Sacrifice, all fulfilled, is ushered in. Let us with faith and love draw near that we may be partakers of everlasting life. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
After the litany and prayers, the Our Father is sung and the faithful receive Holy Communion to the chanting of the verse from Psalm 34: "O taste and see how good is the Lord. Alleluia." The post-communion hymns are chanted and the faithful depart with a prayer to God who "has brought us to these all-holy days for the cleansing of carnal passions," that He will bless us "to fight the good fight, to accomplish the course of the fast, and to attain unto and to adore (worship) the holy Resurrection" of Christ.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is traditionally considered to be the work of the 6th century Bishop, Saint Gregory the Dialogist of Rome (AD 540-604) who was the Papal legate to Constantinople. At one time it was supposed that he had come up with the idea himself, but now it is generally believed that he simply recorded what was otherwise being practiced in Constantinople. The present service, however, is obviously the inspired liturgical creation of Christian Byzantium. (Source: Orthodox Church in America)
Saint Mary of Egypt did not go into the desert for 47 years without first receiving Holy Communion. Not yet cleansed of the passions, she received Holy Communion and grace as a pledge for the future, so that she could receive Divine help in the desert.
During Holy and Great Lent the passions are awoken, tormenting the soul. At times they do not simply disturb us, but overwhelm us and defeat us. The need for Divine aid becomes more urgent. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was established for just the kind of faithful Christians who struggle in pious fasting, Orthodox Christians believers who perceive their weakness with special awareness.
"The usually long Eucharistic fast is the only serious concern in regards to serving the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the evening. But does not the fast exist precisely in order that we experience hunger, thirst, a subtle physical weakness, and a light dryness in the belly? Have we really entirely abandoned labor, effort, and abstinence, and become fit for gratifying our weakness? One only needs to try, and there will turn out to be more Christians prepared to struggle and pray than we had thought."
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.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God