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.
LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED GIFTS AND THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION ON WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY OF GREAT LENT
Holy and Great Lent is a season of repentance, fasting, and intensified prayer, and therefore the Orthodox Christian Church encourages its believers to receive Holy Communion more frequently. However, the Divine Liturgy has a joyful character not keeping with the season. Therefore, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated instead; the Divine Liturgy is only performed on Saturdays and Sundays. Although it is possible to celebrate this divine service on any weekday of Great Lent, the service is prescribed to be celebrated only on Wednesdays and Fridays of Holy Lent.
The service is an ancient one in the Orthodox Church. We officially hear about it in the Holy 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, the Lord's Day, and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be served" (Canon 52, Quinisext, 692).
How should an Orthodox Christian believer prepare to receive Holy Communion on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent?
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is offered on Wednesday and Friday evenings. It comes in the evening after a day of spiritual preparation and abstinence. The proper preparation and proper fast is total fasting on those two evenings. However, Orthodox Christians who are unable to make the effort of total fasting due to the demands of their work during the day, they normally eat a light Lenten meal in the early morning. Many Orthodox Christians fast sometimes from midnight and sometimes the entire workday, not eating anything after the morning meal until they break the fast with Holy Communion at this evening divine service.
The life of an Orthodox Christian goes on from Holy Eucharist to Holy Eucharist. The special feature of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is that it is celebrated in the evening in connection with Vespers (Esperinos). The early Christians preparing to receive Holy Communion at the Liturgy of the Presanctified fasted the whole day from morning till evening. "The evening reception of Holy Communion at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is fulfilled after a day of prayer and fasting, with the total abstinence from food and drink at least from the early morning hours of the day. Some consider the taking of even light, Lenten food on the morning of the Presanctified Liturgy as a "lessening" of discipline. Those who have fasted a whole working day in preparation for the evening participation in the Holy Sacrament, however, know the great difficulty of the effort, as well as the very special fruits which it brings from God." Today complete fasting is prescribed starting from noon so that after twelve o'clock we have nothing to eat or drink until after the evening Liturgy. Another current practice is to abstain from food and drink at least six hours prior to receiving Communion. These evening liturgies renew the early Christian practice of receiving Holy Communion in the evening which is indicated by the name "Lord's Supper."
Part of the purpose of having days and seasons of fasting is to exercise the Spiritual fruit and virtue of moderation and temperance, and so to avoid the sins of drunkenness and gluttony. Moderate consumption of alcohol is allowed on many days throughout the year, but more than that is drunkenness which is wrong and unhealthy both spiritually and physically, and worse yet if this is not a one-time occurrence but becomes frequent. Likewise, eating or drinking (non-alcoholic beverages such as soda, caffeine, etc.) to fullness on non-fasting days is one thing, but to overeat or over drink, especially if repeatedly, is gluttony.
No one today suffers because of his/her fasting because very few follow the fasting discipline of the Church. How many people do you know that fast strictly throughout Great Lent? How many Orthodox Christians abstain from foods and drink even during Holy and Great Week? The unfortunate fact is that the practice of fasting has been diluted or water-down by most of our fellow Orthodox believers. If you truly desire to keep our holy Orthodox tradition you must be willing to make a personal decision and to do it with understanding and the right spirit otherwise it has no value at all.
Please remember the Divine words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" (St. Matthew 17:21). Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights and so did Moses. All the righteous and holy men and women of God lived an ascetic life and always concentrated on prayer and fasting.
With sincere agape in Christ God,