March 20, 2013

What is the Presanctified Divine Liturgy?

By Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

Our Church has established for another Liturgy to be performed every Wednesday and Friday of Great Lent, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. During this Liturgy there is no Sacrifice performed, that is, there is no change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Honorable Gifts, the bread and wine, are ready, having been pre-sanctified (which is why the Liturgy is called "Presanctified Gifts") during the previous Sunday Divine Liturgy. It is now the Body and Blood of Christ, and it is simply offered for the communion of the people.

Every Sunday the priest cuts from the prosphoron [offering bread] the so-called "Lamb", which is the square piece with the seal that says "ΙΣ-ΧΣ ΝΙ-ΚΑ" [Jesus Christ Conquers], and he places it on the Sacred Diskos. Then, during the chanting of "We hymn You...", this piece of bread will change through the blessing of the priest into the Body of the Lord, and the wine, which is in the Sacred Chalice, will change into the Blood of the Lord.

But when we are in the mourning period of Great Lent, the Priest, during the Sunday Divine Liturgy, will not only cut one piece from the seal of the prosphoron, as we explained above, but more (usually three) depending on the number of Presanctified Liturgies he will perform during the week.

These pieces (which are not all cut from one prosphoron, but rather one from each prosphoron) will be blessed at the time they should be and they will change into the Body of Christ. From these one will be used for the Divine Eucharist of that day (Sunday), and the others (usually two) will be immersed in the Sacred Chalice in which is the Blood of the Lord, and will be stored in a special casket, the Sacred Tabernacle, for the Liturgies of the Presanctified Gifts that will take place within the week. During these Liturgies the Priest will offer to the faithful communion from these Presanctified Gifts.

The Presanctified Liturgy is intertwined with Vespers, that is, it is an evening service. This is in place because the Christians of old during the days of Great Lent would be without food (fasted) until the evening hours. In the evening hours they could attend church and receive Communion. Today the Presanctified Liturgy is still performed in the evening, but usually it is performed in the morning hours for the convenience of the faithful.

This Liturgy does not have the celebratory and triumphant tone of the other Liturgies, but it is dominated by a mournful and solemn element. The Presanctified Liturgy is performed every Wednesday and Friday of Great Lent. During Holy Week it is performed only during the first three days (Great Monday, Great Tuesday, Great Wednesday). It is also performed on festive days that land within the period of Great Lent. It is not performed on Saturdays and Sundays during Great Lent. The Priest, even if he keeps names, will not commemorate them at the Prothesis, but will leave them for the Liturgy of Saturday or Sunday. Also, Memorials are not done during the Presanctified Liturgy.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

See also:

On the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

History of the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts

Tracing the Origins of the Presanctified Liturgy