The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts weaves together Vespers and the Eucharistic portion of the Divine Liturgy. All the while maintaining the weekday chant of the Great Fast, preserving the “Bright Sadness” of the season. Since this is a Eucharist service we begin with “Blessed is the Kingdom.” But the mode immediately switches to Vespers with the normal Vesper’s psalm of creation. The evening prayer of the Church connects the setting of the sun to God’s creation in Genesis. From here we go to the Great Litany of the Divine Liturgy. We pray for God’s mercy for all things.
As we proceed to the antiphon Psalms of Liturgy the Church selects the Steppeni, or Psalms of ascent (Psalms 120 – 134). These were originally composed for the Hebrew pilgrimage to the temple. As Jewish pilgrims go to the temple on great feasts they sing these Psalms. The Church selects these Psalms as a reminder that we are on a pilgrimage to Pascha during this Great Fast. Just like the Hebrews before us we are marching to the new temple, Jesus Christ. During the first Passover pilgrimage in the Gospel of John, Jesus drives the money changers from the Temple. “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will
The Presanctified Liturgy from Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Claremont, New Hampshire. This video includes opening prayers. The Presanctified Liturgy begins about 21:35 minutes into the video and lasts about an hour and a half.
you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:17-22). By singing the Psalms of ascent we affirm Jesus’ claim.
The Vesper’s stichera proclaim the themes for the day. The daily dose of Genesis and Proverbs bring us the next step closer to Pascha in our reading cycle. We pick up the communion service with the Great Entrance, not of the bread and wine, but the real body and blood of Christ. The hymn for the entrance affirms this truth and the entrance is made in silent awe for the true body and blood of Christ that enters our midst. In the east we do not pour out elaborate services of adoration to the Eucharist, we fall silent in awe when this real presence is brought forth.
Following the pattern of the normal Divine Liturgy we prepare to receive the Eucharist. There is no anaphora (offering) for the gifts are already the body and blood of Christ. But we prepare to receive them as we do during the Divine Liturgy. At the same time we maintain the character of the Great Fast with the special melodies that strike that mode of Bright Sadness.
After breaking our fast with the perfect food for our pilgrimage to Pascha, we conclude as we do every Great Fast prayer service, with prostrations, singing “Having suffered the Passion for us.”