The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
The Divine Liturgy is a festive and joyous celebration. It is an occasion for expressing joy and as such is somewhat incompatible with the somber character of the weekdays during the Holy Great Fast. The eucharistic celebration is our participation here on earth in the events of heaven. It is a partaking of the Holy Table of the Lord, and it transcends this world. But the Fast is a manifestation of the Church in the world. It is a reminder of our need to conquer matters of the flesh. The Fast is our call to keep watch with Christ as He secures our salvation. Thus in keeping with the penitential and ascetical character of the greatfast weekdays, while still recognizing our spiritual need of being fed with the Divine Eucharist, our Byzantine Catholic Church has, therefore, prescribed that the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts be celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the period of the Great Forty-Day Fast.
The Presanctified Divine Liturgy strikes the perfect balance necessary for the season of the Great Fast. It provides us with the much needed spiritual Food of the Holy Eucharist, yet it maintains the penitential character of the season. In the early Christian Church on Wednesdays and Fridays during the Great Fast, the faithful would generally fast entirely from food until sunset. These days were then culminated in the evening with the communion service known as the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, when the day's fast was broken by receiving the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the necessary spiritual Food for the greatfast journey was provided for the fasting faithful, while the somber and penitential mood of the greatfast season was maintained.
There is no consecration at the Presanctified Gifts Divine Liturgy. Rather, as the name suggests, the Sacred Gifts of Bread and Wine have been already consecrated at a previous Divine Liturgy. The Presanctified Divine Liturgy consists of the evening liturgical service of Vespers combined with solemn communion. Its major sections include: Great Vespers with readings from Genesis and Proverbs; various prayers for the catechumens and for the faithful; and finally Holy Communion together with thanksgiving prayers. Taken as a whole, the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts instructs and fortifies us in our greatfast journey to Holy Pascha. It is the most characteristic liturgical service of the greatfast season. It is an integral part of the spiritual journey taken during the Holy Great Forty-Days Fast. By hearing the Word, we are instructed as to what God expects of us; and by participating in the Eucharistic Banquet, we are given the spiritual Food that fortifies us in order to accomplish our goal. Every effort should be made to attend faithfully the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts every Wednesday and Friday throughout the entire course of the Great Fast.
By Steven Puluka