Some Notes on the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Noah and the ArkIn the early Church, it was thought that the solemnity with which the Church celebrated the Holy Forty Days Fast did not mesh so well with the incredibly joyful and triumphant nature of the Eucharistic Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy. So at the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364) the celebration of the full Divine Liturgy was restricted to the Saturdays and Sundays of the Great Fast. To enable the faithful to communicate the Divine Eucharist on weekdays the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts developed. Customarily, the faithful would fast from all food during the daylight hours and then, near the end of the day, join together to pray Vespers. Following Vespers the Eucharist – which had been consecrated the previous Sunday – was distributed. In some places the Presanctified Eucharist was distributed daily, but over time the custom arose of celebrating the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts only on the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent (plus a few other special days).

The Scripture readings at the Presanctified are from Genesis and Proverbs. From Genesis each year we learn all over again about the creation of the world, the fall of man, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, God’s covenant with Abram, Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham being put to the test, and then about Joseph and his brothers. From Proverbs we are taught the practical wisdom for living the moral life. While always profitable for the Believer these lessons date to the time when those preparing to be enlightened in Baptism attended the Vespers part of this liturgy. During the second half of Lent there are special petitions for those “ready for enlightenment”.

In current practice many of the melodies used to sing the texts of the Presanctified are set in a minor key, and this makes the service notably different from the festal celebrations of the Divine Liturgy on Saturdays and Sundays.


First Prayer of the Faithful at Presanctified

O God, great and worthy to be praised, Who through the life-giving death of Your Christ has transferred us from corruption to incorruption: Deliver all our senses from deadly passions, setting over them our inner being as a sure guide. Let our eyes be blind to every evil sight; let our ears be deaf to idle chatter; and let our tongue be cleansed of unbecoming speech. Purify our lips which praise You, O Lord. Make our hands abstain from evil deeds and do only those things which are pleasing in Your sight. By Your grace strengthen our bodies and our minds. For to You belongs all glory, honor and worship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


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Teachings of Christ

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)


Great and Holy Week

Saturday of Saint Lazarus the Righteous
- Hebrews 12:28-13:8, John 11:1-45

Palm Sunday - The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem
- Vespers: Exodus 3:1-8, Proverbs 8:22-30 (Annunciation) Genesis 49:1,2,8-12, Zephaniah 3:14-19, Zechariah 9:9-15 (Palm Sunday)
- Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56 (Annunciation) Matthew 21:1-11,15-17 (Palm Sunday)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 1:24-38 (Annunciation) Philippians 4:4-9, John 12:1-18 (Palm Sunday)

Great and Holy Monday
- Matins: Matthew 21:18-43
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 1:1-20
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 1:1-20, Job 1:1-12, Matthew 24:3-35

Great and Holy Tuesday
- Matins: Matthew 22:15-23:39
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 1:21-2:1
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 2:5-10, Job 1:13-22, Matthew 24:36-26:2

Great and Holy Wednesday
- Matins: John 12:17-50
- Sixth Hour: Ezekiel 2:3-3:3
- Vespers (Presanctified): Exodus 2:11-22, Job 2:1-10, Matthew 26:6-16

On Great and Holy Wednesday night it is customary to celebrate the Service of Holy Anointing. There are seven epistles and seven Gospels for this service. Those references are not given here.

Great and Holy Thursday
- Matins: Luke 22:1-39
- First Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-12:5,9-11,14,15
- Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: Exodus 19:10-19, Job 38:1-23; 42:1-5, Isaiah 50:4-11, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32, Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke, 22:43-45; Matthew 26:40-27:2 (Composite Reading)

Holy Friday (Thursday Evening)
- Matins - The Twelve Passion Gospels: 1) John 13:31-18:1, 2) John 18:1-28, 3) Matthew 26:57-75, 4) John 18:28-19:16, 5) Matthew 27:3-32, 6) Mark 15:16-32, 7) Matthew 27:33-54, 8) Luke 23:32-49, 9) John 19:25-37, 10) Mark 15:43-47, 11) John 19:38-42, 12) Matthew 27:62-66

Great and Holy Friday
- First Royal Hour: Zechariah 11:10-13, Galatians 6:14-18, Matthew 27:1-56
- Third Royal Hour: Isaiah 50:4-11, Romans 5:6-11, Mark 15:16-41
- Sixth Royal Hour: Isaiah 52:13-54:1, Hebrews 2:11-18, Luke 23:32-49
- Ninth Royal Hour: Jeremiah 11:18-23; 12:15,9-11,14,15, Hebrews 10:19-31, John 18:28-19:37
- Vespers: Exodus 33:11-23, Job 42:12-16, Isaiah 52:13-54:1, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2, Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; Matthew 27:55-61 (Composite Reading)

Great and Holy Saturday
- Matins: Ezekiel 37:1-14, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 3:13,14 (Composite Reading), Matthew 27:62-66
- Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: 1) Genesis 1:1-13, 2) Isaiah 60:1-16, 3) Exodus 12:1-11, 4) The Book of Jonah, 5) Joshua 5:10-15, 6) Exodus 13:20-15:19, 7) Zephaniah 3:8-15, 8) 1 Kings 17:8-24, 9) Isaiah 61:10-62:5, 10) Genesis 22:1-18, 11) Isaiah 61:1-9, 12) 2 Kings 4:8-37, 13) Isaiah 63:11-64:5, 14) Jeremiah 31:31-34, 15) Daniel 3:1-90, Romans 6:3-11, Matthew 28:1-20

Feasts & Fasts

24-31 - Great and Holy Week
24 - Lazarus Saturday
25 - Annunciation to the the Mother of God, Palm Sunday
26 - Great and Holy Monday
27 - Great and Holy Tuesday
28 - Great and Holy Wednesday
29 - Great and Holy Thursday
30 - Great and Holy Friday
31 - Great and Holy Saturday

1 - Pascha - Feast of the Resurrection of Christ (Easter Sunday)
1-8 - Bright Week
8 - Second Sunday of Pascha (Apostle Thomas)
15 - Third Sunday of Pascha (Myrrh-Bearing Women)
22 - Fourth Sunday of Pascha (Healing of the Paralytic)
25 - Mid-Pentecost
29 - Fifth Sunday of Pascha (Samaritan Women at the Well)

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)


Today is the fountainhead of our salvation, * and the revelation of an eternal mystery: * The Son of God becomes the Son of a Virgin, * and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. * Therefore, let us also cry with him to the Mother of God: * "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

To you, O Mother of God, our leader and defender, * we, your servants, delivered from calamity, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. * So you, who have invincible might, * set us free from every peril * that we may cry to you: * "Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!" (Kontakion, Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you." (Proverbs 3:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God. But the Lord Himself guides with His grace those who are given over to God's will, and they bear all things with fortitude for the sake of God Whom they have so loved and with Whom they are glorified for ever. It is impossible to escape tribulation in this world but the man who is giver over to the will of God bears tribulation easily, seeing it but putting his trust in the Lord, and so his tribulations pass.

Archimandrite Sophrony