Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

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The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, informally the Presanctified Liturgy, is a liturgical service for the distribution of the Holy Gifts on the weekdays of Great Lent. Because Great Lent is a season of repentance, fasting, and intensified prayer, the Orthodox Church regards more frequent reception of communion as especially desirable at that time. However, the Divine Liturgy has a festal character not in keeping with the season. Thus the Presanctified Liturgy is therefore celebrated instead; the Divine Liturgy is only performed on Saturdays and Sundays. Although it is possible to celebrate this service on any weekday of Great Lent, common parish practice is to celebrate it only on Wednesdays and Fridays.

It consists of vespers combined with additional prayers and communion. The communion bread has already been consecrated and intincted with the precious Blood and reserved at the previous Sunday's Divine Liturgy. Unconsecrated wine is placed in the chalice. Local practice also varies as to whether or not this wine must be thought of as the Blood of Christ. The only practical effect of this variety is that the celebrant who must consume all the undistrubuted communion at the end of the service might or might not partake of the chalice when he communes himself.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was first documented by Gregory the Dialogist (AD 540 - 604), who was the papal legate to Constantinople. At one time it was supposed that he had come up with the idea himself, but now it is generally supposed that he simply recorded what was otherwise being practiced at Constantinople. In the Presanctified Liturgy itself, he is still commemorated as its traditional author.

This Liturgy is also mentioned in the Canons of the seventh century Quinisext Council:

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 52,692).

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