In this service, as in the Divine Liturgy, the faithful partake of the holy gifts of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Liturgy of the Presanctified differs from the Divine Liturgy in that the holy gifts are consecrated at a prior Divine Liturgy, normally the previous Sunday; hence they are called “presanctified.” The service, which is sometimes called the “presanctified liturgy,” is served during Great Lent, typically on Wednesdays and Fridays and on the feast days of saints having polyeleos or vigil rank; also on the fifth Thursday of Great Lent, when the Great Canon of St. Andrew is read.
The service is preceded by the service of typical psalms.*
The first part of the service resembles daily vespers. The opening blessing is that used at the Divine Liturgy—“Blessed is the Kingdom . . .” There is an entrance with the censer. If the occasion is a feast, the entrance is with the gospel book and there is then an epistle and gospel reading. In the second part of the service, the presanctified Gifts are brought into the holy altar in a procession resembling the great entrance at a Divine Liturgy. Because the gifts are pre-consecrated, there is no anaphora as at Divine Liturgy.
Transition to a New Liturgical Day. It should be noted that the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts takes place at the end of a liturgical day. Thus, if the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be celebrated on a Wednesday, the stichera for the saint commemorated on Wednesday will be chanted, as is customary, at vespers on the eve of that day (Tuesday evening). At Lord, I Call on Wednesday evening, the stichera for the saint commemorated Thursday will be chanted. (However, when the presanctified liturgy is served on the feast of a major saint, the stichera for the saint are sung the evening before as just described, but a few stichera for the saint will still be sung at Lord, I Call on the feast, at the end of the liturgical day on which the saint is commemorated, when the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served in honor of that saint. Thus stichera for a major saint on a weekday of Great Lent, would be chanted on two successive nights.)
With the reading of the evening prayer “Vouchsafe, O Lord . . .” the transition to a new liturgical day is complete. Since the prayer is not read in the course of the Liturgy of the Presanctified or at the service of Vespers with Divine Liturgy, the transition to a new liturgical day is not complete until the conclusion of those services. For this reason, the Presanctified or the Divine Liturgy is reckoned as taking place on the day that is ending and not on the one that is beginning. (Yet since the hymns sung at “Lord, I call” belong—with some exceptions—to the new liturgical day, not the day drawing to a close, from the perspective of typicon, calendar, and rubrics, the transition to the new day is under way well before the evening prayer “Vouchsafe, O Lord.”)
Thus, if one receives Holy Communion on Friday at the Liturgy of the Presanctified, and again at Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning, one has communed on two separate days, and has not violated the principle that one should commune only once on a given day.
Thus during the penitential period of the fast, the reception of the holy Eucharist takes place at the very end of the day - the fast being, accordingly, as long as possible. This contrasts with Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, when the fast is as short as possible - the Divine Liturgy being celebrated immediately after Paschal Matins. In both instances, the underlying principle is: “The greater the feast, the shorter the fast.”
*Typical psalms, before the Liturgy of the Presanctified, ends as follows:
Prayer of St. Ephrem with bows. Holy God ... (etc.) ... Our Father…
Lord have mercy (12). Prayer “O All-Holy Trinity.”
Wisdom! It is truly ... Most holy Theotokos save us! More honorable ...
Glory to thee, O Christ ...
Glory to the Father ... Lord have mercy (3).
. . . Bless! (Priest gives dismissal.)