In the Byzantine
Church, besides the Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil
the Great, we have a third liturgical formulary know as the Holy Liturgy
of the Pre-Santified Gifts. As the name suggests, the Eucharistic Gifts
are pre-santified (consecrated beforehand). This means that there is no
anaphora, but Holy Communion in the Body and Blood of Our Lord is distributed.
Today in the Byzantine Catholic Church it ordinarily takes place on Wednesday
and Fridays of Lent.
Since Lent is a time of mourning and repentance, celebration of Divine Liturgy during this time was limited to Saturdays and Sundays as legislated by the Synod of Laodicea about 365 A.D. "In Lent, it is not lawful to offer the Bread (Holy Eucharist) except on the Sabbath and the Lordís Day alone". (Canon 49) Therefore, the custon arose that on the other Lenten days, the Liturgy of the Pre-Santified Gifts was celebrated to give the people an opportunity to receive Holy Communion daily.
The Liturgy of the Pre-Santified is composed of three clearly distinguishable parts: Vespers, Liturgy of the Word, and Holy Communion.
According to ancient tradition, a complete abstinence from food was kept until 3 p.m., from Monday through Friday during Lent. Before the evening meal, the faithful would come to church for evening prayers, which eventually developed into the Vesper service. Several psalms are chanted during which the celebrant perpares the already consecrated bread and the wine.
Liturgy of the Word
reminds us of the time when Lent was still centered on the prepartation
of catechumens for baptism. Public instruction consisting of Old Testament
readings from Genesis and Proberbs, special prayers, exorcism, and blessings
There is a beautiful ritual performed by the priest reminding us that Lent is a time to return to out batismal innocence. While the lesson from Genesis is read, a burning candle is placed on the Book of the Gospels on the altar. After the lesson, the priest takes the candle and censer and with them blesses the congregation proclaiming. : the Light of Christ illumines everyone." (Jn. 1:5-7)
The candle is the liturgical symbol for Christ, the Light of the World. Its being placed on the Gospel Book during the Old Testament reading signifies that all prophecies are fulfilled in Christ who opened his diciplesí minds "that they might understand the Scriptures." (Lk. 24:44-46) The Old Testament leads to Christ just as Lent leads to baptism, illumination and Resurrection.
The third part consists of a solemn Communion of the faithful. The consecrated Gifts are transferred to the altar with great solemnity. This Great Entrance expresses liturgically the coming of Christ and the end of a long day of fasting, prayer, and expectaton Ė the coming of that help and joy for which we have been waiting. Then the Lordís Prayer is said. It is always our ultimate act of prepartation for Communion. Being Christís own prayer, it means we accept Christís mind as our mind, His prayer to the Father as our prayer, His will, His disire, His life, as ours. Following Communion, prayers of thanksgiving and dismissal are said which conclude the service. At the Pre-Santified Liturgy there is no offering, no sacrifice, no consecraton, but the mystery of Christís presence in the Church is revealed and manifested.