Among the church services held during Lent, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, performed on Wednesdays and Fridays, holds an important place. During this service the Holy Elements, blessed during the previous Sunday’s Liturgy and saved in the artophorion (gold plated box) are placed on the Holy Table in the middle of the Sanctuary are offered for communion to believers.
The origin of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts goes back to the first centuries of Christianity. During the constant persecutions by the pagans, the Christians wished to receive the Body and Blood of Christ as often as possible. However, the fulfillment of the Liturgy as a service of thanksgiving does not conform to the fast and the grief over sins during Lent. Therefore, the usual Liturgy was replaced during week days by the service of the Presanctified Gifts, during which one can receive sacraments blessed earlier.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in those ancient times was served in the evening, which explains why vespers were included with it. The composition of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is attributed to St. Gregory the Dialogist, Bishop of Rome (604 AD).
The order of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is as follows. After the intonement of the priest “Blessed is the Kingdom,” the 103rd Psalm “Bless the Lord, O my soul” is read. The Great Litany is then intoned and the 18th Kathismata (Psalms 119–133) is read. Then the choir sings “Lord I have called unto Thee” with stichera. The priest makes an entrance with the censor. The choir sings “O Joyful Light,” and the first Paremiae (a selection from the Bible, in this case the book of Genesis) is read. When the priest intones, “Wisdom, let us attend. The Light of Christ enlightens all,” those praying prostrate themselves. The second Paremiae (a selection from the book of Proverbs) is read.
Then a trio sings a spiritually moving prayer “Let my prayer arise as incense before Thee,” after which the prayer of St. Ephraim is read. After a litany the choir sings, “Now the powers of Heaven with us invisibly worship,” and the Great entrance with the Presanctified Gifts takes place. The prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian is repeated, and the Litany of Petition is proclaimed. The choir sings the Lord’s Prayer, after which the priest intones, “The Presanctified Holy Things (Communion) are for the holy.” The Holy Sacraments are brought out through the Royal Gates, and the believers receive Holy Communion. After the Litany of Thanksgiving and the prayer before the Ambo, the believers venerate the Holy Cross and are free to go home.
This information on the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was taken from Father Alexander.org.
“Now the powers of Heaven with us invisibly worship” by A.Lvovsky. The Sretensky Monastery Choir
“Let my prayer arise as incense before Thee.” The Sretensky Monastery Choir