The Holy Fathers considered that it was unbefitting the contrition of Great Lent to serve the full Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great, so that these Liturgies are allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays of the Fast, as well as on the Feast of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. In its place, on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, as well as on Thursday of the Fifth Week and the first three days of Passion Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. [If the patronal feast of a church or monastery falls on a weekday of Great Lent, or if one of a small handful of major feasts fall thereon, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated on that day.] This Liturgy is called Presanctified, since the Holy Gifts were presanctified (or consecrated) on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy consists of Vespers, followed by a portion of the full Liturgy, omitting the consecration of the Holy Gifts.
The structure of the Vesperal part of the Presanctified Liturgy is identical to the first half of ordinary Vespers — regular beginning, Psalm 104, Great Litany, Kathisma (usually the 18th), “Lord, I have called…,” with ten appointed Stikhera, accompanied by a censing of the whole church, Entrance with either the censer or Gospel Book (if there will be a Gospel reading because of a Feast), “O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light…,” and then the Prokeimenon. During the reading of the Kathisma, the Presanctified Gifts are solemnly transferred from the Holy Table to the Table of Oblation.
After the Prokeimenon, an appointed Old Testament Lesson is read, followed by another Prokeimenon. Then, as everyone makes a prostration, the Priest turns and faces the Faithful with a candle and censer, intoning, “The Light of Christ illumines all!” This signifies that the Prophets, from whose writings we have heard and shall hear were illumined by the same light (the Light of Christ) that still enlightens all men. A second Old Testament lesson is now read. At the conclusion of the second Old Testament Lesson, the moving hymn of supplication, “Let my prayer arise…” is sung, with the Faithful and Clergy on bended knees:
Let My Prayer Arise:
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Lord, I have called to Thee, hear me! Attend to the voice of my prayer when I colt to Thee!
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, a. secure around my lips!
Incline not my heart to words of evil, to invent excuses for my sins.
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands Be an evening sacrifice.
This is followed by the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian and three prostrations. If Gospel and Epistle lessons are prescribed (usually if it be a feast), they are said here. Then, whether Gospel and Epistle lessons or not, the Litany of Fervent Supplication is chanted, as well as a Litany for the Catechumens and finally their dismissal. [In the ancient Church, among the Catechumens there were some who were soon to be baptized (illumined) — usually on Holy Saturday — and after the mid-point of the Great Lent, a special Litany was inserted for them at this point at the Presanctified Liturgy: “All catechumens, depart. Depart, catechumens. As many as are preparing for illumination, draw near. Pray, you who are preparing for illumination,” etc.]
With the Dismissal of the Catechumens, the Liturgy proper begins. After two Litanies for the Faithful, as at the full Liturgy, the Choir sings the special Cherubic Hymn: “Now the powers of heaven do serve invisibly with us. Lo, the King of glory enters. Lo, the mystical sacrifice is upborne, fulfilled.” A Great Entrance is made from the Table of Oblation to the Altar by the Priest bearing the Presanctified Gifts, in profound silence. At this time the faithful make a prostration before Christ, Who passed before them in the Sacrament. At the conclusion of the Cherubic Hymn and the “Alleluia,” the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim is again recited with three prostrations.
The Holy Doors are now closed and the Preparation for Communion begins with the Litany of Supplication (which begins, “Let us complete our evening prayer to the Lord,” since this is an evening service) and the Lord’s Prayer. During this the curtain is drawn only half-way, signifying that this is not the full Liturgy. After the Lord’s Prayer and the usual exclamations, the Holy Gifts are not elevated, since this was done previously at the Sunday Liturgy, but the Priest only touches them, saying, “The Presanctified Holy Things are for the holy!” The Choir responds, “One is holy…,” as usual, and then the Communion Hymn, “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Alleluia!”
The Communion of the Clergy and Faithful take place, as usual, except that instead of “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord…,” the Choir sings, “I will bless the Lord at all times….” A special Prayer Before the Ambo, “O Almighty Master, Who in wisdom hast fashioned all creation…,” is said after the usual Litany of Thanksgiving and then the Dismissal is said, as usual, except that St. Gregory Dialoges, Pope of Rome, is commemorated instead of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great.
Text taken from These Truths We Hold