Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
Jesus said “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” John 6:56
Good morning Prayer Team!
One of the special services of the church held only during the period of Great Lent is the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. It is held each Wednesday and Friday (though most churches only hold it on Wednesday, check out the calendar for your local church) and on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. The purpose of this service is to give us the opportunity to receive Holy Communion while we are keeping the Fast, without having the “celebratory” character of the Sunday Divine Liturgy.
During Great Lent, the joyful celebration of the Divine Liturgy is limited to Saturdays, Sundays and March 25 (The Annunciation). During weekdays of Lent, if a Liturgy is held, it will be Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy is a Vespers Service with Holy Communion added to the end of it. The Communion used at this service was “reserved” from the previous Sunday, thus the term “pre-sanctified.” At this Liturgy, there is no consecration of the Gifts, as they have already been consecrated.
The service includes 18 Psalm readings and two Old Testament readings. During Lent, the Old Testament readings are from Genesis and Proverbs. During Holy Week, the readings are from Exodus and Job. There are petitions and prayers which are similar to petitions of the Divine Liturgy. There are also several hymns in the service referring to the period of Lent and “teaching” (many hymns are teaching hymns) about various aspects of Orthodox life and belief.
There is no “Great Entrance.” The Pre-Sanctified Gifts are placed on the altar table following a solemn procession during which the priest covers his head with the Aer (cloth) that he customarily places on his shoulders at the Divine Liturgy. During this procession, we kneel, rather than standing. The procession is made in virtual silence. During the procession we should kneel and pray quietly, and we shouldn’t gaze on the Gifts as we do on Sunday. With his own head covered, even the priest does not gaze on the Gifts.
Some other customs from this service include the priest wearing dark vestments and closing the royal doors to the altar at certain parts of the service. In many parishes, a censer without bells is used at this service. The church gives us a visual and auditory reminder of the joyful sadness we discussed yesterday.
Making strides in our spiritual life is hard under the best of circumstances. The secular world certainly is not encouraging spiritual growth. Any attempt that we make at spiritual growth is going to be met by a challenge from the devil. In our attempt to grow spiritually, we can expect to be tempted and to be discouraged. The perfect antidote to this is receiving Christ in Holy Communion. In a season of abstinence from certain kinds of food, there is one kind of food that we are supposed to eat in abundance, the “Bread of Life”, the Body and Blood of Christ. I encourage you to attend Pre-Sanctified Liturgy each week, or at a minimum, to attend it at least once during Lent, to experience the benefit of Holy Communion during the week, and also to experience the Lenten character of this service. Sunday Divine Liturgy maintains is regular joy and pomp. It is the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy that helps us understand the solemnity of Great Lent.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no want! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life, and covets many days, that he may enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saved the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (Psalm 34, read at the conclusion of Pre-Sanctified Liturgy)
Plan to attend Pre-Sanctified Liturgy tonight!
Photo credit: Pravmir.com
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