Russian Orthodox Liturgical Resources

Liturgical Handbook
of the Practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
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Handbook of Liturgical Practice of the Russian Church Abroad
Liturgical Question:
What are the forms and peculiarities of a Hierarchical service of the Presanctified Liturgy?
Handbook Category: Lenten Services (index)

The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is fundamentally a priestly service, intended to be served in simplicity in conformity with the other weekday Lenten services, which are also simplified in structure and character in keeping with the spirit of the season. It is to be remembered that this service is not in fact a Liturgy proper (there is no consecration of the Holy Gifts), but in form a Vespers service with elements of the Divine Liturgy incorporated, so as to provide for the communal reception of the Gifts in a fitting manner.

For this reason, when a Hierarch serves the Divine Liturgy, it is most fitting that he does so simply, preserving this character to the service — except on occasions of particular significance within the Great Fast, at which the Hierarch may concelebrate with several other clerics (e.g. to mark a significant weekday commemoration in Lent, or at a Lenten pastoral conference with a host of priests).

There are thus two manners in which the Presanctified Liturgy may be served Hierarchically:

The Simple (‘Priestly’) Hierarchical Rite:

This is the most common manner in which the Hierarchs of our Diocese serve the Presanctified Liturgy on normal Wednesdays and Fridays in Great Lent.

When served in this manner, the Bishop (who may be vested either in his usual vestments, or in a phelon with small omofor — in either case he retains the small omofor throughout the service, without removing or changing it) serves largely according to the rubrics for a priestly service of the Presanctified: he begins within the Altar; the Royal Doors are opened and closed at the appointed times; etc. The specifically Hierarchical peculiarities of this service are as follows:

  • When the litanies are intoned, the Royal Doors are opened until the conclusion of the exclamation at the end of each, after which they are closed again.
  • At the Vesperal entrance, the Bishop remains in the Altar and blesses the entry from the Royal Doors, as at the Vespers of a Vigil (the Priests and Deacons making the entrance with the censer or Gospel, as appointed; the Bishop will do this if celebrating alone without a Priest).
  • At ‘The light of Christ illumineth all…’, the Bishop will bless with the trikiri and the censer (rather than a single candle and the censer).
  • At the Entrance with the Gifts, if the Bishop is serving without a Priest, he will make the entry himself. If concelebrating with a Priest, the Bishop will remain in the Altar as the other clergy make the entry, and will receive the diskos from the Priest in silence, then make the customary proclamation (‘In faith and love draw near…’) and lay it upon the Holy Table.
  • After the Prayer of St Ephrem following the Entrance with the Gifts, the Bishop blesses the people with the trikiri and dikiri and the choir sings ‘Eis polla eti, Despota’.
  • At the conclusion of the service, the Dismissal is said by the Bishop with dikiri and trikiri, and ‘Eis polla eti, Despota’.

Otherwise, the service is as according to the standard rubrics for the priestly service, with the Bishop taking the role of presiding Priest.

The Full Hierarchical Rite:

On occasions of great solemnity, the full Hierarchical rite may be used. This combines more elements of the Hierarchical Vespers and Divine Liturgy.

  • If there shall be a greeting of the Bishop, it is generally done in silence, followed by the Entrance Prayers as usual — though an entrance with the customary hymns is also possible; the Hierarch will communicate whether he wishes it or not.
  • On particularly significant occasions, the Bishop may be vested on the cathedra; though in our Diocesan practice he is normally vested in the Altar in his full vestments with Great Omofor (his hands are not washed at this point, as this will be done later). As Vespers begins, all the clery venerate the Holy Table and the Royal Doors are opened for the Bishop, who departs thereby – the other clergy through the side doors (as at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy), all assembling in their ranks before the cathedra.
  • The first portion of the service is performed with the Bishop on the cathedra, as at the beginning a Hierarchical Vespers service. The senior Priest will offer the opening blessing, and will also himself be the one to perform (with the Deacon) the transition of the Presanctified Gifts during the three stases of the kathisma. The responses to the various litanies are shared between the Priests as usual.
  • The Royal Doors are opened at the beginning of the service for the blessing, and remain open while the Reader reads the opening prayers, through ‘Our Father’. After the exclamation at the end of that prayer, the Royal Doors are closed. They are opened for each litany, and closed again after each exclamation.
  • The Bishop’s hands are washed upon the cathedra during the singing of ‘Lord, I have cried…’, as the Deacon censes the Temple.
  • The Vesperal Entry is made as at a full Hierarchical Vespers, with trikiri, dikiri, fans and candles. The entrance is always made with the Gospel Book when the Bishop presides on the cathedra, even if ‘entrance with censer’ is prescribed for the day in the ustav.
  • The Royal Doors are closed for the readings,  despite the Bishop’s presence within the Altar, and they are opened for the prokeimena between. The Bishop will bless the faithful at ‘The Light of Christ illumineth…’ with the trikiri and the censer.
  • At the antiphonal singing of the second ‘Lord, I have cried…’ (after the readings), the Bishop stands before the Holy Table with the censer and censes throughout the first three verses and refrains. A trio sings the verses at the centre of the Temple, with all clergy in the Altar (except the Bishop) and all the faithful prostrate; they then stand for the singing of the refrain by the clergy together with choir. This is repeated four times. At the fourth, the Bishop moves to the Table of Oblation, upon which are the Presanctified Gifts, and censes there during the verse; at the refrain he hands the censer to the Deacon who continues to cense the gifts while the servers remove the Bishop’s great omofor. He then returns to the Holy Table, where he joins the other clergy in prostrating themselves during the final singing of the central verse.
  • The service then proceeds largely according to the rubrics of an Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. At the hymn replacing the Cherubikon (‘Now the powers of heaven…’), the Bishop immediately washes his hands through the Royal Doors, and his small omofor is placed upon him as he turns back to the Holy Table for the threefold prayer.
  • At the Entrance with the Presanctified Gifts, the Deacon carries the aer (on his shoulder) and censer and a candle in his left hand, but the senior Priest (rather than a Deacon, as at an Hierarchical Liturgy proper) carries the diskos with the Presanctified holy things; if there is a second Priest he takes the chalice behind the first — if only one Priest, he takes both, bearing the diskos in his right hand and chalice in his left, and holding the diskos higher than the chalice, since the Gifts upon it are already fully consecrated. The Entrance is made in silence, the Deacon censing the way before the diskos, which the Priest hands to the Bishop without any words. The Bishop pronounces ‘In faith and love draw near…’ with the diskos and places it upon the Table, whereupon the other clergy enter the Altar and place the other elements in their appointed places.
  • After the Prayer of St Ephrem that follows the Entrance with the Gifts, the Bishop blesses the people with trikiri and dikiri, and the choir sings ‘Eis polla eti, Despota’.
  • The small omofor is removed / replaced during the rest of the service according to the normal pattern of a Liturgy.
  • At the communion of the clergy, the Deacon does not say ‘Amen’ thrice as the Bishop partakes from the chalice, as is normally the case at the Divine Liturgy; the Bishop consumes of the chalice in silence.
  • At the conclusion of the service, the Dismissal is said by the Bishop with dikiri and trikiri, and ‘Eis polla eti, Despota’.
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