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Pre-sanctified Liturgy: contents of the chalice

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#1 Michael Astley

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 08:33 AM

Dear, Fathers, brothers, and sisters in Christ,

I wonder whether those with knowledge on this matter may be able to share their thoughts, as well as perhaps give some idea of the development of the understandings that we have in the Orthodox Church about this.

On another forum, a general discussion was being had about the Liturgy of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, during the course of which, there was a tangent about the differences in Greek and Russian general (but not universal) understandings about the consecration of the wine and the implications of those understandings.

From a combination of reading, discussion, and experience, it seems to me that there are three distinct positions here:
  • The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does become the Blood of Christ through simple contact with the Body of Christ. Therefore, Communion is given in both kinds in the usual way, including to infants and deacons.
  • The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does not become the Blood of Christ but remains simple wine. Therefore, Communion is given only in the form of the Body - not the Blood - of Christ. Infants who are unable to swallow solids may not be communicated. Also, any deacon who drinks from the chalice will have broken his fast and will be unable to consume the Gifts after Communion.
  • The unconsecrated wine in the chalice does not become the Blood of Christ. However, if the Lamb were infused with the Blood of Christ at the previous Sunday Liturgy, then when that Lamb is placed into the chalice of unconsecrated wine, the Holy Blood diffuses into the wine in the chalice, and Communon is given in both kinds in the usual way.

My limited experience of Russian church practice has been position C, so position B is by no means universal Russian practice. It seems that position A is the most ancient and is common in the Greek church but it is also the one with which I have the most trouble.

I have read that St Peter Moghila had similar misgivings but haven't been able to find what he actually wrote on the matter. Meaning no disrespect to centuries of tradition, it seems to my poor understanding to reduce the effecting of the sacraments from their proper liturgical and spiritual context to something that could be perceived as almost magical. Before I was Orthodox, I understood the Eucharistic Rite as having meaning, significance, and purpose, and its constituent elements having similar meaning, significance, and purpose. When I entered the Church, I found this understanding affirmed and expressed in abundance. When the priest prepares the Gifts with prayer and symbolic action, when they are offered to God, when the anamnesis takes place of the salvation work of God throughout time and space, and when the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Son, then all of those events - the Incarnation, the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ - are really and truly made present. The crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Body and Blood of the Saviour are made truly present by God's mercy, through the prayerful, faithful participation of God's people in that eucharistic action.

Everything that I have been led to believe about the nature and purpose of the eucharistic rite seems to me to be negated if it can all be so easily dispensed with and wine can be changed into the Blood of Jesus Christ simply by touching his Holy Body. I know that, going back to the Old Covenant, holiness through contact with the holy was understood and that we in the New Covenant have inherited that in some sense. Yet the conferring of holiness seems different from the effecting of a change of wine into the Blood of the Saviour.

Yet this seems to be the ancient understanding of the Church. I suppose I'm just having a hard time with this and would welcome comment, explanation of the development of thought on this, quotations, and so forth to help me.

Thank you so much.

In Christ,

Edited by Michael Astley, 10 March 2012 - 08:38 AM.
tidied paragraphing to make post more easily readable

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 02:59 PM

A few years ago one of our senior clergy put the following together for consideration. I offer it in like manner:

In the “Order of the Proskomedia” (of an unnamed Patriarch of Constantinople) [11th century], we read:

On the last Sunday, that of Cheesefare Week, at the celebration of the full liturgy, the holy breads are prepared in a greater than usual number. After communion they are preserved in a special tabernacle until Friday. The holy blood is not added to them, for on each of the fasting days, at the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified, the chalice, into which the bread—previously consecrated, elevated, and broken—is placed, is prepared, and sanctified. And what would be the need of mingling together the holy blood and the divine bread? For the Liturgy of the Presanctified is celebrated only for the sake of the sanctification of the chalice.

Perhaps the Patriarch, by saying, “…at the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified, the chalice, into which the bread—previously consecrated, elevated, and broken—is placed,” and “…the Liturgy of the Presanctified is celebrated only for the sake of the sanctification of the chalice,” had in mind several prayers or a particular prayer used for the sanctification of the chalice. Or perhaps he had in mind the sanctification of the chalice by placing into it of a portion of the presanctified lamb—such being the more frequent practice of the Greeks. Thus, in the “Report to the Emperor of the Ecumenical Patriarch Michael” we read:

According to holy tradition and teaching, the presanctified breads are consecrated on each of the Sundays of the holy days which we devote to the Fast. From the holy breads consecrated in this way, which are perfect, life-creating, and filled with every divine grace, a quantity determined by need and circumstance is set aside. To these breads, which are recognized as and truly are the very life-creating Body of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, not a drop of the divine blood is added; they are set aside without any sprinkling of the holy blood. And each day of the Fast, when the full liturgy is not celebrated, they are transferred from the chapel of the prothesis to the altar table in the sanctuary. No sacramental or consecratory prayers are said over them; the priest merely prays that he be made worthy of being a partaker of the holy mysteries set forth. Just before holy communion takes place, the deacons touch the holy chalices standing there (on the altar table) and invite the priest not to “Fill, master,” as at the full Liturgy, but to “Bless, master.” At the reply of the priest, “Blessed is our God, always…,” the holy bread which had been presanctified and made perfect earlier is placed into the mystical chalice, and the wine contained in it is transformed into the holy blood of our Lord and is recognized as having been changed.

Leo Allatius cites the curious observations of an anonymous author regarding the celebration of the Liturgy of the presanctified. The author writes:

In many places I have observed how some priests, as they prepare to set aside the presanctified gifts for keeping, sprinkle them by means of the spoon with the Lord’s blood and preserve them in that way, while others do nothing of the sort. Which practice is better? For us, as we try to compare spiritual things with spiritual, neither practice appears to be a deviation from the truth. Some, in their effort to preserve a certain portion of the presanctified and invisibly transformed blood, accomplish this through the sprinkling of the breads. Others, deeming that the use of the bread already transformed into the body of Christ is sufficient to change into the Lord’s blood the wine with which it is united during communion—and by this means to sanctify those who partake of the mysteries—do nothing of the sort. They are content to reserve only the presanctified breads. Such is the situation as it appears to us. Since we observe, however, that the Great Church follows the second practice, we, too, should follow it as being far more accurate.

Constantine Harmenopoulos says that the anonymous author is John the Blessed, while Prof. I. Karabinov says that he is John, the bishop of Cythera, who died at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The anonymous author preferred the second practice because it was followed in the Great Church, i.e., the Church of St Sophia of Constantinople. The same order for communion is found in the previously mentioned “Order of the Proskomedia” of an unknown Patriarch of the eleventh century. It seems, therefore, that this practice is older than the custom of reserving and communing of the intincted presanctified bread. The church of Constantinople must have retained this practice even into the fourteenth century, otherwise Harmenopoulos would not have added the following scholion to the “Divine and Sacred Rules”:

There is no need to sprinkle the presanctified gifts with the Lord’s blood by means of a spoon in order to keep them for future use (so insists the blessed John very sternly), and in the Great Church we do not observe such a practice.

Apparently the custom of intincting the presanctified bread became the common observance in the fifteenth century. Symeon of Thessalonia, nevertheless, explains this practice only with such references as “in order to preserve the order of communion…and to be able to commune more people.” He goes on to underscore the fact that “…that which is in the chalice at the liturgy of the presanctified is consecrated not by the calling down and the sealing of the Holy Spirit, but by contact and union with the Life-giving bread which, in truth, is the Body of Christ united with blood.” To the question, “Is anything added to the presanctified gifts through the prayers?”, Symeon answered:

“Nothing is added to the most holy presanctified gifts through the prayers said over them because these are perfect gifts. This is shown by the very prayers said at the presanctified liturgy. They are supplicatory and intercessory on our behalf. Through the dread mysteries of the body and blood of the only-begotten Son, the Father inclines mercifully towards us; by them we are prepared for a worthy entrance into fellowship with Christ…into the sacred chalice, wine and water are poured without the recitation of any prayer, so that, following the fractioning of the divine bread and after the particle lying upwards is placed into the chalice in the usual way, the contents of the chalice are consecrated by the particle. Then the priest, following the usual liturgical order, can himself communicate from both the bread and the chalice and can give communion to those in need of it: to the clergy in the sanctuary—in the customary way, and to the laity—by means of the spoon. And if we desire to give communion in the holy mysteries to someone outside the liturgy, we do it in the following way: taking a particle from the bread which has been reserved for this purpose, we place it into wine mixed with water—or frequently we use the dry, life-creating bread by itself, as being united with the blood. Here, however, at the liturgy of the presanctified gifts, as has been said, we do this (the placing of a particle of the holy bread into the chalice) in order to observe the (usual) order for communion, and because of the need to communicate a greater number of people. Thus, that which is in the chalice at the liturgy of the presanctified is consecrated not by calling down of the Holy Spirit and the sealing, but by the sharing and union with the life-creating bread, which is in truth the body of Christ in union with the blood.

The 13th century Sluzhebnik online at one of the MP sites does include the entire Presanctified Liturgy, and after "The Presanctified Holy Things are for the Holy", it gives the rubric "and everything as normal". There is nothing about "not drinking from the chalice".

In that regard, it agrees with the Greek books; with the Romanian Liturgicon; with the Old Rite Sluzhebnik; with the pre-Niconian Kievan Sluzhebnik of Peter Moghila and with the early Serbian printed Sluzhebnik that was, for a time, online.

The only other source I have found that agrees with the rubrics in the modern Slavonic
editions, is the Roman Missal (of Trent).

Therefore, the circumstantial evidence certainly suggests that somewhere along the line,
in the 17th or 18th centuries, someone inserted that rubric (ie to partake of the Cup at Presanctified) based on the directions of the Roman Missal and the Council of Trent.

#3 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 03:10 PM

One comment Michael. If the universal practice nowadays at the previous Liturgy is to intinct the consecrated Lamb with the Blood from the Chalice, then really there are only two possibilities. Either the wine which is put into the Cup at the Presanctified becomes the Blood of Christ when the presanctiifed Body and Blood are put into it. Or it is not.

I think that`s the basic situation nowadays and which also points to the two varying traditions.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#4 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 01:10 PM

Position C seems the most feasible and practicable. It is also supported by evidence from liturgists such as Archbishop Vasili Krivoshein of Brussels. Even a chemist cannot tell the difference between consecrated and unconsecrated wine afdter the body has been placed, so why should we?

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 08:43 PM

I asked one of the Lavra Fathers (ie Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra).  He said:


"We prepare three different breads which becomes three Holy Lambs (Body and Blood). And then we can have Holy Communion on Wednesday and Friday.
We put the Body (soaked in the Blood) into chalice with wine which remains wine. (May be that is why some priests avoid to give Holy Communion to children who cannot take a particle. Usually we give only Holy Blood to babes)." 


This seems to be position 'B'.

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