Monday, March 30, 2009

The Liturgy of the Presanctified - המנחות המקדשות

The exact name of the service is: Gr."E Liturgia ton proisgiasmenon"; Slavonic: "Liturgia Prezhdeosviaschennyx darov - Литургия Преждеосвященных Даров" - in Hebrew: שרת המנחות המקדשות.It means that the Holy Gifts of the Bread and Wine have been consecrated, blessed and sanctified in advance as the "Body and Blood" of Jesus risen from the dead.This is a very old tradition of the Church, to begin with the very Church of Zion and Jerusalem. "Bread", "water" and "wine" have always been the essential food and beverage that, from the very commencement played specific roles in the symbols and spiritual realities shared by the Semitic people and noticeably the Hebrew Scripture.

"Beyt-Lehem - בית לחם" is both the city of David's origin and of Jesus' birth. This maybe understood by the root "lechem לחם = bread vs "lachma לחמא" (Aramaic/Arabic) = "meat, flesh". In the region, people eat and share bread as a meal composed of various sorts of breads or meats. It is a vital element of feeding. On the one hand one blesses and shares pieces of bread in the Jewish tradition with some salt (melach מלח- note the same consonant as for "bread"). The Hassidic tradition insists on the fact that, after the "side - סעודה" (Yiddish for "spiritual meal, the third of the Shabbat), the tzaddik will distribute pieces of meat "sherarim שררי\ם= releasing (pieces of flesh)".

The first Christian used to gather in houses and to share a meal and then to receive the "Body/Flesh and Blood" (of the Lord Jesus), which explains the strict use of red wine in all the Oriental Churches. The "soma = Body" is the full Body of the risen Savior. In Aramaic, the celebrant says "Hanau fagri הנאו פגרי= this is my flesh/body" - "Hanau demi הנאו דמי= this is my blood". The word "fagr - פגר", also present in Hebrew, refers to a "mortal human" (bassar vadam - בשר ודם). It should be noted that "bessurot tovot - בשורות טובות" found in the Grace after meals correspond to the "Good tidings, good news or "evangelion" that flesh does not perish but nourishes and revives.It is very striking in the Birkat HaMazon as a sign of "feeding introducing nourishment and thus "carnation"). The whole of the Christian kerygma is to be found in "taking flesh, substance, flesh and bones/blood spacing-in that starts with "Annunciation" and goes through death and rising-up from death in the shape of a Human being.

For security reasons, the Gifts were consecrated on Sunday, i.e. "the first day in the new Shabbat week" and allowed to communicate the faithful. These believers used to take a reserve for the rest of the week in order to communicate themselves at home during their times of prayers every day. In the Oriental Churches, in particular the Byzantine tradition, this explains why the faithful come to the priest at the end of the Divine Liturgy and take some "antidoron - антидор - פת לחם הפנים" in order to "memorize" the works of God at home. Today, lay people never take the Holy Gifts at home nor keep them in their houses; at least this is totally absent in the Eastern Orthodox Church, some Latin Catholic believers can be given specific blessings by the clergy to do so.

We do not know with precision how the Churches decided to celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified during the time of Great Lent.The celebration is wrongly attributed to Saint Gregorios Dialogios, the Roman pope and author of the spiritual "Dialogues". The Presanctified Liturgy was also in use in the Western tradition, and, both in the East and the West, it was not limited to Great Lent. At the present, the Roman Catholic Church has only one similar service consisting of a long prayer and the Communion of the faithful on Good Friday.

In the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Great Lent is like going through the desert. It is a time of meditation and conversion. Still, God nourishes His flock in the wilderness. Thus, The Liturgy of the Presanctified is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the Forty Day Fast. These are the two main catechization days and a long litany is recited during the service. The Presanctified are also celebrated on the three initial days of the Holy Week.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts corresponds to an evening service (Esperinos, Vespers, Vechernya/вечерня - ערבית\מעריב\בין הערביים) and is comparable to the supper that the disciples took at Emmaus. Many Churches insist to continue to celebrate the service early in the morning in order to strictly maintain the rule governing the Eucharistic fast. Many theologians pointed out at the present that the believers used to communicate during a meal at night or sunset and that the whole service describes a vesperal and not a dawn time.

The bread is a leavened one (cf. the challah - חלה) as a sign of resurrection. On the preceding Sunday, the priest will prepare each "amnos = lamb, agnets/агнецъ. Aramaic "imreh אימרא = lamb - word - sacrifice; cf. Memra/Mamre". They are are consecrated as one unique bread = Body of Jesus Christ. Before the Communion, the priest adds some drop of Holy Blood that shall penetrate the Sanctified Bread.

The readings allow to hear the Book of Bereishit/Genesis and Mishaley/Proverbs. Saint Ephrem the Syrian's prayer insists, throughout Great Lent, on avoiding and erasing all form of judgment of others because "God is good for ever and ever".

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

Revised: March 24/11, 2009 - 28 deAdar 5769 - כ"ח דאדר תשס"ט
Royal gates - church of Hagios Nikolaos
(The "curtain/kapporet" is hidden but shows Jesus as a child going out of the cup)

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