Singing the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
This article provides a guide to the chants used in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, and practical advice for leading the singing of the service.
- For a more detailed description of the service itself, see Understanding the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
- For help in using the new service books released in 2010, see Using the New Books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
This article contains links to a recordings of the hymns for the service. Recordings of all the music in the 2010 Presanctified book (including the proper stichera and prokeimena) can be found on the Recordings page; the entire set of recordings can also be downloaded as a (rather large) zip file.
What you will need
In January 2010, the Council of Hierarchs published new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, and it is the use of these books which is assumed in the following material.
In addition to copies of the liturgikon (clergy book) for priest and deacon, you should have copies of the people's book for the cantor and congregation. (A large-format version of the people's book with complete music is also available, three-hole-punched for insertion into a binder.) The page references in this article are to the people's book "with music for stichera and prokeimena". Be sure to check the Errata page and make any necessary corrections to your copy of the people's book.
The reader will need a copy of the Epistle book (The Epistles and Old Testament Readings for the Liturgical Year, Byzantine Seminary Press, 1979). This book contains all the Old Testament readings for Wednesdays and Fridays in the Great Fast, Thursday in the fourth week of the Fast, and the first three days of Holy Week. (It does not have the Old Testament readings for the first day of the Fast, or for days on which the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is not normally celebrated. In those cases, however, it does provide the Scriptural citations for the readings to be chanted.)
Before the service
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is ordinarily celebrated in the late afternoon or in the evening, and custom varies as to what comes immediately before it:
- The celebration of the services of the Ninth Hour or Typika (as prescribed in the Slavonic liturgical books)
- The singing of Lenten hymns
- Prayerful silence, perhaps including prayers of preparation before Holy Communion.
Consult with your pastor as to what is desirable.
Before each service, find the proper hymns for the day of the Fast that is being celebrated (pages 49-146 in the people's book with music.) Place a bookmark or holy card at this page. You will need to be able to find this page during the service. If it is Friday in the second, third, or fourth week of the Great Fast, look at the liturgical calendar to determine the tone of the week and place a second bookmark at the Friday stichera in that tone (pages 147-170).
Blessing - the Lenten tone
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts begins when the celebrant goes to the holy table (altar) and chants the opening blessing - the same blessing used at the beginning of the other Divine Liturgies:
Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever.
And the cantor and people respond: (listen)
This is the very first example of the Lenten tone - a pair of melodies which will be used over and over in this service.
Psalm 103 and the Litany of Peace
We always begin Vespers with Psalm 103, a psalm of praise for creation. This psalm is chanted simply on ordinary weekdays, and so we chant it here (rather than singing it to a festive melody). This chanting is done in a psalm tone.
Psalm 103 can be chanted to the "usual Psalm tone"; this is the melody given on page 1 of the people's book for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. The same melody is used for the invitation to prayer ("Come let us worship our King and God...") that comes before the psalm, and the doxology and Alleluia that follow it, are chanted to the same tone.
An alternative way to chant Psalms during the Great Fast is to use the Lenten tone. The two "parts" of the tone are used to sing the two half-verses. Again, "Come let us worship", "Glory.... now and ever...." and the Alleluia are all sung to the same tone.
See the supplement from the cantor institute which has the psalmody for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts "pointed" for the Lenten tone.
The Litany of Peace uses the same texts as when it is sung at other services, but the Lenten tone is used for the responses. (listen)
Here are the two "Lord, have mercy" responses, which are used in alternation:
The last response before the celebrant's prayer:
and the "Amen" after this prayer is the same as after the initial blessing:
The Antiphonal Psalms
At Vespers, the initial Psalm and Litany are normally followed by a kathisma or section of psalms from the psalter. At Vespers on Lenten weekdays, the appointed psalms are the Gradual Psalms, or Psalms 119-133. These psalms were sung by pious Jews as they made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem, and are a good accompaniment in our Lenten journey toward God.
Because it is rare to sing all fifteen of the Gradual psalms at one service, the new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts divide them up into three sections of approximately equal length, and assign them to specific days of the week. So when you come the end of the Litany of Peace, on page 7 in the people's book with music, you are directed to go the appropriate set of psalms for the day of the week.
These psalms are normally sung antiphonally - that is, the verses are alternated between two sides of the church, between men and women, or in some other fashion. It is helpful to have two cantors, or a cantor and reader, who can "lead" the chanting of the antiphonal psalms. If the alternation is from side to side, the cantors can stand on opposite sides of the church, or even of the choir loft if that is where they normally stand. (By tradition, the right side always begins the psalmody.) If alternation is between men and woman, then a man and woman should lead the two groups.
The chanting itself can be done to
- the usual psalm tone
- the Lenten tone
- another melody customarily used for Psalm-singing, such as the tone 8 kontakion melody
In the people's books, the antiphonal psalms are not "pointed" or marked for a particular melody, as was Psalm 103. This means that the cantor(s) should probably point their OWN books for whatever melody will be used. (For the Lenten tone, pointed psalms are in the Lenten tone supplement.)
As with Psalm 103, the doxology and Alleluia at the end of the section of psalmody is chanted to the same tone used for the psalms. The final "Alleluia" should be sung by both sides or groups together, to form a conclusion to the section of psalmody.
The antiphonal psalms should NOT be abbreviated or rushed, since the celebrant needs the time to transfer the Holy Gifts from the tabernacle to the table of preparation.'
Also - note that the new books prescribe that the faithful kneel for this part of the service, and stand for the doxology ("Glory... now and ever...") at the end. This is one good reason why the cantor, if he sings from the nave of the church, should sing from one side or the other of the nave, so that the people do not assume that the cantor's posture is the one they should be using. (In general, the cantor should NOT sit or kneel while leading congregational singing, because it produces a much less clear sound.)
The Lamp-lighting Psalms
In the next part of the service, we combine Psalms with hymns. This singing of the great evening psalms, beginning with Psalm 140, is an ancient part of our Byzantine Rite (and virtually all other Christian rites as well.)
In the Byzantine Rite, we begin by singing the opening verses of Psalm 140, with the refrain, "Hear me, O Lord!"
O Lord, I have cried to you, hear me;
hear me, O Lord!
O Lord, I have cried to You, hear me.
Receive the voice of my prayer when I call upon You.
Hear me, O Lord!
Let my prayer be directed as incense to you
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Hear me, O Lord!
We then chant the rest of Psalm 140, and the following evening psalms (Psalms 141, 129, and 116). The chanting here can use any of the ordinary psalm tones; therefore, the people's book does not provide pointing for them. The chanting can also be done antiphonally, which has two functions: it allows the faithful to meditate on the psalms as they alternate singing and listening; and it saves the cantors' voices for the hymns that follow.
At the beginning of Psalm 140, everyone stands while the celebrant incenses the church. (This is not explicitly indicated in the people's book, since faithful are still standing from the end of the antiphonal psalms.) They may sit, if desired, for the chanting of the recited verses, and the hymns or stichera. (Stichera is the plural name for this type of hymn; a single hymn is a sticheron.)
A certain number of these hymns or stichera are appointed in the liturgical books for each celebration of Vespers - more stichera on Sundays and great feasts, and fewer stichera on ordinary weekdays. The stichera are sung in alternation with the final verses of Psalms 129 and 116. The cantor sings a psalm verse, then the people (led by the cantor) sing a hymn. The cantor sings the next psalm verse, and the people sing the next hymn, and so on.
For the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, ten stichera are appointed at the Lamp-lighting Psalms - the same as at the Saturday evening Vespers that begins our celebration of the Resurrection. (Other days have six or eight stichera.) The new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts give only three or four stichera for each day, selected from the total set of ten for the day.
The Lamp-lighting Psalms conclude with a doxology ("Glory... now and ever...") and an especially solemn sticheron, which is almost always addressed to the Mother of God; for this reason, the final hymn is called a theotokion.
Now let's go over the Lamp-lighting Psalms again to see how they are sung.
The Lamp-lighting Psalms - Part I: "Lord, I have cried"
In the prostopinije tradition, stichera are (by default) sung to the eight pattern melodies called samohlasen tones. There is one of these melodies for each of the Eight Tones that are hymns are matched to, so if a sticheron is marked "Tone 1", it will be sung to the tone 1 samohlasen melodies. Many of these melodies are familiar from their use for particular hymns at the Divine Liturgy, and in some parishes, the Lord's Prayer is sung to the samohlasen melody in the tone of the week (see pages 66-73 of the Divine Liturgies book).
Each samohlasen tone actual has TWO parts: a melody for the cantor to use when singing the verse, and a related melody for everyone to use when singing the sticheron. These two melodies are related, and provide a smooth and pleasant alternation one to another.
Why are we mentioning this before we even get to the hymns themselves? Because the opening verses of Psalm 140, beginning with "Lord, I have cried", are sung to the same melody as the first sticheron. Turn to page 50 in the people's book with music, to the first lamp-lighting hymn for the first day of the fast. (It begins, "Let us keep an acceptable fast...") Going back to the previous page, at the bottom, you will see the cantor's psalm verse: "Let the watchman count on daybreak, and Israel on the Lord." To the top right of this verse is the notation, "Tone 3." Both the verse and the sticheron are sung to the two parts of the Tone 3 samohlasen melody - the verse to the verse melody, and the sticheron to the sticheron melody.
Now look at the TOP of page 49, and you will find the opening of Psalm 140, "O Lord, I have cried...", written out to the same Tone 3 sticheron melody as "Let us keep an acceptable fast..." at the top of page 49.
So here is the procedure for the start of the Lamp-lighting Psalms. When the Antiphonal Psalms are complete, go to the bookmark you placed for the propers of the day (if there are two bookmarks, this will be the first one.) Lead the singing of the first part of Psalm 140 using the music you find on that page, under the heading "Psalm 140 (tone <number>)".
If you sing this clearly, and your congregation is at all familiar with these melodies, they will be able to join in your singing without looking away from the printed text on page 19. On the other hand, if you have used a bulletin, signboard or other announcement to tell the faithful where the days' propers can be found (you did do that, didn't you?), those who wish can find the same page you are looking at.
When you are done singing the beginning of Psalm 140, you need to go quickly back to page 19. This can be done with a card, a tab or post-it note, or by simply keeping your finger in the book at this page.
Now it is time to chant the recited verses on pages 19-21, using whatever psalm tone is customary in your parish. (If that psalm tone is TOO major-key or joyful, however, you might want to consider employing a different one for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts!) If you have several cantors, make use of two cantors to lead the chanting, perhaps antiphonally. (Avoid using three cantors, since this sometimes the confuses the singing of the faithful who are used to a "back and forth" sort of progression in psalmody.)
The last few psalm verses are marked in descending order, beginning with 10: 10, 9, 8, and so on. This indicates where you would break off the simple chanting of psalm verses, and instead start singing the verses in alternation with stichera.
ON MOST DAYS, the new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts provide three stichera for the day. At the recited verses, chant everything on page 21, including the last verse, "[4. Let the watchman count on daybreak, and Israel on the Lord.]" When you turn to the propers for the day, you will find that the cantor's psalm verse is the verse "on 3", and the first sticheron will have a matching circled 3.
On CERTAIN DAYS, there are four stichera, and you would NOT chant the verse, "[4. Let the watchman count on daybreak, and Israel on the Lord.]" Instead, you will find the SUNG version of this verse in the propers, and the first sticheron will be labeled with a circled 4. These days are:
- The first day of the Fast
- Friday in the fifth week (vigil of Akathistos Saturday)
- Friday in the sixth week (vigil of Lazarus Saturday)
- The three days of Great and Holy Week
If it is a saint's feast or the parish patronal feast, there may also be four stichera, or even more, and the propers will come in the form of a separate leaflet. If there are 6 stichera, for example, conclude the chanting of the recited verses with the verse marked "7".
The Lamp-lighting Psalms - Part II: The "hymns of vespers" (stichera)
Now turn to your marked place, at the propers for the day.
Sing the cantor's psalm verse as clearly as you can. Feel free to select a new starting pitch, since the chanting of the recited verses will almost certainly have caused both you and the congregation to drop in pitch. By singing the psalm verse, you do several things:
- You indicate the tone for the sticheron, since the verse melody will lead into it.
- You set the pitch.
- You set the tempo.
Pause for ONE beat (take a good but quiet breath) and begin singing the sticheron; sing in such a way that it is clear the congregation should sing with you. If there are several cantors, one should sing the verse, but all should join in singing the sticheron. Sing smoothly, without verbal effects, or marked changes in tempo. Each bar line indicates a break in the melody, so try to sing "through" each phrase, without stopping, and take a quick breath at each bar. The singing should slow down slightly at the very end, but NOT at each bar line.
At the end of each sticheron, you will move on, singing the verse that goes with the next sticheron. If a tone is not marked, then the same verse and sticheron melodies will be used. If a tone is marked, that usually means that the verse and sticheron will be in a NEW tone, so be careful to start each psalm verse well and in the proper tone. This will lead naturally into the sticheron.
After either three or four stichera, you will sing "Glory... now and ever" to the samohlasen verse melody. At this verse, everyone stands, and the clergy begin to prepare for the entrance with the censor while you lead the faithful in singing the last sticheron, the theotokion (hymn to the Mother of God.) When you are done with this sticheron, turn to page 22 for the Hymn of the Evening ("O Joyful Light"), but leave the bookmark in place; you will need it to find the prokeimena in just a bit.
Now, on MOST days, all the Lamp-lighting hymns (three or four psalm verses with their stichera, Glory, now and ever, theotokion) will be printed all together in the people's book. There are three exceptions: on Friday in the second, third, and fourth weeks of the Fast (in other words, on the eves of the All Souls Saturdays), there will only be one psalm verse and one sticheron in the propers "for the day". The remaining stichera are in the tone of the week, and are addressed to the departed, and the holy martyrs, and end with a special theotokion about the truth of the Incarnation. They are in a separate section at the BACK of the book, arranged by the tone of the week. That is why you need to mark the tone of the week in the last section of the book (pages 147-170) on those days. The procedure will be:
- After the recited verses, go to the propers "for the day" and sing the verse and sticheron.
- Then go to the propers for "Friday in the tone of the week" (second bookmark) and sing the remaining stichera. A few of these will NOT use the samohlasen tones, because they are the same Hymns of Saint John Damascene that we sing for the departed at the funeral service! These are sung to the Bulgarian or "Bolhar melodies", and the translation here is different from what you are probably used to. The Cantor Institute will be providing materials aimed especially at learning these hymns.
- When you flip back to page 22 for the Hymn of the evening, you are all done with the hymns in the tone of the week, and will no longer need the second bookmark
At the very end of the final sticheron, the clergy are ready to make a solemn entrance into the sanctuary. The deacon intones, "Wisdom! Be attentive!", and the cantors and faithful sing the ancient evening hymn, "O Joyful Light", while the sanctuary and faithful are incensed: (listen)
The Old Testament Readings
Having praised God for creation (Psalm 103), meditated on our pilgrimage toward his Kingdom (Psalms 119-133), and welcomed the evening light with hymns for the day (the Lamp-lighting Psalms) and of glorification of Christ (Evening Hymn), it is time to be silent, and listen to the instructive Word of God.
On each weekday of the Fast, two Old Testament readings are appointed. The first, from Genesis, recounts the history of salvation, and enables us to see the work of our redemption "in the making" as it were. The second reading, from Proverbs, provides us with moral teaching and encouragement.
Each reading is preceded by a prokeimenon; different prokeimena are provided for each day of the Fast. (In fact, the prokeimena and their verses are taken from the Psalms, in numerical order.)
So in the people's book, on page 23, after the clergy call for attention, the cantor and faithful sing the first prokeimenon. This is always found in the propers "for the day" (the first bookmark, assuming you left it at the END of the Lamp-lighting stichera). The faithful may join in at the first singing of the prokeimenon; even if they do not turn to the propers at the back of the book, they should be able to sing the prokeimenon with the cantor when it is repeated, after the verse.
The melodies for the prokeimena are the same as those used, tone by tone, in the Divine Liturgies book. So in learning the prokeimena, it might also be helpful to sing the Sunday prokeimenon in the tone of the Lenten prokeimenon you are trying to learn. The verse can be chanted on a single note, or in the usual psalm tone, or in the very simply "verse melody" taught at the Metropolitan Cantor Institute and used in the tutorials.
It should be noted that the people's book does not explicitly say that the prokeimenon is sung; under the heading "Prokeimenon I", the colored box "See pages 54-146" marks the place in the service where the first prokeimenon is sung. As at the Divine Liturgy, the reader chants the prokeimenon verse.
After the first prokeimenon, the first Old Testament reading is announced and then read (that is, chanted simply, using whatever reading melody is customary in the parish). If possible, a reader or readers OTHER than the cantor should take the Old Testament readings(s).
The texts of the readings can be found in the Epistle book on pages 263-289, in the section entitled "Old Testament Readings for Great Lent and the Liturgical Year." On those occasions when only a Scriptural citation is given (for example, on the first day of the Fast), you will need to locate the Scriptural text and make a copy for the reader to chant.
After the first reading, the second prokeimenon (from the propers of the day) is sung in the same manner as the first. But the second Old Testament reading does not immediately follow; instead, the faithful kneel while the celebrant blesses them with candle and censer. THEN the lector reads the second Old Testament reading.
The Solemn Evening Psalm - "Let my prayer ascend"
Having praised God and meditated on his Word, we again turn to praise, and our focus shifts to the sanctuary, as we sing again the opening verses of Psalm 140, and the priest incenses the altar from all four sides.
The celebrant begins by singing verse 2 of the psalm, while the faithful kneel: (listen)
Then the people stand and sing the same verse to the same melody.
NOTE: the Slavonic chant books provide a DIFFERENT and very beautiful melody which some priests use when singing their part of this dialog. However, the faithful always sing their response as given here.
Then the celebrant sings additional verses of the psalm. The people kneel during the celebrant's singing, and stand to the sing the response.
Finally, the priest sings the first HALF of the melody, and the people, remaining standing this time, respond with the second half.
One other note: the Slavonic liturgical books allow for the reader or cantor, instead of the priest, to sing the verses of this psalm, if the celebrant prefers.
At the conclusion of this part of the service, everyone present - clergy, servers, and faithful - make three prostrations, and then recite the Prayer of Saint Ephrem together.
Optional: Feast-day or Holy Week Readings
On major feast days that fall on the weekdays of the Fast, the typikon appoints additional material for the feast at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: a prokeimenon, Epistle reading, Alleluia, and Gospel reading. (During Holy Week, there is a Gospel reading, but no prokeimenon, Epistle or Alleluia.)
The instructions for these optional readings can be found in the boxed text on pages 28-29. (listen) Note that the people's response to the celebrant's "Peace be to all!" is sung in the Lenten tone:
and that the people's responses before and after the Gospel use a special, minor-key melody:
If there is a homily, it is taken at this point (after the Gospel if there is one, otherwise after the Prayer of Saint Ephrem).
The homily is followed by up to FOUR litanies.
The first, the Litany of Fervent Supplication, uses the same texts as at the Divine Liturgy (just after the homily), but the people's responses use Lenten melodies. The single "Lord, have mercy"s are sung in the same was as at the Litany of Peace, while all four of the triple "Lord, have mercy"s are sung to an elongated form of the same Lenten tone: (listen)
The second litany, for the deceased, uses the same responses as the Litany for the Deceased at the Divine Liturgy:
The remaining three litanies are related. The first is for the catechumens (those undergoing instruction before Baptism); the second is sung from the middle of the Fast onward, and is for those who will be baptized ("illuminated", using the ancient word for baptism) at the coming celebration of Pascha; and the third is for the faithful. At one time, the first two groups would be dismissed after being prayed over, and receiving a blessing.)
Music is not given for these responses. Our recommendation would be to have the catechumens, and those being illuminated, sing their "Lord, have mercy" in using first half of the Lenten tone:
The faithful will sing two "Lord, have mercy"s for each group, using two halves of the Lenten tone (in essence, starting the Lenten tone over):
When the catechumens, or those to be illuminated, bow their heads for a blessing, they sing:
and everyone sings the response to the celebrant's prayer:
The Litany of the Faithful has as its responses only a single "Lord, have mercy" and "Amen", both in the Lenten tone.
The Great Entrance with the Holy Gifts
In place of the Cherubic Hymn ("Let us who mystically represent the cherubim") which is sung at the other Divine Liturgies, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts has its own entrance hymn, also sung in two parts - one before and one after the celebrant's entrance into the sanctuary with the Holy Gifts. In the new Presanctified books, there are two settings for the hymn: the first uses the original Slavonic melody, and the second uses the same Lenten tone as the r responses.
Here is the first or A version, using the older Slavonic melody, that the faithful sing, kneeling, before the entrance: (listen)
The music here consists of a two-phrase melody, sung three times. This is our hymn of Eucharistic adoration, if you will, and so it should be sung slowly and solemnly - not dragging, but in a stately, somewhat somber fashion. Christ has been sacrificed for us, and comes to us as King; we look forward to the celebration of His saving Passion, but this fashion is also "already accomplished."
The entrance is made in SILENCE, while all kneel. When the celebrant enter the sanctuary, we stand to sing the second part of the hymn, which (like the second part of the Cherubic Hymn) looks forward to the distribution of this sacrifice to the faithful, in Holy Communion. Here is the first or A version of the second part:
This will normally be sung a little faster than the first part; it is our response to what is happening, and this should be clear by our singing. Pay close attention to the rhythm of the second "Alleluia", where the syncopation (accent "off the beat") should be noticeable even as the vocal "line" remains smooth.
The second or B version of the hymn at the Great Entrance is set to the Lenten tone: (listen)
The melody here is shorter, and only sung twice; for this reason, even if it is sung in the same solemn fashion as the first, it may need to be repeated once or twice until the celebrant comes to the northern deacon's door and is ready to make the entrance procession.
The entrance is made in SILENCE, while all kneel. When the celebrant enter the sanctuary, we stand to sing the second part of the hymn. Here is the second or B version:
If you are used to singing this melody in the old books, pay attention to the words "that we". The emphasis here is on "we" and "become partakers"- that WE may beCOME partakers - rather than on "that" and "may" - "THAT we MAY become."
(Note that once we stand for the second part of this hymn, there is no sitting or kneeling prescribed for the rest of the liturgy. The faithful may sit or stand after receiving Holy Communion, and of course, those may sit who are physically unable to stand for the rest of the service.)
Preparation for Holy Communion
Our preparation for receiving Holy Communion, consists of a litany of intercession (the "Angel of Peace" Litany), and the Lord's Prayer.
The litany uses the same responses of "Lord, have mercy" as at the Litany of Peace, and adds the following melodies for the "Grant this, O Lord":
As with "Lord, have mercy", these two melodies are alternated. You may wish to mark your copy of the people's book to indicate which melody is used for each petition.
After the last petition, and the priest's prayer, we sing the Lord's Prayer to the Lenten tone: (listen)
This setting distributes the text a little differently over the phrases of the Lenten tone, to keep related parts of the prayer together. The changes are not at all hard, but should be practiced so that the Our Father can be sung with steadiness.
Please note: in the music in the people's book, there is a missing bar line in the Lord's Prayer, after "hallowed be thy name." Please pencil this into the cantor's copy, and perhaps into the people's copies as well!
The distribution of the Holy Gifts begins when the celebrant breaks the lamb into four parts, and exclaims:
Holy Presanctified Gifts to holy people!
The faithful's response, as at the other Divine Liturgies, is the hymn of praise to Christ, "One is holy", but here it is sung to the Lenten tone: (listen)
Then clergy and people recite the Prayer before Holy Communion ("O Lord, I believe and profess...") as at the other Divine Liturgies.
While the clergy partake the Communion, the cantor and people sing the Communion Hymn of the liturgy. As with the hymn at the Great Entrance, the Communion Hymn is presented in two settings.
The first or A setting of the Communion Hymn uses the same melody as the Entrance Hymn: (listen)
Notice the same syncopated second Alleluia. The Communion Hymn should be sung like the second part of the Entrance Hymn - solemnly but not too slowly. It should not drag, but should reflect our joy at being admitted to the Lord's Supper.
The second of B setting of the Communion Hymn uses the Lenten tone: (listen)
Those familiar with the older setting of this hymn will notice that the text has changed to match the text of Psalm 33 in the Grail translation ("Taste and see that the Lord is good" rather than "...how good the Lord is"), and the melodic setting has been adjusted accordingly.
On feast days, a second Communion Hymn may be appointed; this hymn may be sung to whichever melody was used for the first Communion Hymn. (The propers from the Cantor Institute for feasts that fall in the fast will provide settings for both melodies.)
The deacon's invitation to Communion is simpler here than at the other Divine Liturgies, and emphasizes that we are not just to approach, but to partake:
Come to receive!
And the faithful respond with praise of God. In the first or A setting: (listen)
Be careful of the melodic leap upward, from the end of the second phrase ("at all times") to the start of the Alleluia. The melody here is JUST similar enough to the Tone 3 and 4 prokeimenon melodies that it is tempting to go up only one step rather than two for the first syllable of "Alleluia".
The second or B setting of the same response uses the Lenten tone: (listen)
and the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion.
The new books do not prescribe what hymns should be sung during Communion itself. The ideal would be for the cantor(s) to chant the verses of Psalm 33, which can be found in the Cantor's Companion, using either melody for the Communion Hymn of the Presanctified Liturgy ("Taste and see that the Lord is good") for each verse of the psalm, and with the faithful repeating the triple "Alleluia!" in the same melody. (The Metropolitan Cantor Institute web site will be providing pointed texts of Psalm 33 for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.)
Thanksgiving after Holy Communion
After Communion has been distributed, the celebrant does not bless the faithful with the chalice, but instead blesses God. The people respond, "Amen", in the Lenten tone, then sing a thanksgiving hymn which is unique to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite.
The original melody for this hymn, in the Slavonic, is very beautiful, and is probably the most challenging chant of the service. It is NOT, however, all that difficult to sing, once a single trouble spot is learned correctly. Here is this melody, the first or A setting of the hymn of thanksgiving: (listen)
This tune is wonderfully "modal" - that is, neither major nor minor. The first two phrases should be very familiar, as they are the same as the simplified setting used in previous books (and kept as the B version in the new books).
The difficult spot is at the words "that you have made" in the first line, and again at "and your precious" in the third line:
Notice that the pitch on "that" in the first line is the same pitch as "Christ", and then drops a perfect fourth. In the same way, "and" in the second line is the same pitch as the first note of "body", and then drops a fourth. (Listen to a MIDI recording of the notes at the trouble spot, then of the entire phrase.)
It may help to listen to a recording of the Church Slavonic setting of the same hymn.
If the cantor can sing the first two or three notes of this phrase, the congregation will be able to continue without a hitch. The rest of the hymn is very familiar, but the two "trouble spots" come in the phrases that are among the most soulful and heart-felt in all of prostopinije. We encourage all cantors to learn this melody even if your parish does not use it this year or next.
The second or B setting of the hymn of thanksgiving came with the first English settings of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. It significantly simplified the melody, making it more "Western". (listen)
The only real problem here is that it is impossible to tell from the first two phrases whether the A or B setting of the hymn is being sung. While we encourage the use of the older, more ornate melody, we even more strongly recommend that parishes not alternate the two, but choose one version for all the the Fast and stick to it.
The service ends as at the other Divine Liturgies: with a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer "before the ambon" (that is, said in the middle of the church), and the dismissal. The only difference here is that the Lenten tone is used. (listen)
Thus, when the celebrant exclaims, "Let us go forth in peace", the people respond:
Note that the NEXT response uses the first "Lord, have mercy" melody:
where alternation of melodies between the same participants in a dialog would usually have led to the second melody's being used.
The people's "Blessed be the name" is sung to the Lenten tone, three times:
And after the celebrant's exclamation, "Glory to you, O Christ God, our hope", the people respond in the Lenten tone:
Be careful to start singing this on the second degree of the scale (on re), rather than on do or mi (as you would at the other Divine Liturgies).
It is perfectly acceptable for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts to end in silence, as long as it is a prayerful silence. However, if it is the parish custom sing sing hymns after this service, or if the faithful simply stand up and leave at the last "Amen", it is probably appropriate so have singing afterward.
As noted in the article on using the new books, the hymn "Having suffered the passion for us" (Preterpivy) which has followed our Lenten services for years, is not sung on the Eucharistic days of the Church (Saturday and Sunday), and it was not included at the end of the new service book for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts out of the theological conviction that, in the Byzantine Rite, one should not be stressing penitential themes immediately after the reception of Holy Communion - in fact, "for forgiveness of sins" is one of the stated graces of Communion in our Lord's body and blood!
Therefore, unless the pastor decides otherwise, it might be better to sing Preterpivyj before rather than immediately after the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
However, this would be an appropriate time to sing paraliturgical Eucharistic hymns, particularly those that express thanksgiving for Communion, and look forward to making progress in our Lenten journey toward the Kingdom. Examples would be:
- We thank you God most high / Blahodarim Boha
- Lord, in this holy Mystery / Isusa v svjatych Tajnach
- A new commandment / Siju zapovid' daju vam
Another opportune hymn (a liturgical one this time) would be the Prayer of Saint Simeon, which is sung at ordinary Vespers, and is fitting as a concluding hymn after evening services.