Using the New Books

for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

In January 2010, the Council of Hierarchs announced the availability of new service books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts:

All three books are approved for use throughout the Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh, and are distributed through the Byzantine Seminary Press. These new books serve as a replacement for a variety of different editions of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts currently in use, bringing them into conformity with the books promulgated in 2007 for the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great.

This article describes the features of the new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, compares them to the books previously used, and provides recommendations for pastors and cantors in implementing the new books in parishes.

The books themselves

The Church Slavonic editions of the liturgical books generally provided a set of books for the clergy, containing the prayers, litany texts, and rubrics (directions for celebrating the liturgy, printed in red); and separate books for the reader and cantor. The people often sang from anthologies like the Velikij Sbornik, which contained the people's parts of the services, arranged for congregational singing.

Earlier English service books in the Byzantine Catholic Church often divided things differently: a "priest / cantor book" provided the rubrics and music for a particular service, while a "people's book" had just the texts. Unfortunately, this meant that the rubrics were often limited, so as not to take up TOO much space. The insertion of the priest's silent prayers made things more complicated for the cantor, while the priest needed to skip over pages of music to find his prayers.

With the 2007 books for the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil, and the 2010 books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we are returning to the Slavonic liturgical pattern:

For the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, all three books are available.

A description of the people's book for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

The "people's book with music" is s softbound volume, six inches wide by nine inches tall. Its 170 pages provide the ordinary (fixed part) of the service at the beginning, and the propers (changeable parts) at the end. Music is provided for all the cantor's and people's sung texts. Running titles along the top make it easier to find the propers for a particular day. The book is quite a bit lighter than the hardbound book for the other Divine Liturgies.

The people's book contains propers for the following days of the Great Fast:

For each day, the propers section gives the melody for the beginning of the Lamp-lighting Psalms, music for the stichera (hymns) of Vespers, and the two prokeimena that precede the Old Testament readings. In the first, fifth, and sixth weeks of the Fast, Saturday has a special commemoration, and on the preceding Friday night at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts the hymns in the daily propers refer to these commemorations. On the other weeks - the second through fourth weeks of the Fast - Saturday is dedicated to the departed, and the martyrs; these are the All Souls Saturdays in the Fast. On Friday night preceding these days, we sing certain hymns for the departed "in the tone of the week." These special hymns can be found in the final section of the people's book.

Since the people's book is printed entirely in black and white, rubrics are distinguished by appearing in italics. Directions to sit, stand, or kneel are CAPITALIZED. During the service, we also make prostrations; these are illustrated in the foreword at the front of the book.

The "people's book without music" is quite similar in format to the people's book with music.

Features of the new books

Faithful familiar with earlier service books for this liturgy will note that

The following sections provide more detailed comparisons to earlier books for this service.

Changes for those accustomed to the Levkulic books

Through the middle of the twentieth century, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts had fallen out of use in the United States and Europe (being replaced by "daily Mass" during the Great Fast, in imitation of Latin custom). Monsignor William Levkulic's booklets for this service were widely used when it was re-introduced in our churches. Probably due to its groundbreaking nature, and the expectation that the service would be celebrated at most once a week, these booklets only provided one set of propers per week - and two prokeimena (one for Wednesday and one for Friday) for use throughout the entire Fast.

Changes in content

So the first thing to notice about the new books is that proper hymns and prokeimena are provided for each day on which the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is normally celebrated. Each day has three or four stichera, and two prokeimena. One prokeimenon is sung before each Old Testament reading.

Because the priest's prayers and rubrics are in the liturgikon, they do not need to be included in the people's book, as they were in Monsignor Levkulic's edition. This also solves some problems where the same part of the service was described twice - once from the people's point of view and once from the priest's.

The Antiphonal Psalms

The beginning of the service will be fairly familiar - opening blessing, Psalm 103, and the Litany of Peace. A major change occurs in how the next section of psalms is done.

After the Litany of Peace, the Slavonic service books appoint the singing of kathisma (section) 17 of the Psalter - Psalms 119-133, also called the Gradual Psalms or Hymns of Ascent. These are a group of pilgrimage songs, sung by the Jews as they would make their way to the holy city of Jerusalem. These psalms begin by recounting the alienation and hopes of those far from the Temple, and follow their progress as they move toward God's presence, arriving "in the courts of the Lord, in the house of our God." Thus, the gradual psalms provide a wonderful synopsis of all the facets of our spiritual journey through the Great Fast.

During the singing of these psalms, according to the directives in the Slavonic service books, the priest takes the reserved Holy Gifts from the tabernacle or artophorion ("bread-holder") to the table of preparation on the left side of the sanctuary - the same place where the bread and wine are prepared before the Divine Liturgy. At two points during the lengthy singing of the psalms, and at the end, he leads a small litany, which breaks up the psalms into three "antiphons."

Monsignor Levkulic shortened the psalmody from 15 psalms to just three, but kept the small litanies (each one following just one psalm). As a result, the priest had no time to transfer the gifts from the tabernacle, and so in Monsignor Levkulic's version of the service, that part of the ritual was done later on, during the Lamp-lighting Psalms.

In the new books, you will notice that the fifteen Gradual psalms, sung daily at Lenten daily vespers, are divided into three groups of approximately equal length, and assigned to specific days of the week: Psalms 119-123 are chanted on Wednesdays, Psalms 124-128 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and Psalms 129-133 on Mondays and Thursdays. Note that, as customary at Vespers, each group of Psalms ends with the small doxology ("Glory to the Father....") and "Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory to you, O God!", three times. Since only one group of psalms is chanted, the small litanies between the antiphons are omitted.

But these psalms are still called "antiphonal", meaning that they are to be recited in alternation if possible. Traditionally, this is done by alternating the singing of verses between sides of the church, or between men and women. As noted above, the priest transfers the Holy Gifts from the tabernacle while these psalms are being chanted. Also, note that the people kneel throughout the singing of the antiphonal psalms.

The Lamp-lighting Psalms and Readings

At the Lamp-lighting Psalms, the people sing the opening verses of Psalm 140 ("O Lord, I have cried to you") , while the priest incenses the church. in Monsignor Levkulic's book, the singing of these opening verses, an important part of Vespers, was passed over, and the people sat until they knelt for the stichera. In the new books, following our practice at Vespers, we stand for the incensation of the church; we may sit when the incensing is complete, and while the psalm verses and stichera are chanted and sung; then we stand for the doxology, "Glory to the Father...", and for the Hymn of the Evening, "O Joyful Light."

For those used to Monsignor Levkulic's book, the order of readings which follow the evening hymn will involve some differences. The Triodion, our liturgical book for the Great Fast, appoints two prokeimena at noon-time, and two prokeimena at evening, for each day of the Fast. These prokeimena are taken from the Psalms IN ORDER; that is, on the first day of the fast, the noon prokeimena are taken from Psalms 1 and 2, and the evening prokeimena (at Vespers or the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts) are from Psalms 3 and 4, and so on. So it becomes obvious that Monsignor Levkulic's choice of one prokeimenon on Wednesday evening, and one for Friday, through the whole, was a great impoverishment. (However, the readings themselves, from Genesis and Proverbs, and during Holy Week from Exodus and Job, are essentially unchanged in the new books from the Levkulic editions.)

In between the readings, during the blessing of the faithful with candle and censer, the faithful kneel, rather than stand. This is followed by full prostrations (where space permits) rather than the profound bows prescribed in the older books.

The solemn evening psalm, "Let my prayer ascend", sung by the priest with refrains sung by the faithful, is also done somewhat differently. Following the official Slavonic liturgical books, the new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts direct the faithful to kneel while the priest sings, then stand to sing their response. In both the old and new books, this psalm is followed by the recitation of the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, with prostrations, and (on certain feasts and during Holy Week) additional readings. (The translation of the Prayer of Saint Ephrem is that used since 1999 in the Eparchy of Passaic, and differs from the one in the Levkulic books.)

The Litany of Supplication is unchanged, except for differences in wording which match those in the other Divine Liturgies. In the new books, this litany may be followed by the Litany for the Deceased, a Litany for the Catechumens, and a Litany of the Faithful.

The Great Entrance and Holy Communion

The service for Holy Communion begins with the Great Entrance, during which the priest takes the Holy Gifts into the sanctuary. In Monsignor Levkulic's book, the faithful sing the entrance hymn, "Now the powers of heaven", before the entrance, and nothing afterward. This hymn is sung to a simple melody, and must usually be sung several times to accompany the priest's prayers at this point in the service.

However, in the new book, in accordance with the Slavonic version of the service, the people sing the first part of the hymn before the entrance:

Now the powers of heaven are serving with us invisibly
for behold, the King of Glory enters.
The escort the mystical sacrifice, already accomplished.

The entrance with the Gifts is made in silence, and then the people sing the SECOND part of the hymn:

Let us draw near with faith and love
that we may become partakers of life everlasting.
Alleluia! Alleluia Alleluia!

If the hymn is sung to the longer, more solemn A form of the melody in the new books, there should be no need to repeat the first part of the hymn. After the entrance, the people as well as the priest make three prostrations.

The Litany of Offering, Lord's Prayer, and Prayer over Bowed Heads are essentially the same in the old and new books. But after the priest's exclamation, "Holy Presanctified Gifts to Holy People", the faithful STAND to sing "One is holy", which is immediately followed by the pre-Communion prayer. Then, as in the Divine Liturgy, the Communion Hymn(s) appointed for the day are sung. and after singing "I will bless the Lord at all times', the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion. Thus, the order at this point in service has changed slightly, but in a way that matches that of the other Divine Liturgies.

From here to the dismissal, the order of the service is the same as that at the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil. HOWEVER, the new books drop the custom of singing "Having suffered the passion for us" (Preterpivyj). This hymn of our Lord's Passion customarily follows Lenten weekday services. It is never sung on the Church's Eucharistic days, Saturday and Sunday, and the Council of Hierarchs (following the recommendations of their liturgical commission) has decided not to have this hymn sung immediately after we have received our Lord in Holy Communion. The hymn could certainly be sung BEFORE the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, or after other Lenten services at which Holy Communion is not distributed.


When the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was re-introduced in our parishes, Monsignor Levkulic decided against employing the traditional chants for the service. Instead, the "Lenten tone" for responses was adapted to use in singing most of the major hymns of the service; the melody for the people's response at the solemn evening psalm, "Let my prayer ascend" was used for the priest's singing as well; and the melody for the hymn of thanksgiving after Holy Communion was abbreviated and simplified.

In 1999, when the Eparchy of Passaic promulgated books with music for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, two music options were given for the hymns: the first version of each hymn used the Lenten tone or simplified melody from Levkulic, while the second version of each was an English setting of the same hymn to the original Slavonic prostopinije melody for the hymn.

This way of doing things has been kept in the new books - except that the original Slavonic melodies are given as the "A" versions, and the simplified ones as the "B" versions. Parishes are free to use either. But note in particular that the text for the hymn of thanksgiving ("We give you thanks, O Christ our God") is slightly different in the new books, and as a result the "simplified" version if this hymn differs from that found in the Levkulic books.

The new books also provide music for the opening verses of the Psalm 140 ("O Lord, I have cried to You"); this music was omitted in the Levkulic priest / cantor's book.

Changes for those accustomed to the Passaic books

Those accustomed to celebrating the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts using the 1999 books from the Eparchy of Passaic will encounter much less change in the new books. The Passaic books provided propers for the same days as in the 2010 books (except for the first day of the Fast, which the new books add). The new book does add variable stichera in the tone of the week on the second, third, and fourth Fridays of the Fast.

The Parma people's book provided fewer rubrics than the Levkulic books; in particular, it often omitted directions for whether the faithful were to sit, stand, or kneel at specific points in the service, leading to variations from one parish to the next. In the Passaic editions, parts of the ritual were changed, when compared to the Levkulic books. Some of these changes have been kept in the new books, while others have been rolled back.

The beginning of the service

The first change that Passaic cantors and faithful will notice is the change in the location of the Prayer of Saint Ephrem. This prayer is actually not appointed for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, as given in the Slavonic liturgical books; but it is so widely considered the Lenten prayer that it has always been added to the Presanctified service in English. Monsignor Levkulic placed it in the middle of the service, after the Old Testament readings and before the (optional) feast day "Divine Liturgy" readings - in other words, at the point where we move from Vespers to Holy Communion. The 1999 Passaic books, on the other hand, moved the Prayer of Saint Ephrem before the start of the entire service, perhaps to address the fact that the prayer was not an actual part of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

The new books use the same translation of the Prayer of Saint Ephrem as the Passaic edition, but restore the prayer itself to its earlier location, in the middle of the service.

Antiphonal Psalms

The new books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts keep the division of the fifteen psalms of Vespers into three parts, assigned to different days of the week, as found in the Passaic books; the assignments to specific days is different. Also, the new books add the small doxology ("Glory to the Father....") and "Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory to you, O God!", three times, at the end of each Psalter reading. This is our tradition for concluding a reading from the Psalter at all services.

Lamp-lighting Psalms and Readings

The form of the Lamp-lighting Psalms found in the new books will be very familiar to those in the Eparchy of Passaic. A few points to note:

In the Passaic books, the faithful stand for the opening of Psalm 140, and for the recited verses, then sit for the singing of the stichera (hymns). There is no directive in the Passaic books to stand for the entrance or for the evening hymn, "O Joyful Light", although the faithful often DID stand at this point. In the new books, by contrast, we stand for the beginning of Psalm 140 ("O Lord, I have cried to you") and the accompanying incensation of the church, and may sit when the incensing is complete. We stand again at the singing of the doxology ("Glory.... now and ever") at the end of the Lamp-lighting stichera, and remain standing for the entrance and "O Joyful Light."

The new books also contain more explicit rubrics for what the people are to do during the Old Testament readings; these rubrics were omitted in the Passaic books.

As noted above, the Prayer of Saint Ephrem is now said just after the solemn evening psalm ("Let my prayer ascend...") rather than before the service.

The Passaic books for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts restored the litanies for catechumens after the Litany of Supplication; the new books provide the accompanying Litany for the Faithful as well.

Great Entrance, Holy Communion, Thanksgiving, Dismissal

The rest of the service is largely the same in the new books as in the older Parma books, except that the faithful STAND for the second part of the Great Entrance, and for the rest of the service. We do not kneel for the singing of "One is holy", or sit for the Hymn of Thanksgiving.


The music for the Ordinary of the service as found in the Passaic books is largely unchanged in the new books, except that the simplified and restored melodies are reversed; the "A" version in the new books is the more solemn melody, and the "B" version uses the Lenten tone or a simplified melody. In some places, accents have been corrected, or texts slightly altered.

The proper hymns for each day have been re-set to follow the patterns for the samohlasen and prokeimenon melodies, as established by the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission, and used in the other Divine Liturgies books and in the publications of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute. The typesetting of the music makes a clearer distinction between the psalm verses which are intoned by the cantor (setting the pitch, key, and tempo), and the hymns sung by cantor and congregation together.

Introducing the new books in parishes

The Council of Hierarchs chose to promulgate the new books for 2010, but did not require their adoption this year across the entire Metropolia. (Individual bishops, of course, may ask or require that parishes begin making use of them this year.)

Order forms for the new books were sent to each parish in January, so that the books would arrive well in advance of the Fast. We will be providing additional materials on this web site to assist in using them, including explanatory articles and recordings. We do recommend that parishes consider purchasing a larger-format, loose-leaf copy of the people's book with music for use at the cantor's stand.

We also recommend that parishes make the books "with music" available to the faithful wherever possible, since this can support congregational singing even where not everyone reads music. We recommend that parishes only go with the people's book "without music" if their congregations are fairly experienced at following the cantor's lead, and there are few newcomers or visitors to the parish.

The first step for the cantor in implementing the new books is to decide which set of melodies is to be used:

At this point, priest and cantor should go over the service together, noting any differences in the ritual, and also determine on which days the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts will be celebrated this year.

Well in advance of the service, the cantor(s) should practice any new music. For all parishes, this will mean rehearsing the hymns at the Lamp-lighting Psalms, and the prokeimena. It may be helpful for all cantors in a parish, or cantors from neighboring parishes, to meet and go over the music together. In particular, this will provide an opportunity to practice those parts of the service which involve alternation between cantor and congregation. The faithful might also be invited to these sessions where appropriate.

Give some thought to how the propers for the day may be marked. On any given day, only one place in the book needs to be found - the location for the day's propers, which will have both the Lamp-lighting stichera and the prokeimena. (On the second, third, and fourth Fridays, it will also be necessary to find the stichera for the tone of the week in the final section.) Since the books themselves do not have ribbons, it might be opportune to use holy cards or other items to mark the location of the day's propers.

Parishes which use a sign-board or bulletin to indicate the location of the propers for the Divine Liturgy, may find it helpful to use this method for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts as well. One page reference for the propers, and a second page number for the hymns in the "tone of the week" on selected Fridays, should be sufficient. This information, together with knowing the day of the week (to select the correct set of antiphonal psalms), is all that is necessary to follow the complete service in the new books.

Give some consideration to hymns sung before and after the service. Before the service, it is appropriate to sing Lenten hymns. After the service, however, since we are still in a (brief) period of celebration, having received the Body and Blood of Christ, it would be preferable to sing hymns which focus on thanksgiving for Holy Communion, or on our continued repentance and Lenten journey:

It might be useful to divide up the paraliturgical hymns used at different weekday services, to capture the sense and meaning of each service.

Of course, reverent silence, perhaps accompanied by the recitation of the pre-Communion or thanksgiving prayers, is certainly suitable before and after the service.