Went looking for some of Schmemann's stuff on the Presanctified, and found something he published in St Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly in 1957. It's actually a review of THE LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED, by D. N. Moraitis, Thessalonica, 1955, 126 pp. (in Greek) (another example of how scholarship had already been uncovering the ancient sources well before Schmemann). Anyway, this paragraph by Schmemann stood out:
The second problem related to the Liturgy of the Presanctified is usually considered as a secondary matter of "rubrics" and therefore completely neglected. It is the vesperal character of this service, made even more evident in the book of Professor Moraitis. The rubrics prescribe to celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified after Vespers. The peculiar way of combining this rubric with the largely spread conviction that any communion service is by necessity a morning service consists in serving vespers—when it is followed by the Presanctified—in the morning! Yet a "theological" study of rubrics shows very clearly that the question of the time of any given service —of its "kairos"—is not something unimportant. I have dealt with this question in my article "Fast and Liturgy" (cf. above) and cannot repeat all its argumentation here. Let me just simply state that the vesperal character of the Presanctified Liturgy has precisely a spiritual meaning. The Church expects us on these days of strict fasting to live our daily life in expectation of and in waiting for the communion, to make life itself with all its problems, worries and occupations a fast—i.e., a preparation for the Bridegroom, filling it with the light of—His Coming. Thus the fast is given its true meaning and the "daily life" its Christian depth, sanction and responsibility. One can but hope that these "rubrics" will be restored someday, restoring to us their full spiritual value.
In a similar vein, Father Alexander of blessed memory wrote in a very early piece (Fast and Liturgy, St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 1, Winter 1959, pp. 2-9
), which is reiterated in his Great Lent
, the following:
"It is obvious however, that in uniting the Liturgy with Vespers, the authors of the Typikon intended more than a purely formal connection between the two services. They meant a deliberate transfer of the Liturgy to the evening, a conscious change in the usual order of services. Again it is obvious that in not fulfilling the rule, or in fulfilling it only as a formality (i.e., in transferring Vespers to the morning) we commit a twofold infraction of the liturgical "typos"; we serve an evening service in the morning which besides being a "nominalization" of prayer, is a contradiction to the common sense, and moreover, we completely ignore the reasons which promoted the Church to order the celebration of the Liturgy on certain days in the evening and not in the morning. But perhaps if we investigate these reasons, we will see in them something more meaningful than a mere detail of rubrics, something forgotten yet essential for the comprehension of our liturgical tradition."
He finds the answer in the Typicon, from which he derives the following principle: "Expectation must precede fulfillment. From this point of view, the eucharistic fast is not a simple abstinence before communion, it is made primarily of expectation and spiritual preparation. It is fasting in the scriptural sense indicated above, the waiting for the sacramental Parousia.
In the early Church, the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist was preceded by a night vigil which was precisely (and theoretically still is in the Eastern Church) the service of preparation and getting ready, a vigil in the full Christian meaning of the word. And this is why the Eucharist on Sunday and on great holidays is prescribed for the early hours of the day: it is the fulfillment, the end of the vigil, of the service of fasting and preparation. But on a lesser feast, which has no vigil, the celebration of the Eucharist takes place at the end of morning, for in this case, the morning hours of fasting constitute the necessary period of preparation. Thus the whole liturgical life of the Church which, in turn determine the life of each member of the Church, is built on this rhythm of expectation and fulfillment, preparation and "presence." And the rules that govern this rhythm cease to be archaic and incomprehensible but become signs of a path leading us to the very heart of life in the Church."
So, how does all of this relate to the Presanctified Liturgy? Father Schmemann concludes:
"We must understand that the liturgy of the Church is profoundly realistic, that Vespers is in a real rapport with this particular evening: it is this evening that we as Christians must spend "perfectly, in holiness, in peace and without sin," it is this evening that must offer and dedicate to God, and this evening is already illumined for us with the light of another Evening, of another End, the one which we expect and at the same time fear, and which is approaching in our human time. In the liturgy, we discover how seriously indeed the Church considers time, food, rest and all the actions, all the details of our life. In the world in which God became man, nothing can even be withdrawn from Him.
Expectation, encounter, possession: in this rhythm, the Church dives and by it, she measures time. But there are days when this expectation reaches its extreme "concentration"; the days of the vesperal Eucharist. The Church has conscientiously and totally dedicated them to expectation and preparation, to fasting in its full sense. They are spent in the same everyday activities, which fill any other day. And yet how infinitely meaningful, how deeply "important" and responsible, are each word that we pronounce in the light of this expectation, each action that we perform! Yes, it is on such days that we are given to realize what is, what ought to be Christian life, we live then as if they were illumined by what is to come! The Eve of Nativity, the supernatural quiet of Holy Saturday, the days of Lent when we prepare ourselves for the presanctified service, how all this should "build up" a Christian soul, lead it to the comprehension of the Mystery of Salvation, to the transformation of life . . . And when finally comes the evening, when all this fasting preparation and expectation are fulfilled in the Eucharist, our life is really taken into this Eucharist, is "related" to the joy and the fullness of the Kingdom."