Service of the Hours (Part 3)
This Orthodox Tidbit will feature a series of articles on the Orthodox worship services known
as "Service of the Hours".
This third part will be the remaining explanation of the Daily Cycle. These articles are excerpted from 2 books by a
prolific author of several works on Orthodoxy, Father Anthony Coniaris: Daily Vitamins for Spiritual
Growth and Introducing The Orthodox Church; Its Faith and Life.
The Daily Cycle (Continued):
The Sixth Hour
The sixth hour, six hours following sunrise (noon), coincides with the hour the Lord Jesus was crucified
(Matt. 27:45, Luke 23:44, John 19:14). Each day at noon, the Church tries to focus our attention on
this great event in the history of our salvation. We offer Him prayers of gratitude for so loving each
one of us that He gave His only begotten Son so that we who believe in Him may not perish but have life
everlasting (John 3:16). Our noontime prayers (sixth hour) include petitions that He save us from the
sins and temptations of that day.
O Christ God, on the sixth day and hour,
You nailed to the Cross the sin which
rebellious Adam committed in paradise.
Tear asunder also the bond of our iniquities,
and save us!
You have wrought salvation in the midst of
the earth, O Christ God. You stretched
out Your all-pure hands upon the Cross;
You gathered together all the nations
that cry aloud to You: Glory to You,
From the Prayers of the Sixth Hour
The Ninth Hour
The ninth hour, nine hours following sunrise (3pm), is the time when Jesus dies on the cross. "And at about
the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, "My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' . . . When he had cried again with a loud voice (Jesus) yielded up the
ghost" (Matt. 27:46,50). At this time prayers of thanksgiving are offered to Him Who by His death destroyed
death. The prayers of the ninth hour conclude with a petition that we put to death the old sinful nature
within us to enable us to live the new life in Christ Jesus with whom we were not only crucified but also
resurrected through baptism.
O Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God,
You have led us to the present hour,
in which as you hung upon the life-giving Three,
You made a way into Paradise
for the penitent thief,
and by death destroyed death:
Cleanse us, Your unworthy servants,
for we fall into sin continuously and
are not worth to lift up our eyes and
look upon the heights of heaven.
Forgive us for departing from the path of righteousness
and following the desires of our own hearts.
From the Prayers of the Ninth Hour
Morning and evening were always considered to be proper times for prayer. Worship services were held every
morning and evening in the Temple of Jerusalem and were continued by the early Christians even after they
separated themselves from the worship of the Temple. The old Jewish psalms are still used. The theme of
vespers takes us through creation, sin and salvation in Christ. It includes thanksgiving for the day now
coming to an end and God's protection for the evening. In the Orthodox Church the liturgical day begins in
the evening with the setting of the sun. The coming of darkness reminds us of the darkness of our sin and
death and makes us long for the light. One of the great themes of vespers is the coming of Christ the Light
to dispel the darkness. Jesus is praised as "The gladsome light of the holy glory of the Immortal Father"
and "a light for revelation to the Gentiles." Vesper services are offered daily in monasteries and usually
only on Saturday evenings in parishes. Evening prayers may be offered in private by Orthodox Christians
daily by praying the Psalter and the other vesper prayers at home.
O GLADSOME LIGHT
O Gladsome Light of the holy glory of the Immortal,
Heavenly, Holy Father: Blessed Jesus Christ!
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun,
and see the light of evening,
We praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For it is right at all times to worship you with voices of praise,
O Son of God and Giver of Life.
Therefore all the world glorifies You!
From the Prayers of Vespers
The hour of midnight was designated as a time for prayer for three reasons: 1) the Jewish people were led out of
Egypt at midnight (Exodus 12:29). In remembrance of this event, the Messiah at the time of Jesus was expected to
come at midnight. This expectation was fulfilled when Jesus was resurrected in the early morning while it was
still dark (Matt. 28:1). Midnight also became associated in early Christian thought with the hour of the Second
Coming of Jesus (Mark 13:35). He was expected to come "as a thief in the night" (I Thess. 5:2,4). This hour of
prayer is kept today only in certain monasteries where monks rise at midnight, as if from the grave of death, to
meet the risen Lord in prayer. The prayers offered at this hour remember those who have died in Christ and also
invoke God's mercy upon us for the coming judgment. Although we do not live in monasteries, we may use
midnight as an hour of prayer if we happen to waken during the night. Instead of counting sheep, we can use the
time to speak and pray to the Shepherd of our souls.
O Lord our God, through your Holy Spirit
you gave us an example in David,
inspiring him to sing psalms and
even at this hour of the night to say:
'At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws';
make us worthy to offer you from the bottom of our hearts
our grateful confession of faith;
in your goodness look with compassion on our wretched state
and at your dreadful day of judgment
let us too be like the faithful and wise servants;
we ask it through the mediation of the holy Mother of God and
all your saints.
From the Prayers of the Midnight Office
Continued on the final Part 4: Praying the Hours Today
Did you miss any Part of the series?
Part 1: Service of the Hours: Days of Each Week
Part 2: Service of the Hours: The Daily Cycle
Part 3: Service of the Hours: The Daily Cycle (Part 3)
Next week: Praying the Hours Today
Icons courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission.