The Hours (Gk. órai; Slav. časý) are brief liturgical services held throughout the day, modelled after the ancient monastic practice of praying "at each hour." In the Byzantine Rite, there are four hours:
- The First Hour (čas pérvyj)
is usually celebrated immediately after Matins.
- The Third Hour (čas trétyj)
may be celebrated at mid-morning, but is often combined with the Sixth
Hour as a mid-day service.
- The Sixth Hour (čas
is celebrated at mid-day.
- Ninth Hour (čas devyátyj) is celebrated at mid-afternoon. It serves as the last liturgical office of the day, and is sometimes celebrated immediately before Vespers.
Each of the Hours asks for God's mercy, assistance and guidance, culminating in the Prayer of the Hours which ends each service:
O good God, in all times and places you are worshipped and glorified both in heaven and on earth. You are long-suffering and generous in your mercy and compassion. You love the just and show mercy to the sinner, calling all to repentance through the promise of blessings to come. Deem, O Lord, at this very hour, to receive our supplications and to direct our lives in the path of your commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set right our minds, cleanse our thoughts; deliver us from all affliction, trouble and distress; surround us with your holy angels so that, guided and guarded in their camp, we may obtain oneness of faith and the knowledge of your unspeakable glory. For you are blessed, forever and ever. Amen.Because of their fixed nature, these services are ideal for memorization, and for celebration even when no liturgical materials other than the day's troparion and kontakion are available.
As noted below, the Hours are celebrated differently during the Great Fast and Minors Fasts, and during the Paschal Season. The Paschal Hours celebrated during Bright Week are particularly brief and festive.
On the vigils of the Nativity and Theophany, the Hours and Typika are combined, with additional prayers, into a special service called the Royal Hours.
Outline of the services
The following table shows the parts of the four Hours.
|First Hour||Third Hour||Sixth Hour||Ninth Hour|
by priest: "Blessed is our God..."
Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer
If this hour immediately follow Matins or another Hour, the prayers above are omitted.
|"Come, let us adore the King, our God..."|
of the day, the feast, or the saint of the day
Theotokion of the feast, the saint of the day, or of the hour
|Scriptural verses (specific to each hour)|
|Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer|
|Kontakion of the day, the feast, or the saint of the day|
of the Hours
"Lord, have mercy" (3)
"More honorable than the cherubim..."
"Glory..", "Now and ever..."
|Prayer (specific to each hour)|
The dismissal is omitted if another Hour follows immediately.
During the Great Fast, additional prayers and prostrations are added. Each weekday in the Fast has its own Old Testament reading at the Sixth Hour, which is preceded by a proper troparion and prokeimenon, and followed by second proper prokeimenon.
During Bright Week, the Paschal Hours are celebrated in place of the First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour and Compline.
Combining the Hours with Other Services
As noted above, if several Hours are celebrated together, or if the First Hour immediately follows Matins, the introductions and dismissals between the Hours and omitted,
Texts and sources
The official Church Slavonic texts for the Hours can be found in the Ruthenian Časoslóv. These are supplemented with the troparia and kontakia appointed for each day in the Typikon.
There is no official English text for the Hours. The Uniontown Office of Matins, Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion contain the Hours for ordinary days, weekdays of the Great Fast, and during Bright Week, respectively. In addition, Monsignor William Lekvulic prepared The Hours and The Hours for Great Lent and Bright Week in booklet form.
Hours in the Parish, Workplace and Home
The Hours are not widely used in parishes, except in cases where the Sixth Hour, or the Third and Sixth Hour together, and celebrated as a mid-day service, particularly during the Great Fast.
Parishes which celebrate Sunday or feast-day Matins may wish to use the First Hour afterward, to provide a period during which the priest may prepare for the Divine Liturgy,The Hours are particularly suitable as short services of daytime prayer in the workplace or home, where an individual Hour may be chosen as desired. As noted above, only the troparia and kontakia of the day need to be added to the ordinary parts of each Hour to make up the complete service.
Each of the Hours can be celebrated without a priest, following the rubrics for Reader's Services.
Liturgy of the Hours in East and West.
(Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1993).
Discusses the history of the day hours in the various liturgical traditions.