Coffee with Sr. Vassa: Ep.47: Praying the Hours during Lent

by 1389 on March 12, 2015

in 1389 (blog admin), Orthodox Christianity

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Published on Mar 11, 2015 by Coffee with Sr. Vassa
Subtitles: ENGLISH and SPANISH
On how laypeople can pray the Hours (Terce, Sext, and None), even with a busy schedule. A brief reflection, based on the Byzantine liturgical tradition, hosted by Dr. Sr. Vassa Larin, a liturgiologist and Russian Orthodox nun who teaches at the University of Vienna in Austria.

First let‘s talk about the very idea of certain hours of prayer. The way this works in traditional church-services both in East and West is that we attach to certain times of day certain memories from salvation history. For example, our evening-prayer, called Vespers, is associated with the creation of the world, because, according to the Book of Genesis, creation began in the evening. You can watch our episodes on Vespers if you‘d like to know more about that. Every morning service, called Matins, remembers the Lord‘s resurrection, because he rose from the dead in the early morning. Similarly, the Hours 3, 6, and 9 are associated with central moments in salvation history that happened at those times. Now, you might know that, before the invention of the mechanical clock, which comes from the Celtic words “clocca“ and “clogan,“ both meaning “bell,“ and was introduced in Europe by Latin monks in the 13th c., in order to signalize the times for prayer – before the mechanical clock, the times of day were divided only approximately, according to the position of the sun. Now let‘s look more closely at the ancient hours 3, 6, and 9, and what they mean to us.

The so-called Third Hour corresponds approximately to our 9 o‘clock in the morning, and it was at this hour that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, according to Acts 2:15. So in the Roman tradition it was called “hora aurea,“ the golden hour, or “hora sacra,“ the holy hour, and this hour was chosen for the celebration of the Eucharist on feast-days. In the Byzantine tradition, the main hymn or Troparion of the Third Hour, which is sung on the weekdays of Lent, is something we could say, while driving to work or perhaps already sitting at our desks at work, or wherever we may be, around 9 o‘clock in the morning. Here is the text of the Troparion: “O Lord, You sent down Your most Holy Spirit upon Your Apostles at the Third Hour. Take Him not from us, O Good One, but re-new us, who pray to You.“ Now, I didn‘t see you writing that down, but I won‘t repeat it. You can beg and you can cry – I won‘t do it. Moving on to the Sixth Hour, this is the hour of the crucifixion, as it says in the Gospel of Luke: “There they crucified him… It was about the sixth hour“ (Lk 23: 33, 44). For us this is around 12 o‘clock or midday. And it this time, perhaps during our lunch break, we could say by heart, or read, the brief Troparion of the Sixth Hour, if we have this text, perhaps written down on a piece of paper or typed into our phone. Here is the Troparion of the 6th Hour, and I will only read it once: “On the sixth day and hour, O Christ God, You nailed to the Cross Adam‘s audacious sin, committed in paradise. Tear asunder also the writing of our iniquities, and save us!“ And finally we co-me to the Ninth Hour, which roughly corresponds to our 3 o‘clock in the afternoon, and this is the hour of Christ‘s death on the Cross, and the events surrounding that, including the words of the repentant thief, the Lord‘s final cry from the Cross, the darkness that encompassed the earth and so on. As it says in the Gospel of Mark, “And at the ninth hour…Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last“ (Mk 15: 34, 37). And the Troparion of the Ninth Hour, sung on the weekdays of Byzantine Lent, goes as follows: “At the ninth hour You tasted death in the flesh for our sake. Mortify the mind of our flesh (this is the “carnal“ mind referred to in Ro-mans 8), O Christ God, and save us!“ So, if we give this a try, and remember, throughout our day, these central moments of salvation history, making them part of our day, we not only intensify our preparation for the upcoming celeb-ration of Christ‘s passion and resurrection, called Pascha. We also re-discover, quite intimately, our connection to these events – Christ‘s salvific works and the resulting descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

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