The Hours of the Orthodox Church

Hours of the Orthodox Church:
  1. Vespers Since ancient times, Vespers was scheduled close to the time of the setting sun and has a two-fold purpose:  to end the current day with thanksgiving to God and, to begin the next day with the lighting of the lamps of evening.  It is a service thanking God for His abundant blessing that He has granted to us and His whole creation during the day.  With the setting of the Sun, everything is led to rest.  Psalms 104 and 141 are dedicated to this hour.  
  2. Compline.  After the evening meal and before going to sleep, this service gives glory to our Creator and we thank Him again for His blessings and ask His forgiveness of our sins.  In Greek, the word for sin actually means “to miss the mark”.  We then entrust ourselves to Him and sleep in peace with the knowledge that we are under His protection.
  3. Midnight Service Typically only done in Monasteries or on special feasts of the Orthodox Church.  It is referred to in the New Testament (ACTS 16:25) when in the jail of Philippi where the Apostles Paul and Silas hymned God at midnight.   This hour of prayer has a particular grace, for while everything is silent and at rest, the soul which loves God rises from sleep and together with the heavenly hosts offers praises and thanksgivings to the Lord.
  4. Matins (Orthros) — Fully after Sunrise — it is the prayer of Sunrise.     In this service we offer praises, thanksgivings and petitions to God for the coming of the new day and seek His blessing for the new day.  it is in this service where we hear about the Feasts and/or saints commemorated that day -.  Almost all of the teaching occurs in the Matins service.
  5. First Hour.  For millennia, the hours of the day were reckoned from sunrise.   We would say now that the first hour after sunrise occurs around 7:00 am.  During this hour, we pray and ask God to bless the day at this hour. and to guard us from everything that could harm us in body or soul.  We seek spiritual awakening through the material light through Jesus Christ which is the true light enlightening every man who comes into the world
  6. Third Hour.  This hour corresponds to about 9:00 am.  ACTS 2:16 –It is at the 3rd hour when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles (Pentecost) and all those present illuminating and enlightening them so they could go forward into the world and teach about Christianity.   The Holy Spirit has remained in the Church ever since, guiding and sanctifying it. At this hour we thank God and ask Him to never deprive us of the fruits and graces of the Spirit.
  7. Sixth Hour.  This hour corresponds to 12:00 noon which is when our Lord’s sacrifice began — at Golgotha “the place of the skull”.  Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44. Yes, this is a terrible image, but rejoicing in the infinite love of God, prayers give Him grateful thanks because it was by this that He brought our salvation to us.
  8. Ninth Hour.  This hour corresponds to about 3:00 in the afternoon …Mark 15:34, 37 it is the hour when our Lord’s sacrifice upon the cross ends and He gives up His spirit to the Heavenly Father.

The Divine Liturgy is not considered to be one of the “Hours”.  The Divine Liturgy is when Holy Communion is offered to the faithful.

Today the Divine Liturgy is also called, “The Eucharist” or “Thanksgiving”.  It is the continual celebration of the Last Supper and the re-living of the saving events of Christ’s death and Resurrection.

The Great Entrance marks the beginning of this part of the Liturgy.  The spiritual meaning of the Great Entrance is Christ’s coming into the world to offer Himself as a sacrifice on the cross to save His people from death and the Priest stands as an icon of the Bishop who stands as an icon of the Lord offering Himself for His people.

This is followed with a Litany, the kiss of peace, and the reading of the Creed of Faith.  The Holy Offering (Anaphora) and the Great Eucharistic Prayer  then takes place and are followed with the Litany, Lord’s Prayer and Holy Communion.

The Divine Liturgy then concludes with hymns, prayers and the dismissal.