Why does the Church wish us to pray at the third hour?
The question is asked by liturgists of olden times. Their replies are:—
1. to remind us of the hour when our Saviour was condemned (St. Mark, c. 15).
2. to remind us of the hour at which the Holy Ghost descended on the Church.
3. as the Church’s hymn tells us that at this hour of the day when men are engrossed in worldly affairs, they especially need God’s help,
“Come, Holy Ghost,
Who ever One,
Reignest with Father and with Son.
It is the hour, our souls possess
With Thy full flood of holiness.
Let flesh and heart and lips and mind
Sound forth our witness to mankind.
And love light up our mortal frame
Till others catch the living flame,
Now to the Father, to the Son,
And to the Spirit, Three in One,
Be praise and thanks and glory given,
By men on earth, by saints in heaven. Amen.”
Cardinal Newman of St. Ambrose’s
hymn, Nunc sancte).
TEXTS AND INTENTIONS FOR PIOUS RECITATION OF TERCE.
1. “Therefore, Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.”
2. “And the soldiers plaiting a crown of thorns put it on His head; and they put on Him a purple garment.”
3. “And they came to Him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews,’ and they gave Him blows” (St. John).
4. “Jesus, therefore, came forth bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment, and he (Pilate) sayeth to them ‘Behold the Man!’”
General Intentions. The Pope’s Intentions; the conversion of heretics; the conversion of the Jews.
Personal Intentions. Devotion to the Holy Ghost; devotion to the Passion.
Special Intentions. Vocations in America and Australia; for the Irish people throughout the world; for the souls of our deceased penitents.
Etymology. The word Sext comes from the Latin word sexta, (hora), the sixth hour, because the little Hour should be said at what was the sixth hour of the Roman day, about mid-day with us.
Structure. The structure of this hour is similar to that given in Terce above, the hymn, antiphon, psalms, little chapter and responses differing, but the order and form being similar in both.
Antiquity. The Psalmist wrote, “Vespere et mane et meridie narrabo et annuntiabo, et exaudiet vocem meam” (Ps. 54). This practice of devout Jews was maintained by the early Christians and in the Acts of the Apostles we read, “Ascendit Petrus in superiora ut oraret circam horam sextam” (Acts x, 9). At this hour, the Christians met for public, joint prayer.
Why does the Church wish us to pray at the sixth hour of the day?