None, or the Ninth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said around 3 p.m. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the ninth hour of the day after dawn.
Daily prayer after Vatican II
This hour is now described more generally as the "midafternoon prayer" and may be said whenever convenient during the day, or omitted entirely. However, bishops and priests are still expected to recite the full sequence of hours, as closely as possible to the traditional time of day.
Eastern Christian Office
In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches the office of the Ninth Hour is normally read by a single Reader and has very little variation in it. Three fixed psalms are read at the Third Hour: Psalms 83, 84, and 85 (LXX). The only variable portions for most of the year are the Troparia (either one or two) and Kontakion of the Day. The service ends with the Prayer of the Ninth Hour by Saint Basil the Great.
During Great Lent a number of changes in the office take place. On Monday through Thursday, after the three fixed psalms, the Reader says a kathisma from the Psalter. The Troparion of the Day is replaced by special Lenten hymns that are chanted with prostrations. Then a portion of the Ladder of Divine Ascent may be read. The Kontakion of the Day is replaced by special Lenten troparia. Near the end of the Hour, the Prayer of St. Ephraim is said, with prostrations.
During Holy Week, on Great Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the services are similar to those during Great Lent, except that there is no kathisma, and instead of the normal Lenten hymns which replace the Kontakion, the Kontakion of the day (i.e., that day of Holy Week) is chanted. On Great Thursday and Saturday, the Little Hours are more like normal. On Great Friday, the Royal Hours are chanted.
During the Lesser Lenten seasons (Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast and Dormition Fast) the Little Hours undergo changes similar to those during Great Lent, except the Lenten hymns are usually read instead of chanted, and there are no kathismata. In addition, on weekdays of the Lesser Fasts, an Inter-Hour (Greek: Mesorion) may be read immediately after each Hour (at least on the first day of the Fast). The Inter-Hours may also be read during Great Lent if there is to be no reading from the Ladder of Divine Ascent at the Little Hours. The Inter-Hours follow the same general outline as the Little Hours, except they are shorter.
The remainder of this article uses the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917; note that it describes the office before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; the numbering system of psalms is that of the Septuagint and are said in Latin:
Origin of None
According to an Ancient Greek and Roman custom, the day was, like the night, divided into four parts, each consisting of three hours. As the last hour of each division gave its name to the respective quarter of the day, the third division (from noon to about 3) was called the None (Latin nonus, nona, ninth). This division of the day was in vogue also among the Jews, from whom the Church borrowed it. The following texts, moreover, favor this view: "Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer" ( ); "And Cornelius said: Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me" ( ); "Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour" ( ). The most ancient testimony refers to this custom of Terce, Sext, and None, for instance Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, the Canons of Hippolytus, and even the "Didache ("Teaching of the Apostles"). The last-mentioned prescribed prayer thrice each day, without, however, fixing the hours.
Saint Clement of Alexandria and likewise Tertullian, as early as the end of the second century, expressly mention the Canonical Hours of Terce, Sext, and None, as specially set apart for prayer. Tertullian says explicitly that we must always pray, and that there is no time prescribed for prayer; he adds, nevertheless, these significant words: "As regards the time, there should be no lax observation of certain hours—I mean of those common hours which have long marked the divisions of the day, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, and which we may observe in Scripture to be more solemn than the rest."
Clement and Tertullian in these passages refer only to private prayer at these hours. The Canons of Hippolytus also speak of Terce, Sext, and None, as suitable hours for private prayer; however, on the two station days, Wednesday and Friday, when the faithful assembled in the church, and perhaps on Sundays, these hours were recited successively in public. St. Cyprian mentions the same hours as having been observed under the Old Law, and adduces reasons for the Christians observing them also. In the fourth century there is evidence to show that the practice had become obligatory, at least for the monks.
The prayer of Prime, at six o'clock in the morning, was not added until a later date, but Vespers goes back to the earliest days. The texts we have cited give no information as to what these prayers consisted of. Evidently they contained the same elements as all other prayers of that time—psalms recited or chanted, canticles or hymns, either privately composed or drawn from Holy Writ, and litanies or prayers properly so-called.
None from the fourth to seventh centuries
The eighteenth cannon of the Council of Laodicea (between 343 and 381) orders that the same prayers be always said at None and Vespers. But it is not clear what meaning is to attached to the words, leitourgia ton euchon, used in the canon. It is likely that reference is made to famous litanies, in which prayer was offered for the catechumens, sinners, the faithful, and generally for all the wants of the Church. Sozomen (in a passage, however, which is not considered very authentic) speaks of three psalms which the monks recited at None. In any case this number became traditional at an early period. Three psalms were recited at Terce, six at Sext, and nine at None, as St. John Cassian informs us, though he remarks that the most common practice was to recite three psalms at each of these hours St. Ambrose speaks of three hours of prayer, and, if with many critics we attribute to him the three hymns Jam surgit hora tertia, Bis ternas horas explicas, and Ter horas trina solvitur, we shall have a new constitutive element of the Little Hours in the 4th century in the Church of Milan.
In the Peregrinatio ad loca sancta of Etheria, (end of 4th century), There is a more detailed description of the Office of None. It resembles that of Sext, and is celebrated in the basilica of the Anastasis. It is composed of psalms and antiphons; then the bishop arrives, enters the grotto of the Resurrection, recites a prayer there, and blesses the faithful. During Lent, None is celebrated in the church of Sion; on Sundays the office is not celebrated; it is omitted also on Holy Saturday, but on Good Friday it is celebrated with special solemnity. But it is only in the succeeding age that we find a complete description of None, as of the other offices of the day.
None in the Roman and other liturgies from the seventh century
In the Rule of St. Benedict the four Little Hours of the day (Prime, Terce, Sext and None) are conceived on the same plan, the formulae alone varying. The Divine Office begins with Deus in adjutorium, like all the Canonical Hours; then follows a hymn, special to None; three psalms, which do not change (Psalm 125, 126, 127), except on Sundays and Mondays when they are replaced by three groups of eight verses from Psalm 118; then the capitulum, a versicle, the Kyrie, the The Lord's Prayer, the oratio, and the concluding prayers.
In the Roman Liturgy the office of None is likewise constructed after the model of the Little Hours of the day; it is composed of the same elements as in the Rule of St. Benedict, with this difference: that instead of the three psalms (125-127), the three groups of eight verses from Psalm 118 are always recited. There is nothing else characteristic of this office in this liturgy. The hymn, which was added later, is the one already in use in the Benedictine Office—Rerum Deus tenax vigor. In the monastic rules prior to the tenth century certain variations are found. Thus in the Rule of Lerins, as in that of St. Caesarius, six psalms are recited at None, as at Terce and Sext, with antiphon, hymn and capitulum.
St. Aurelian follows the same tradition in his Rule Ad virgines, but he imposes twelve psalms at each hour on the monks. St. Columbanus, St. Fructuosus, and St. Isidore adopt the system of three psalms Like St. Benedict, most of these authors include hymns, the capitulum or short lesson, a versicle, and an oratio. In the ninth and tenth centuries we find some additions made to the Office of None, in particular litanies, collects, etc.
Meaning and symbolism of None
Among the ancients the hour of None was regarded as the close of the day's business and the time for the baths and supper. At an early date mystical reasons for the division of the day were sought. St. Cyprian sees in the hours of Terce, Sext and None, which come after a lapse of three hours, an allusion to the Trinity. He adds that these hours already consecrated to prayer under the Old Dispensation have been sanctified in the New Testament by great mysteries—Terce by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles; Sext by the prayers of St. Peter, the reception of the Gentiles into the Church, or yet again by the crucifixion of Christ; None by the death of Christ. St. Basil merely recalls that it was at the ninth hour that the Apostles Peter and John were wont to go to the Temple to pray. St. John Cassian, who adopts the Cyprian interpretation for Terce and Sext, sees in the Hour of None the descent of Christ into hell. But, as a rule, it is the death of Christ that is commemorated at the Hour of None.
The writers of the Middle Ages have sought for other mystical explanations of the Hour of None. Amalarius of Metz (III, vi) explains at length, how, like the sun which sinks on the horizon at the hour of None, man's spirit tends to lower itself also, he is more open to temptation, and it is the time the demon selects to try him. For the texts of the Fathers on this subject it will suffice to refer the reader to the above-mentioned work of Cardinal Bona (c. ix). The same writers do not fail to remark that the number nine was considered by the ancients an imperfect number, an incomplete number, ten being considered perfection and the complete number. Nine was also the number of mourning. Among the ancients the ninth day was a day of expiation and funeral service—novemdiale sacrum, the origin doubtless of the novena for the dead.
As for the ninth hour, some persons believe that it is the hour at which our first parents were driven from the Garden of Paradise. In conclusion, it is necessary to call attention to a practice which emphasized the Hour of None—it was the hour of fasting. At first, the hour of fasting was prolonged to Vespers, that is to say, food was taken only in the evening or at the end of the day. Mitigation of this rigorous practice was soon introduced. Tertullian's famous pamphlet De jejunio, rails at length against the Psychics (i. e. the orthodox Christians) who end their fast on station days at the Hour of None, while he, Tertullian, claims that he is faithful to the ancient custom. The practice of breaking the fast at None caused that hour to be selected for Mass and Communion, which were the signs of the close of the day. The distinction between the rigorous fast, which was prolonged to Vespers, and the mitigated fast, ending at None, is met with in a large number of ancient documents (see Fasting).
- General Instruction No. 29.
- See Francolinus, De tempor. horar. canonicar., Rome, 1571, xxi; John Bona, "De divina psalmodia", III (see also Matins and Vigils).
- See St. Jerome, In Daniel, vi, 10.
- Didache ton Apostolon, No. viii.
- St. Clement, Stromata, VII, VII, in Patrologia Graecae (P.G.), IX, 455-8).
- Tertullian, De Oratione, xxiii, xxv, in Patrologia Latina(P.L.), I, 1191-3.
- Canons of Hippolytus, Canons xx, xxvi.
- St. Cyprian, De Oratione, xxxiv, in P.L., IV, 541.
- See the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, St. Ephrem, St. Basil, the author of the De virginitate in Baümer-Biron, op. cit. in bibliography, pp. 116, 121, 123, 129, 186.
- Sozomen, Hist. eccl., III, xiv, in P.G., LXVII, 1076-7; cf, Baümer-Biron, op. cit., I 136.
- St. John Cassian, De coenob. instit., III, iii, in P.L., XLIX, 116.
- St. Ambrose, De virginibus, III, iv, in P.L., XVI, 225.
- Egeria, Peregrinatio, p. 46; cf. Cabrol, Etude sur la Peregrinatio Sylviae, 45.
- Id., pp, 53, 66, etc.
- St. Benedict of Nursia, Regula, Chap. 17.
- Cf. Martène, De antiq. monach. rit., IV, 27.
- Cf. Martène, loc. cit.
- Martène, op. cit., IV. 28.
- Martial, Epigrams, IV, viii; Horace, Epistles, I, vii, 70.
- St. Cyprian, De oratione, xxxiv, in P.L., IV, 541.
- St. Basil the Great, Regulae fusius tract., XXXVII, n. 3, in P.G., XXXI, 1013 sq.
- St. John Cassian, De coenob. instit., III, iii.
- Bona, op. cit., ix, section 2.
- Canonical Hours
- Basil the Great's Prayer of the Ninth Hour Eastern Orthodox
- The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions
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