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The origin of Terce, like that of Sext and None, to which it bears a close relationship, dates back to Apostolic times.As has already been stated (see NONE) according to an ancient custom of the Romans and Greeks, the day and night respectively were divided into four parts of about three hours each.
However, on the days called "days of station", that is to say Wednesday and Friday, which were set apart as especially consecrated to prayer, and Sunday, these hours were recited in public (Canon, xx, xxvi). Cyprian remarked that these three hours had been observed in the Old Testament, and that Christians should also observe them (De Oratione, XXXIV, in P. In the fourth century the custom of praying at these hours became more frequent, and even obligatory, at least for monks (see the texts of the Apostolic Constitutions , of St. Basil, of the author of "De Virginitate" quoted in Bäumer-Biron, "Histoire du bréviaire", 116, 121, 129, 186). Melania the Younger, "Analecta Bollandiana", VIII, 1889, p. The composition varies also in the various liturgies.
Our texts say nothing as to what were the elements of the prayer of Terce, Sext, or None before the fourth century. In the Greek Church Terce is composed of two parts, each made up of psalms (two for the first, three for the second), with invitatory, troparia, and final prayer. The number three is therefore preserved in each case.
Some of these texts prove that these three hours were, in preference to others, chosen for prayer by the Christians, and probably also by the Jews, from whom the Christians appear to have borrowed the custom.
We find frequent mention in the Fathers of the Church and the ecclesiastical writers of the third century of Terce, Sext, and None as hours for daily prayers.
In the fourth century, as we have said, the custom of prayer at Terce spread, and tended to become obligatory, at least for monks. On Sundays and Mondays the Gradual Psalms are replaced by three octonaries (i.e. The Fathers of the Church and the liturgists of the Middle Ages considered the hour of Terce as corresponding to the hour of Christ's condemnation to death.