The Divine Praises is the title used to refer to the Daily Liturgical Cycle of Prayer, which is built on the ideal of unceasing prayer, expressed in the biblical number seven. This number is a symbol of fullness and perfection.
The Holy Scriptures proclaim: “Seven times a day I praise you, for your righteous ordinances” (Psalm 118:164).
Saint Basil the Great also exhorts us to such prayer: “Let i also be a rule for us, to praise God seven times a day” (Basil the Great, Homily on Asceticism, 1, 4: PG 31, 878.
In the Jewish tradition, the day begins at sunset, and ends at sunset the following day. Christians adopted this practice. Liturgically, the day begins at sunset with Vespers, and continues with other services during the day.
The Divine Praises consist of the following daily cycle of services. All of these services are found in the liturgical book called the Horologion (Chasoslov).
- Vespers – is the Evening Prayer of the Church. This service is celebrated at sunset (approximately 6 pm), and marks the beginning of the new liturgical day. In accordance with Holy Scripture, the day begins in darkness and ends in light.
- Compline – This service may be celebrated immediately after Vespers; or before retiring to bed, sometime between 9 pm and 12 midnight.
- Midnight Office (Nocturne) – is celebrated at midnight, or anytime from midnight to 3:00 am. During this service, the Church keeps vigil, awaiting the coming of the Lord.
- Matins and First Hour – this is the Morning Prayer of the Church. It is celebrated anytime between 3 am and 6 am, in expectation of sunrise. Matins ends with the First Hour (6 am).
- Third Hour – this service commemorates the hour when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It is celebrated at 9 am, or sometime between 9 am and 12 noon.
- Sixth Hour and Typica – At the Sixth Hour, the Church commemorates Christ’s Passion on the cross. It is celebrated at 12 noon, or sometime between 12 noon and 3 pm. The Service of Typica includes the New Testament Readings of the day and may serve as a Communion Service. It is celebrated after the Sixth Hour. However, during the Great Fast, Typica is celebrated after the Ninth Hour.
- Ninth Hour – this service commemorates the life-giving death of our Saviour on the wood of the Cross. It is celebrated at 3:00 pm, or anytime between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm. It is a common practice to pray the Ninth Hour prior to the celebration of Vespers.