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Hours, Compline and Nocturne

In addi­tion to the litur­gi­cal ser­vices of Ves­pers and Matins, there are also the ser­vices of the Hours, Com­pline, and Noc­turne. These ser­vices are chant­ed in monas­ter­ies but are sel­dom used in parish church­es except per­haps dur­ing Lent and Holy Week, and on spe­cial feast days.

The ser­vices of Hours are called the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth. These “hours” con­form gen­er­al­ly to the hours of six and nine in the morn­ing, noon, and three in the after­noon. The ser­vices con­sist most­ly of psalms which are gen­er­al­ly relat­ed to the events in the pas­sion of Christ which took place at that par­tic­u­lar hour of the day. The Third Hour also refers to the com­ing of the Holy Spir­it to the dis­ci­ples on Pentecost.

The troparia of the giv­en day or of the feast being cel­e­brat­ed are added to the Hours. Dur­ing the first days of Holy Week as well as on cer­tain major feasts, the Gospel is also read dur­ing the Hours. On days when there is no Divine Litur­gy, the so-called Typ­i­cal Psalms which include ele­ments of the Divine Litur­gy such as the litur­gi­cal psalms, the Beat­i­tudes, and the Creed are read after the Ninth Hour.

Com­pline is called the “after-din­ner” ser­vice of the Church. Its name, both in Greek and Slavon­ic, indi­cates this. It is a ser­vice of psalms and prayers to be read fol­low­ing the evening meal; after Ves­pers has been served. On days when Ves­pers are con­nect­ed to the Divine Litur­gy, such as the eves of Chris­tians and Epiphany, Great Com­pline is added to Matins to form a Vig­il ser­vice. Dur­ing the first week of Great Lent, the Pen­i­ten­tial Canon of St Andrew of Crete is read at the Com­pline Service.

Noc­turne is the mid­night ser­vice of the Church. In monas­ter­ies it usu­al­ly begins the all-night vig­il of the monks. It con­tains a num­ber of psalms togeth­er with the nor­mal prayers found in oth­er ser­vices, such as the call to wor­ship, the Thrice-Holy, the Our Father, the Tropar­i­on, etc. Its theme is obvi­ous­ly the night and the need for vig­i­lance. In the parish­es, it is known almost exclu­sive­ly as the ser­vice pre­ced­ing East­er Matins at which the wind­ing-sheet depict­ing the dead Sav­iour is tak­en from the tomb and is placed on the altar table.