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ninth hours, vespers, and compline. Matins were divided into two parts, which were originally distinct offices and hours; namely, the nocturn and matin lauds.
The nocturns or vigils were derived from the earliest periods of Christianity. We learn from Pliny, as well as from Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and various writers of the three first centuries, that the Christians in those times of persecution held their assemblies in the night, in order to avoid detection. On these occasions they celebrated the memory of Christ's death in the holy mysteries. When persecution had intermitted and finally ceased, although the Christians were able to celebrate all their rites, and did administer the sacrament in the day-time, yet a custom which had commenced from necessity was retained from devotion and choice; and nocturnal assemblies for the worship of God in psalmody and reading still continued. The monastic orders, who in the fourth century arose under Pachomius, Anthony, Basil, and others, in Egypt, Pontus, and Syria, tended to preserve this custom of nocturnal vigils: and in the following centuries we find from the testimony of Cassian, Augustine, Sidonius Apollinaris, Sozomen', &c. that the same custom remained in most parts of the East and West. In the sixth century Benedict, the great founder of monastic societies in the West, prescribed the same in his Rule; and doubtless the nocturnal assemblies were common about that time, especially in monasteries".
The lauds, or more properly matin lauds, followed next after the nocturns, and were supposed to begin with day-break. We find allusions in the writings of Cyprian, and all the subsequent Fathers, to the morning as an hour of prayer': but whether there was in the third century any assembly of the church for the purpose of public morning worship, I cannot determine. However, about the end of the third, or beginning of the fourth century, there was public worship at this hour, as we learn from the Apostolical Constitutions, where we have the order of the service".
In later times, when the discipline of the clergy and of monastic societies relaxed, the custom of rising in the night for the purpose of celebrating public worship became obsolete in most places; so that the nocturnal service was joined in practice to the matin lauds, and both were repeated at the same time early in the morning. Hence the united office obtained the name of matins; and afterwards this name was applied more especially to the nocturns, while the ancient matins were distinguished by the name of lauds.
Prime, or the first hour, followed lauds. This was first appointed as an hour of prayer in the Monastery of Bethlehem, about the time of Cassian, or the beginning of the fifth century".
De Cursu. B. Isidorus Hispal. de Eccl. Off. c. 22. Bona, Div. Psalmodia, c. 1. § 4. No. 6.
e See the nocturns, called Matutini, for first Sunday in Advent. Breviarium Sarisb. pars hyemalis, fol. 2, p. 1, &c.; fol. 5, p. 1. Lauds, fol. 5, p. 1.
f Cyprianus de Oratione Do
minica. V. Bona, Div. Psalm. c. 1. § 4. No. 3, &c. Francolinus de Tempore Hor. Canon. c. 12, &c.
Apost. Const. 1. viii. c. 38. h Cassian. de Institut. Cœnob. lib. iii. c. 4. Bingham, Antiquities, lib. xiii. c. 9, § 10.
The third, sixth, and ninth, hours of prayer, are spoken of by the early Fathers of the second and third centuries; but it does not appear that there was any particular service or assembly at those hours until the fifth century, when the monasteries of Mesopotamia and Palestine introduced public worship adapted to them. In France they were introduced in the sixth century.
Vespers, or evensong, is mentioned by the most ancient Fathers, and it is probable that the custom of holding an assembly for public worship at this time is of the most primitive antiquity. Certainly in the fourth century, and perhaps in the third, there was public evening service in the eastern churches, as we learn from the Apostolical Constitutions': and Cassian, in the beginning of the fifth century, appears to refer the evening and nocturnal assemblies of the Egyptians to the time of St. Mark the Evangelist
Compline, or completorium, was the last service of the day. This hour of prayer was first appointed by the celebrated abbot Benedict in the sixth century ".
The church of England, at the revision of our offices in the reign of Edward the Sixth, only prescribed public worship in the morning and the evening; and in making this regulation she was perfectly justified: for though it is the duty of
i Bingham, book xiii. c. 9, niis, p. 549, &c. Concil. Lao§ 8, &c. Bona, c. i. § 4. dicen. c. 18.
j The office for the third and sixth hours was instituted at Tours by the bishop Injuriosus in 530. See Mabillon, De Lit. Gall. p. 409. k Tertullian. Liber de Jeju
1 Apost. Const. 1. viii. c. 36. m Cassian. Institut. Cœnob. lib. ii. c. 5.
n Bona, de Div. Psalmodia,
Christians to pray continually, yet the precise times and seasons of prayer, termed canonical hours, do not rest on any divine command; nor have they ever been pronounced binding on all churches by any general council: neither has there been any uniformity in the practice of the Christian churches in this respect. Besides this, the churches of the Alexandrian patriarchate, which were founded by the holy evangelist Mark, only appointed two public assemblies in the day; and no more were customary, even in the monasteries of Egypt, the rest of the day being left for private and voluntary prayer and meditation. In the ancient Gallican church also, it seems that there was public service only twice in the day, in addition to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, speaks only of the offices for the morning and evening; and it appears from the canons of Martin bishop of Braga in the seventh century, that no other public daily services were known in the Spanish church'. Thus also the church of England left her clergy and people to follow in private the injunction of the Apostle, to "pray without ceasing;" for, as John Cassian observes, a voluntary gift of praise and prayer is even more acceptable to God than those duties which are compelled by the canons: and certainly the church of
• Quia tam in sede Apostolica, quam etiam per totas Orientales atque Italiæ provincias dulcis et nimium salutaris consuetudo est intromissa, ut Kyrie eleison frequentius cum grandi affectu et compunctione dicatur, placuit etiam nobis, ut in omnibus ecclesiis nostris ista
tam sancta consuetudo et ad matutinum, et ad missas, et ad vesperum, Deo propitio intromittatur. Concil. Vasens. 2. A.D. 529. Can. iii. Labbe, Concilia, tom. iv. p. 1680.
P Bingham, book xiii. c. 9, § 8, 9.
q Cassian. Institut. Coenob.
England did not intend that her children should offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving only in the morning and evening, when she appointed those seasons for public worship. Indeed, we find that a book of private devotion, containing offices for six several hours of prayer, including Compline, and entitled the "Orarium," was published by royal authority A.D. 1560, from which Dr. Cosins, bishop of Durham, chiefly derived his "Collection of Private Devotion," &c. The Primer, which was a translation of the "Orarium," contained psalms, hymns in verse, and lessons for six hours of prayer; viz. matins, lauds, prime, third, sixth, and ninth hours, and the evening'.
The whole theory and system, however, on which the Canonical hours had originally been instituted, had become to a great extent obsolete, previously to the Reformation of our offices in the sixteenth century. The very essence of the various hours of prayer included the notion of their separation in point of time. The example of Daniel, who "knelt on his knees three times in the day, and prayed, and gave thanks unto his God," of the Apostles who were "all with one accord in one place" at
lib. iii. c. 2. "Gratius est voluntarium munus, quam functiones quæ canonica compulsione redduntur: pro hoc quoque David gloriosius aliquid exultante, cum dicit: Voluntarie sacrificabo tibi: et Voluntaria oris mei beneplacita sint tibi, Domine."
See the "Orarium seu libellus precationum per Regiam Majestatem Latinè ædi
tus." 1560, Londini, Wilhelmi
s Daniel vi. 10.