I heard somewhere on a podcast that the Holy Week services are basically a half a day early, hence why the passion gospels are on Thursday rather than Friday, Pascha is in the middle of the night instead of Sunday morning, etc.
Does anyone know the history of how this came to be if it is true? How did all of the Byzantine tradition come to celebrate everything slightly ahead of read time?
I'm not sure when this happened, but something similar occurred in the Latin Rite as well. Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday and Good Friday were said the preceding evening in a darkened church, giving the name Tenebrae (Latin for "darkness") to these services. The Easter Vigil was celebrated in the morning (!) of Holy Saturday by the 12th century, where it remained until the 1950s.
Then there's also the practice, common to many different Rites, of Vespers being said early in the day on fasting days, probably an aberration having its origin in making fasting easier. This seems to have happened for many of the hours; the name for the Ninth Hour in Latin, Nona
, is the origin of the English word noon
, indicating that Ninth Hour had been widely anticipated at midday for many, many centuries.