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Author Topic: Do I need to pray the Hours at their literal times throughout the day?  (Read 1162 times) Average Rating: 0
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chrisiacovetti
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« on: July 20, 2013, 05:22:56 AM »

I'm a fairly new catechumen at the Coptic Orthodox church, (though I tend to gravitate toward Eastern theology), and I've just been unable to find the answer to this question so far.

I was given the Agpeya for daily prayers by a friend/mentor who brought me to the church, and in my reading I've found that the Hours correspond to concrete times of day (e.g. the 1st hour is 6:00 AM). Do I need to be getting up at 6:00 AM every day in order to be praying the Hours at all? or is it flexible in terms of literal hours of the day? Frankly, I was too embarrassed to ask a Priest this question.

I'm aware that I need to discuss a prayer rule (and fasting one) with my Priest -- I'm planning on talking to him this Sunday. Just thought I should get some background info.

P.S. I'm moving soon, and the church I'm planning on attending is OCA instead of Coptic. What prayer book would I be using once I switch? would I still use the Agpeya, or some new one?
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2013, 05:51:28 AM »

Welcome to OC.net, and to Orthodoxy. Smiley

The Coptic Church is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, while the OCA is Eastern Orthodox. Your new priest will probably start your catechism from scratch, and the Agpeya is not part of that. You can ask for recommendations on another prayer book; we've had a few threads around here comparing the Jordanville and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery editions, which are the most popular.

As for the Hours, you are not obliged to pray them at all (priests are, but not laity). Even in church practice, though, they are usually grouped into fewer aggregate services. Have a look here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Daily_Cycle
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2013, 11:53:08 AM »

Hi!

I'm a fairly new catechumen at the Coptic Orthodox church, (though I tend to gravitate toward Eastern theology), and I've just been unable to find the answer to this question so far.

I was given the Agpeya for daily prayers by a friend/mentor who brought me to the church, and in my reading I've found that the Hours correspond to concrete times of day (e.g. the 1st hour is 6:00 AM). Do I need to be getting up at 6:00 AM every day in order to be praying the Hours at all? or is it flexible in terms of literal hours of the day? Frankly, I was too embarrassed to ask a Priest this question.

In the book, you'll see concrete times associated with the various hours.  They are in fact linked to certain actual times of the day, but those times (e.g., 6am) in the book are approximations.  After all, before we had clocks to keep us straight, people actually looked at the sun and measured the length of the day and the night based on that.  So the times were still based on concrete times, based on the position of the sun.  The hour of Prime (in your book, that's the 6am prayer I think, but it should really be 7am) was the first hour after sunrise, if I'm not mistaken.  Terce was the third hour after sunrise, and so on.  But if you translate those "sun-relative" times into clockese, it will change (e.g., 5am in winter, 7am in summer or something like that), so what they print in the book is just to make it simpler.   

What that means is that there's an ideal to follow, but also some built in flexibility.  If you wake up normally at 8am, you can say the hour of Prime then rather than waking up at 6, muttering some Psalms half-consciously, and then getting back to sleep.  If you have time, you can do the hour of Terce afterwards, because it'll be close enough to 9am.   

You'll find, if you pay attention to the way services are done in church, that that flexibility is also utilized there.  Before the Liturgy starts, we pray Terce and Sext: even if it's just 8.30am, we've already said the noon prayer.  Tongue 

Quote
I'm aware that I need to discuss a prayer rule (and fasting one) with my Priest -- I'm planning on talking to him this Sunday. Just thought I should get some background info.

P.S. I'm moving soon, and the church I'm planning on attending is OCA instead of Coptic. What prayer book would I be using once I switch? would I still use the Agpeya, or some new one?

I presume that you're a catechumen at the Coptic church because there's nothing else available where you are now, but when you move, you'll go to the OCA church because you prefer it, and that your current priest knows all this.  If so, it might be worth it simply to talk to the OCA priest about a rule of prayer, fasting, etc. rather than talking to the Coptic priest about it and then having to do it over again with the OCA priest.  In addition to the differences between the Coptic and Russian traditions (the OCA is an American version of this), the Churches aren't in communion with each other, so any "back and forth" is officially not possible.  It might work out better to do it all once consistently rather than start it and then start over elsewhere.  But that's all up to you.  Smiley

Arachne referenced a couple of the standard EO prayer books available in English, and the threads discussing them, so I'd check those out.
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« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2013, 12:02:17 PM »

Welcome to OC.net, and to Orthodoxy. Smiley

The Coptic Church is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, while the OCA is Eastern Orthodox. Your new priest will probably start your catechism from scratch, and the Agpeya is not part of that. You can ask for recommendations on another prayer book; we've had a few threads around here comparing the Jordanville and the Holy Transfiguration Monastery editions, which are the most popular.

As for the Hours, you are not obliged to pray them at all (priests are, but not laity). Even in church practice, though, they are usually grouped into fewer aggregate services. Have a look here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Daily_Cycle
I don't recall anything "unorthodox" with the Agpeya. Indeed for nearly a thousand years after Chalcedon, the EO in Egypt were still praying it.
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« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2013, 12:04:51 PM »

As for the Hours, you are not obliged to pray them at all (priests are, but not laity). Even in church practice, though, they are usually grouped into fewer aggregate services. Have a look here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Daily_Cycle

This is actually a pet peeve of mine.  Tongue

Technically, every Christian is obliged to pray the seven canonical hours, clergy and laity.  In some traditions, this is still the norm, though it may be adjusted in consultation with one's confessor either by the use of approved methods of abbreviation (e.g., Syriac) or by limiting the number of hours actually prayed in the day (e.g., Coptic).  In still others, the obligation to pray the hours has been replaced by the obligation to pray according to a certain rule composed with one's confessor that may or may not include any of the hours (e.g., Eastern Orthodox).  I've never heard of EO clergy being obliged to pray even some of the hours, though I'm sure many do.  The Roman Catholic clergy have the obligation of praying all their hours, but most of the people have never even heard of them.

I wish more people would discover praying the hours, even if only one or two a day.  They're manageable and awesome.      
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 12:08:30 PM »

I don't recall anything "unorthodox" with the Agpeya. Indeed for nearly a thousand years after Chalcedon, the EO in Egypt were still praying it.

I think a lot of EO would be surprised by the Agpeya: it's just the Psalms of David and a bunch of troparia and other prayers already quite familiar to EO because they use them too.  There aren't too many "Coptic" parts that are not common to the EO as well. 

And it all fits in your pocket. 
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 12:25:58 PM »

From what I've seen, most Copts who pray the hours daily tend to just say one or two of the Psalms, which drastically reduces the length of each hour and makes it more manageable for laypeople. When they're prayed in church, it's quite common for each person to be assigned a different psalm, so that they're all recited simultaneously...again reducing the length.

I don't recall anything "unorthodox" with the Agpeya. Indeed for nearly a thousand years after Chalcedon, the EO in Egypt were still praying it.

The only problematic thing would be the additions to the Trisagion. However, it is probably more appropriate to use the same Horologion you'll hear used in church. Not necessary, but desirable.
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 12:50:41 PM »

hi, chrisiacovetti,
most coptic orthodox Christians i know (a very large number of people!) pray just a few parts of the agpeya every day, and other parts occasionally.
for example, one priest i asked for advice just recommended i pray the thanksgiving prayer and the Lord's prayer (our Father) twice a day, plus other parts when i had more time (e.g. when not going to work that day).
what i did when i first started going to an orthodox church (i was protestant before) was to pray a different bit each day.
the monks and nuns are expected to pray the whole thing, but we who are busy living in the world should just do what we can.

what i have done sometimes, on finding i have free time, is to look what the time is, and then pray the corresponding group of prayers. this takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on if you read all the psalms in that group and depending on how much individual prayer you add to it.
on busy days, i sometimes leave the house after only 5 minutes prayer!
the reason God instituted the church wass to help us have a closer relationship with God. we need to be careful not to 'do prayers' as if to gain some merit by it.

so the agpeya (or any prayer book from the orthodox church) is a tool in our search for a closer relationship with God, and we should take care not to make it a goal in itself.

this is one of my favourite sermons from our previous patriarch about coming close to God.
pope shenouda was truly someone who experienced God and who was blessed with the ability to explain Him to others.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8Vx1uZxXd0
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2013, 04:02:15 PM »

Technically, every Christian is obliged to pray the seven canonical hours, clergy and laity.  In some traditions, this is still the norm, though it may be adjusted in consultation with one's confessor either by the use of approved methods of abbreviation (e.g., Syriac) or by limiting the number of hours actually prayed in the day (e.g., Coptic).

What do you mean by seven canonical hours? Do you mean the four hours-type-prayers and then vespers, etc.?  I've also never heard anyone say that every Christian was obliged to--in fact, I've had priests tell me not to say them. Not that I'm saying you pulled this out of thin air, just saying that I've been taught differently. Is this obligation talked about, or even done, in Oriental Orthodox circles? It seems like the hours wouldn't be overly difficult... maybe 40 minutes for them... but all the other stuff? Well hey, if you can muster the will power to pray 3+ hours a day, good on you  Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2013, 04:27:35 PM »

What do you mean by seven canonical hours? Do you mean the four hours-type-prayers and then vespers, etc.?

Yes.  Vespers, Compline, Midnight, Matins, and the 3rd, 6th, and 9th Hours.  Not every tradition has a 1st Hour, but if you do, that too.  Tongue   

That said, it's not simply or merely a matter of reaching an hour, whipping out five books, and rattling off 75 min worth of prayers.  There is something to be said for these hours as "moments" of prayer, which is where the abbreviations come in (see below).   

Quote
I've also never heard anyone say that every Christian was obliged to--in fact, I've had priests tell me not to say them. Not that I'm saying you pulled this out of thin air, just saying that I've been taught differently.

I can't say why priests instructed you not to pray the hours.  My guess is that it may be a sort of default advice they give to people in order to keep them from taking on more than they can handle and then burning out.  Another reason for thinking this is the fact that the Byzantine services require so many books, a knowledge of how to put things together accurately, etc., that it would be next to impossible for most people to do Vespers and Matins on their own, though the other services aren't nearly as challenging. 

Regarding the obligation, it is indicated in the canons.  I would quote them here, but I don't have them in English, so I'd have to find the book in the disorganised pile of books I call my library, locate them, translate them, and post them.  If necessary, I will, but take my word for it for now.  Tongue 

Quote
Is this obligation talked about, or even done, in Oriental Orthodox circles? It seems like the hours wouldn't be overly difficult... maybe 40 minutes for them... but all the other stuff? Well hey, if you can muster the will power to pray 3+ hours a day, good on you  Smiley

In another thread (in the OO section), I spoke a bit about this from the perspective of our tradition.   The canons I have in mind variously speak of the obligation to pray twice a day (evening and morning), thrice a day (evening, morning, and noon), and seven times a day.  The traditional way of harmonising those canons is to allow the aggregation of the seven services into blocks of two or three.  Furthermore, there are approved methods of abbreviating these hours to make them more manageable for those without as much time.  The basic "lay" prayer books contain the hours abbreviated in two major variations.  So yes, anyone who uses one of those books for their daily prayers is "saying the hours", even if they don't necessarily think of it in those terms.  But those who can use the "official" books do use them and say the full office daily: it doesn't take 3+ hours a day.  Supposedly, I pray too slowly, but when I do them, the Midnight Office takes about 45 min, and the morning and evening aggregates (Matins, 3rd, 6th; 9th, Vespers, Compline) each take about 30 min.  That's still a lot for some, but the Church blesses a few "shortcuts", and I'll use them when/if necessary.  And again, you always have the liberty of talking to your confessor and getting further instructions.  The absolute minimum, barebones, nothing-less-than-this-counts abbreviation is simply the Trisagion prayers and the Creed: 4-5 minutes.  Easy peasy.         
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« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2013, 04:33:37 PM »

Interesting, thanks Smiley  I used to pray them all*, and with morning and evening prayers from the Jordanville prayer book added it took well over 3 hours. Fwiw. And you were correct about why priests advised against it--most people have a hard time keeping up with morning and evening prayers, so they were cautious about biting off more than you could chew.


*And when I say that I don't mean I sustained that practice for long, but I did it enough to get a fix on the time it took.
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2013, 04:42:42 PM »

LOL.  Almost every other tradition is more user friendly in this department than the Byzantine tradition.  And the solutions offered for lay people, IMO, leave a lot to be desired.   
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2013, 04:43:36 PM »

I can't say why priests instructed you not to pray the hours.  My guess is that it may be a sort of default advice they give to people in order to keep them from taking on more than they can handle and then burning out.  

Burnout is certainly the main reason, but I always found the cautioning against the Hours quite strange. If you're a busy person with spouse, children, demanding job, etc. certainly a tiny book that you could take with you everywhere and which had short prayers for different times a day would be perfect in your situation?

Then there's the argument that the Hours are monastic. Well, nearly everything we do now is monastic in origin, so that should hardly be a reason for laity to avoid it. Moreover, the distinction is monastic vs. parish, not monastic vs. home. Vespers and Matins, the services laypeople were expected to attend every day are very long and very complicated and almost entirely sung - now that hardly anyone can attend church twice a day, doing them at home is impossible for most. The 'monastic' hours, however, are short, straight forward, and contain almost no singing - perfect for private use.

Lastly, the other "Morning and Evening Prayers", besides being very late, are 1. based on the hours and 2. often much longer since more material has been added than removed. The difference is that the hours are a good balance of material, whereas the stuff in a lot of modern prayer books is repetitive and contains almost no Scripture.

Quote
The traditional way of harmonising those canons is to allow the aggregation of the seven services into blocks of two or three.          

This is how it's done in most EO monasteries.

Either:
9th Hour, Vespers, (Trapeza), Compline in the evening. Then Midnight, Matins, 1st, 3rd, 6th Hour in the morning.

Or:
9th Hour, Vespers, (Trapeza), Compline in the evening. Then Midnight, Matins, 1st Hour in the morning. Finally, the 3rd, 6th Hours read around midday, but privately in one's cell.
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2013, 05:00:40 PM »

Orthodox11, is your enthusiasism with hours your own idea? Is it encouraged by the clergy you know?
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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2013, 05:07:18 PM »

Orthodox11, is your enthusiasism with hours your own idea? Is it encouraged by the clergy you know?

My enthusiasm is my own. I know quite a few priests that would like to see (and some that are in the process of putting together) prayer books based on the canonical hours, but simplified somewhat for lay use. The fact that some such books already exist would suggest they're not alone. Or did you mean something else?
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« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2013, 05:11:36 PM »

Not really. It's just that you're the only one I've heard suggesting that laymen could read the hours instead of the regular prayerbooks. I like the idea though.
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« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2013, 05:14:49 PM »

Not really. It's just that you're the only one I've heard suggesting that laymen could read the hours instead of the regular prayerbooks. I like the idea though.

That's too bad.  The "regular prayerbooks" developed from the Hours, as a sort of compromise for people who couldn't do the Hours on their own or get to church for them.  They shouldn't be set in opposition to the Church's liturgical prayer, they should supplement it, or substitute for it in particular circumstances.  But if one can do the Hours, why not?     
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« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2013, 05:19:36 PM »

But if one can do the Hours, why not?     

If the local tradition is to go with a prayerbook instead of hours, then prayerbook it is.
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« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2013, 05:23:01 PM »

that's why i like the agpeya. it's the same for monks and everyone else.
the difference is how much of it you do.
if you travel, you just need a Bible (ideally orthodox study Bible!) and the agpeya and you're sorted.
(ok, this doesn't include the chronicles of the saints, but you can note that down before you travel).
the agpeya includes prayers before and after confession and Holy Communion, and others in the appendix.
it is very small, handy, and perfect for taking on buses and planes.

i enclose a link in case you don't know what i am talking about:
http://www.agpeya.org
 Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2013, 05:33:22 PM »

I do morning and evening prayers and I'm not even great at doing those consistently.  I feel like a really bad slacker after reading this thread.  Sad
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« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2013, 05:42:17 PM »

But if one can do the Hours, why not?     

If the local tradition is to go with a prayerbook instead of hours, then prayerbook it is.

"Local tradition" cannot trump universal tradition, of which the Church's rule of liturgical prayer is a fundamental part.   

Whether or not a spiritual father thinks the praying of the hours vs. use of a prayerbook is in the best interest of one of his charges, on the other hand, is another question entirely.  But I wouldn't call that "local tradition", even if many people are using the prayerbook rather than the hours.
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« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2013, 05:43:34 PM »

I do morning and evening prayers and I'm not even great at doing those consistently.  I feel like a really bad slacker after reading this thread.  Sad

Don't feel bad.  Invite me over to your home sometime, you'll see how much prayer I actually get in.  Tongue
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« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2013, 06:34:26 PM »

I do morning and evening prayers and I'm not even great at doing those consistently.  I feel like a really bad slacker after reading this thread.  Sad

I've used this prayerbook since my Sunday school years. 32 A6 pages, enough for a morning prayer set, Matins, table prayers, evening prayer set and Small Compline. It recommends memorising them all; it's not much but I still haven't managed it.
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« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2013, 07:01:25 PM »

I don't recall anything "unorthodox" with the Agpeya. Indeed for nearly a thousand years after Chalcedon, the EO in Egypt were still praying it.

I think a lot of EO would be surprised by the Agpeya: it's just the Psalms of David and a bunch of troparia and other prayers already quite familiar to EO because they use them too.  There aren't too many "Coptic" parts that are not common to the EO as well. 

And it all fits in your pocket. 
btw, just to plug the language(s)
http://www.copticplace.com/Prayers/Arabic/Agpya.html
in English, Coptic/Greek and Arabic in columns.
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« Reply #24 on: July 20, 2013, 07:10:53 PM »

Some morning prayers I like:

Prayer at Daybreak by Elder Sophrony of Essex (American version edited by Fr. Thomas Hopko)
 
Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow

The Morning Prayer of the Last Elders of Optina
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« Reply #25 on: July 21, 2013, 05:36:25 AM »

But if one can do the Hours, why not?     

If the local tradition is to go with a prayerbook instead of hours, then prayerbook it is.

"Local tradition" cannot trump universal tradition, of which the Church's rule of liturgical prayer is a fundamental part.   

Whether or not a spiritual father thinks the praying of the hours vs. use of a prayerbook is in the best interest of one of his charges, on the other hand, is another question entirely.  But I wouldn't call that "local tradition", even if many people are using the prayerbook rather than the hours.

I would if an idea of laymen praying hours instead of using regular prayerbook is completely and utterly undheard of. I'd be cautious of using somethng like "universal tradition". Hours are fine and all but it's not 11th commandment or anything like that.
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« Reply #26 on: July 21, 2013, 05:55:32 AM »


btw, just to plug the language(s)
http://www.copticplace.com/Prayers/Arabic/Agpya.html
in English, Coptic/Greek and Arabic in columns.

شكرا، يا اخي
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(thanks, brother)

it's great to have this online in arabic, although i am not so keen on the old english - for the english it's good to have the other link also.
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« Reply #27 on: July 21, 2013, 01:58:17 PM »

I would if an idea of laymen praying hours instead of using regular prayerbook is completely and utterly undheard of. I'd be cautious of using somethng like "universal tradition". Hours are fine and all but it's not 11th commandment or anything like that.

No, the hours are not the 11th commandment any more than the "regular prayerbook" (of which there are numerous variations).  At the same time, the "regular prayerbook" is a fairly recent (ca. 16th-17th cent.) accommodation to the decline in people going to church daily for the services or reading them at home.  Its contents are taken from or modeled after those same prayers and organised in similar ways.  The regular prayerbook is clearly a form of "plan B" (as are other alternatives, like replacing the daily offices with a number of Jesus prayers).   

I didn't mean to imply that laypeople praying the hours is a universal tradition in the sense that everyone everywhere does it.  I'm sure there are places where such a practice is "completely and utterly unheard of", but I suspect they are less than such a comment would suggest (and in any case it is a recent development).  All I meant is that, generally speaking, one cannot say that the lay use of a prayerbook is more appropriate than the lay use of the hours.

For the individual believer, cleric or lay, the use of a prayerbook may be preferable for any number of reasons, and so that can and should be available.  This may be the case for many people, even a majority of people, but the Church's liturgy will always trump a prayerbook: the contention of some, that the hours are for the clergy but not for the laity, is just not true.  There are clergy and laity who only use the hours, and clergy and laity who only use the prayerbook or some other form of rule.  But the liturgy will always have a primacy, both for corporate prayer and for private prayer, because it is the prayer of the whole Church.  That's all I mean by "universal".           

In any case, the original poster, and the rest of us, will be just fine following, in our own personal practice, the rule of prayer blessed by our spiritual father. 
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« Reply #28 on: July 21, 2013, 02:57:54 PM »

For the sake of linking plurality, an older edition of the OCA prayer book can be found and downloaded here (first epub link is text only, second one with images).
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« Reply #29 on: July 21, 2013, 11:37:45 PM »

As for the Hours, you are not obliged to pray them at all (priests are, but not laity). Even in church practice, though, they are usually grouped into fewer aggregate services. Have a look here: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Daily_Cycle

This is actually a pet peeve of mine.  Tongue

Technically, every Christian is obliged to pray the seven canonical hours, clergy and laity.  In some traditions, this is still the norm, though it may be adjusted in consultation with one's confessor either by the use of approved methods of abbreviation (e.g., Syriac) or by limiting the number of hours actually prayed in the day (e.g., Coptic).  In still others, the obligation to pray the hours has been replaced by the obligation to pray according to a certain rule composed with one's confessor that may or may not include any of the hours (e.g., Eastern Orthodox).  I've never heard of EO clergy being obliged to pray even some of the hours, though I'm sure many do.  The Roman Catholic clergy have the obligation of praying all their hours, but most of the people have never even heard of them.

I wish more people would discover praying the hours, even if only one or two a day.  They're manageable and awesome.      

Amen.

The Agpeya is beautiful. It's advantage over the Horologion is that it's all in one book and there aren't movable/changeable parts. It's advantage over the Breviary is that it requires far less editing for Orthodox use, just making the Trisagion ("Holy God") conform to Orthodox usage.
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