Learning the office Part VIII: Terce, Sext and None***updated

I want to continue my series on learning the Day Office as set out in the Farnborough Diurnal now by looking at the Little Hours of Terce, Sext and None. If you've just found this blog, have a skim through the parts of this series in order if you can, as they do try and build on each other. You can find links to them all in the sidebar (under learning the Office), or start with the first one here.

Why say the Little Hours?

Adding one or more of Terce, Sext or None to your regime once you are comfortable with Prime and Compline is the next logical step, partly because they are short (each of them only takes five to ten minutes to say), partly because they are the next step up in terms of levels of complexity of the Office, and partly because it makes sense to add, say, midday prayer (Sext) to morning and evening prayer.

Like Prime, these hours are very tailored to the time of day, particularly in their hymns (do read them over carefully, they are gems). All three of them follow a very similar structure to Prime, so my comments here will mainly focus on the things that are different to that hour.

The structure of the little hours

(Note, words you say in red, terms covered in previous parts in green)

The basic structure of the little hours is as follows:

Deus in adiutorium...(as on page 1 of the psalter, for Prime)

Hymn: These are fixed for the hour, and (almost) never vary (except in terms of the tune if you were singing it). So:

- Terce: Nunc Sancte nobis p151
- Sext: Rector Potens, p 155
- None: Rerum Deus, p 159

Antiphon (of the day, season or feast)

Antiphon (a repeat of the one above)

Chapter ...Deo gratias


And the closing section is the same as for all the hours, see page 154. See my notes on the concluding prayers and collects here. Just by way of a quick refresher it goes:


Pater Noster...

Domine exaudi...Et clamor...


Domine exaudi...Et clamor...

Benedicamus Domino. Deo Gratias

Fidelium animae...Amen

Four main variants

The card that comes with the Diurnal sets out three categories for the little hours (Terce, Sext and None), but I think it makes more sense to think of it as four main basic variants:
  • Sunday Terce, Sext and None, which can be found on pages 151-162 of the psalter in the Farnborough Diurnal, for which sections of Psalm 118 (started at Prime on that day) are used;
  • Monday Terce, Sext and None, page 162 - 183, which continues through Psalm 118 (the longest of all of the psalms);
  • the little hours from Tuesday to Saturday (labelled 'throughout the week') in the psalter, pages 183-203, which uses the same psalms each day for each of these five days of the week, some of the 'gradual' psalms, the songs pilgrims traditionally sang while making their way to the great feasts in Jerusalem;
  • the little hours on feasts.
The little hours on Sunday

Generally speaking, a 'normal' Sunday is pretty straightforward:
  • the antiphon before and after the psalm sections comes from the 'proper' of the Sunday or the season, the front section of the Diurnal with page numbers indicated by asterisk's. So during Eastertide for example, the antiphon is four alleluias (MD348*);
  • each of the psalm sections (a new section is marked by a red initial letter) finishes with a 'Gloria Patri...', just as if it was a completley new psalm;
  • the chapter and versicle are from the season or feast, or as set out on page 154ff;
  • the collect is the Sunday collect.
Monday at Terce, Sext and None

Monday follows the same basic pattern, continuing the meditation on that long (but nicely broken up into digestible chunks in the Office!) and beautiful psalm about the law of the Lord. The Diurnal actually sets out the antiphons, chapter and versicles in the psalter section (MD 166) which reduces the page flipping required.

There is one other point you might want to note - if you look at Monday Terce, MD 165 you will see a couple of verses set in upper case. These are the verses used as part of the Benedictine monastic profession ceremony, so in a monastery are often marked with a bow as a reminder of the vocational grace God bestows. But we can all do with this reminder of God's help I think.

Tuesday to Saturday

The Little Hours as they are normally said (the exception is during Holy Week)from Tuesday to Saturday are set out from page 183 onwards, and follow the same basic pattern as for Sunday and Monday. The daily use of the gradual psalm serves as a reminder that we are on life's journey toward the holy city.


The first point is that memorials do not affect Terce, Sext or None at all - the collect is the one from Sunday.

On a first, second or third class feast day, the hymn and psalms don't change from what they otherwise would be, but the other key parts of the Office do:
  • if there are special antiphons for Lauds, use them (omitting the fourth unless otherwise specified).  Otherwise, use the antiphons from the relevant Common;
  • if there are no proper texts, use the chapter, versicle etc from the Common (as for example on the Feast of St Athanasius, MD [138], do the same thing at the little hours;
  • always use the collect of the feast.

Cheat sheet summary: Terce (mid-morning prayer)
  • Said at the 'third hour', or mid-morning
  • Sunday Terce starts page 151 in the MD
  • Monday Terce starts at pg 163
  • Tuesday-Saturday, pg 183
  • Antiphon varies according to the season or feast
  • Collect is of the (previous) Sunday or the day (see Ordo)
Cheat sheet Summary: Sext (midday prayer)
  • Said around the middle of the day
  • Sunday Sext starts page 155 in the MD
  • Monday Sext starts at pg 169
  • Tuesday-Saturday, pg 190
  • Antiphon varies according to the season or feast
  • Collect is of the (previous) Sunday or the day (see Ordo)
Cheat sheet summary: None (Mid-afternoon prayer)
  • Said around the mid-afternoon (ninth hour of the day)
  • Sunday Sext starts page 159 in the MD
  • Monday Sext starts at pg 176
  • Tuesday-Saturday, pg 196
  • Antiphon varies according to the season or feast
  • Collect is of the (previous) Sunday or the day (see Ordo)


Kevin said...

Excellent tutorial. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

First off, thank you for providing such wonderful instructions to the Diurnal! I have two quick questions about antiphons.

First, above you say: "if there are special antiphons for Lauds, or the rubrics say to use the antiphons from the Common, use the second antiphon of Lauds at Terce, the third at Sext and the fourth at None." Shouldn't it be to use the fifth antiphon from Lauds at None and skip the fourth antiphon? Maybe I'm wrong on that, I'm not sure.

Secondly, I'm having a bit of confusion with antiphons for Prime. You said on Feasts: "if Lauds uses the antiphon and psalms of the psalter, but everything else from the Common, do the same thing at the little hours;" That makes sense. But what about with Prime? Or is that considered a Little Hour too? Take a III Class Feast like St. Ignatius of Antioch today. The Rubrics for his feast are exactly those of the example given above. But when I look at the rubrics given at Monday Prime pg. 3, it says in the festal office: "The Antiphon at Prime is always the first antiphon from Lauds as noted in the Proper or the Common, even though in Lauds were said the Antiphons and Psalms of the Feria." So does that mean for the Antiphon of Prime on the feast of St. Ignatius, I use the first Antiphon of Lauds for Common of One Martyr out of Paschaltide, even though I didn't use that Antiphon when praying Lauds? That's what the Rubrics for Monday Prime in the Diurnal seem to say, even though it seems a bit odd to use the Antiphons from the Psalter for Lauds, the Little Hours and Vespers but for Prime to use the Antiphon from the Common.

I hope my post isn't too confusing! Thanks in advance for your help and for providing such a great resource on the Diurnal.

Terra said...

OK I'm changing my advice on antiphons for the minor hours(and that is reflected in the amended text of the main post)!

The rubrics I've been using rely on what is said in the psalter section of the Diurnal and the Breviary. But this doesn't really line up with the rubrics as approved formally for the Monastic Breviary of 1962.

So I'm a bit puzzled. But custom seems to suggest that in the case of third class feasts without proper antiphons, in summer you don't use a specific antiphon, in wnter you do.

Marco da Vinha said...

In the Minor Hours, does one say the Gloria Patri after each Psalm or only at the end of the final one?

Kate Edwards said...

After each psalm

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your work, reposed here. I hope it never goes away!

You say: "In the case of third class feasts, . . . In summer however, when Matins has only one reading, the minor hours use the antiphon of the season but the other proper texts (chapter etc) from the proper of the day, or the Common."

Tomorrow, August 20, is St. Bernard, a III class feast in the summer. Which psalms are used at the little hours? The Sunday / festal psalms, or those from whatever day it happens to be---this year, Throughout the Week?

Kate Edwards said...

The little hours always use the psalms of the day - the only exception is first class octaves (ie Easter and Pentecost). The tricky part is normally Lauds and Vespers, which sometimes use the pslams of the day and sometimes the festal psalms. If you aren't sure, consult the ordo posted on the website. The notes for the feast of St Bernard are as follows:

Thursday 20 August - St Bernard, Class III

Matins: One reading, of the feast

Lauds and Vespers: Antiphons and psalms of the day, rest from the Common of a Confessor, MD (78) or from MD [246] ff

Terce to None: Chapter and versicle from the Common; collect of the feast, MD [245]