The Great Hours
About the Icon:
The Crucifixion of Our Lord
Christ: Nailed to the Cross; His right side is pierced and the wound flows with blood and water.
The Theotokos: The figure on the left depicted with a halo.
Three women depicted together with the Theotokos:
Saint Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children (Matthew 27:56)
Saint John the Beloved Disciple: The figure on the immediate right of the cross.
Saint Longinus the Centurion: The figure on the extreme
right; he is the Roman centurion mentioned in Saint Mark's Gospel
account of the Crucifixion (Mark 15:39).
The Inscription on the top bar of the Cross is the
inscription I.N.B.I., the initials of the Greek words meaning "Jesus of
Nazareth, King of the Jews."
The Skull: At the foot of the Cross; Golgotha, the Mount
of the Cruci-fixion, means 'the place of the skull." Tradition relates
that the Cross of Christ stood directly above the grave of Adam.
Isaiah 52:13-15, 54:1-12
Jeremiah 11:18-23, 12:1-5, 9:11, 14-15
Today the veil of the Temple is rent as a reproach to the
lawless; the sun hides its own rays as it beholds the Master crucified.
Like a sheep You were led to the slaughter, Christ King, and
for our sins, loving Lord, as a blameless Lamb You were nailed to the
Cross by wicked men.
While enduring to be seized by the lawless, Lord, You spoke
thus: "Though you ‘strike the shepherd, the sheep, my twelve disciples,
will be scattered,’ (Zechariah 13:7) I could have summoned more than
twelve legions of angels. But I forbear, so that ‘the depths and
secrets’ I have shown to you through my prophets may be fulfilled."
Lord, glory to You.
Christ our God, worshiped and glorified in every place and
time, in heaven and on earth, longsuffering, full of mercy, full of
compassion, loving the righteous but showing pity for the sinner, You
call all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come. Lord,
accept our prayers at this hour, and order our lives according to Your
will. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set our minds aright,
cleanse our thoughts; spare us all affliction, evil and distress.
The Life of all, yet You were condemned to death. The very
ones who crossed the Red Sea by the power of Moses; staff, nailed You to
the Cross. Those whom You nourished with honey from the rock, fed You
gall. But willingly You endured, to free us from the bondage of the
enemy. Christ our God, glory to You.
As You were dragged to the Cross, Lord, You demanded: "For
which of my works do you wish to crucify me, my people? For healing
your paralytics? For raising your dead as from sleep? For curing the
woman with an issue of blood, or taking pity on the Canaanite? For
which of these deeds do you wish to kill me? But consider whom you now
pierce, you lawless people."
Pharisees and lawgivers of Israel, the company of the
Apostles calls out to you: "Behold the Temple which you have destroyed;
behold the lamb whom you have crucified. You consigned Him to the
tomb, but by His own power He arose. Do not deceive yourselves. For it
is He who saved you from the sea and fed you in the wilderness. He is
life and light and the peace of the world."
Explanation of the Service:
Each of the four Hours bears a numerical name, derived from
one of the major daylight hours or intervals of the day as they were
known in antiquity: the First (corresponding to sunrise); the Third
(midmorning or 9 a.m.); the Sixth (noonday); and the Ninth
(mid-afternoon or 3 p.m.).
Each Hour has a particular theme, and sometimes even a
sub-theme, based upon some aspects of the Christ-event and salvation
history. The general themes of the Hours are the coming of Christ, the
true light (First); the descent of the Holy Spirit (Third); the passion
and crucifixion of Christ (Sixth); the death and burial of Christ
The central prayer of each Hour is the Lord’s Prayer. In
addition, each Hour has a set of three Psalms, hymns, a common prayer
(Christ our God, worshiped and glorified . . .) and a distinctive prayer
for the Hour.
Slight variations occur in the Service of the Hours on feast
days as well as on fast days. For example, in the place of the regular
troparia, the apolytikia of the feast days. For example, in the place
of the regular troparia, the apolytikia of the feast are read; or in the
case of the Great Fast, penitial prayers are added at the end.
A radical change in the Service of the Hours, however,
occurs on Great Friday. The content is altered and expanded with a set
of troparia and Scripture Readings (Prophecy, Epistle, and Gospel) for
each Hour. In addition, two of the three Psalms in each of the Hours
are replaced with Psalms that reflect themes of Great Friday. While the
stable-fixed Psalm of the service reflects the theme of the particular
Hour, the variable Psalms reflect the theme of the day. In their
expanded version these Hours are called The Great Hours or the Royal