An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Terce, Sext, None

Traditional monastic offices that were recited at 9 a.m., “the third hour” (terce), 12 noon, “the sixth hour” (sext), and 3 p.m., “the ninth hour” (none). These canonical hours of the breviary office were known as little hours or little offices. The early Christian church followed the Jewish custom of community prayers at sunrise and sunset, with private devotions at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m.). These little hours of prayer were associated with the Passion. Jesus' dying on the cross was recalled in the sixth hour, and his burial was recalled in the ninth hour. The custom of daily prayer is evidenced by Acts 3:1, which records that Peter and John “were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o'clock in the afternoon.” Acts 10:9 also states that Peter went to pray at noon on the day when the men sent by Cornelius arrived.

As monasticism developed, the private devotions at the third, sixth, and ninth hours became the little offices of terce, sext, and none. These little offices had a common structure. Development of the full round of canonical hours-including matins and lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline-has been dated from the late fifth century. terce, sext, and none were not included in early Anglican Prayer Books. The Order of Service for Noonday in the 1979 BCP (p. 103) is based on the traditional structure of the little offices. The Order of Service for Noonday may be used (with appropriate choices from the options for lessons and collects) for terce, sext, or none. See Little Hours of the Divine Office.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.