Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

This subject will be treated under the following heads:


I. Origin of None;
II. None from the Fourth to the Seventh Century;
III. None in the Roman and Other Liturgies from the Seventh Century;
IV. Meaning and Symbolism of None.

I. ORIGIN OF NONE

According to an ancient Greek and Roman custom, the day was, like the night, divided into four parts, each consisting of three hours. As the last hour of each division gave its name to the respective quarter of the day, the third division (from 12 to about 3) was called the None ( Latin nonus, nona, ninth). For this explanation, which is open to objection, but is the only probable one, see Francolinus, "De tempor. horar. canonicar.", Rome, 1571, xxi; Bona, "De divina psalmodia", III (see also MATINS and VIGILS). This division of the day was in vogue also among the Jews, from whom the Church borrowed it (see Jerome, "In Daniel," vi, 10). The following texts, moreover, favor this view: "Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer " ( Acts 3:1 ); "And Cornelius said: Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me" ( Acts 10:30 ); "Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour" ( Acts 10:9 ). The most ancient testimony refers to this custom of Terce, Sext, and None, for instance Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, the Canons of Hipolytus, and even the "Teaching of the Apostles". The last-mentioned precribed prayer thrice each day, without, however, fixing the hours ( Didache ton Apostolon , n. viii).

Clement of Alexandria and likewise Tertullian, as early as the end of the second century, expressly mention the hours of Terce, Sext, and None, as specially set apart for prayer (Clement, "Strom.", VII, VII, in P.G., IX, 455-8). Tertullian says explicitly that we must always pray, and that there is no time prescribed for prayer ; he adds, nevertheless, these significant words: "As regards the time, there should be no lax observation of certain hours—I mean of those common hours which have long marked the divisions of the day, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, and which we may observe in Scripture to be more solemn than the rest" ("De Oratione", xxiii, xxv, in P.L., I, 1191-3).

Clement and Tertullian in these passages refer only to private prayer at these hours. The Canons of Hippolytus also speak of Terce, Sext, and None, as suitable hours for private prayer ; however, on the two station days, Wednesday and Friday, when the faithful assembled in the church, and perhaps on Sundays, these hours were recited successively in public (can. xx, xxvi). St. Cyprian mentions the same hours as having been observed under the Old Law , and adduces reasons for the Christians observing them also ("De Oratione", xxxiv, in P.L., IV, 541). In the fourth century there is evidence to show that the practice had become obligatory, at least for the monks (see the text of the Apostolic Constitutions, St. Ephraem, St. Basil, the author of the "De virginitate" in Baümer-Biron, op. cit. in bibliography, pp. 116, 121, 123, 129, 186). The prayer of Prime, at six o'clock in the morning, was not added til a later date, but Vespers goes back to the earliest days. The texts we have cited give no information as to what these prayers consisted of. Evidently they contained the same elements as all other prayers of that time &151; psalms recited or chanted, canticles or hymns, either privately composed or drawn from Holy Writ , and litanies or prayers properly so-called.

II. NONE FROM THE FOURTH TO THE SEVENTH CENTURY

The eighteenth cannon of the council of Laodicea (between 343 and 381) orders that the same prayers be always said at None and Vespers. But it is not clear what meaning is to attached to the words leitourgia ton euchon , used in the canon. It is likely that reference is made to famous litanies, in which prayer was offered for the catechumens, sinners, the faithful, and generally for all the wants of the Church. Sozomen (in a passage, however, which is not considered very authentic ) speaks of three psalms which the monks recited at None. In any case this number became traditional at an early period ( Sozomen, "Hist. eccl.", III, xiv, in P.G., LXVII, 1076-7; cf, Baümer-Biron, op. cit., I 136). Three psalms were recited at Terce, six at Sext, and nine at None, as Cassian informs us, though he remarks that the most common practice as to recite three psalms at each of these hours (Cassian, "De coenob. instit.", III, iii, in P.L., XLIX, 116). St. Ambrose speaks of three hours of prayer, and, if with many critics we attribute to him the three hymns "Jam surgit hora tertia", "Bis ternas horas explicas", and "Ter horas trina solvitur", we shall have a new constitutive element of the Little Hours in the fourth century in the Church of Milan (Ambrose, "De virginibus", III, iv, in P.L., XVI, 225).

In the "Peregrinatio ad loca sancta" of Etheria, (end of fourth century), There is a more detailed description of the Office of None. It resembles that of Sext, and is celebrated in the basilica of the Anastasis. It is composed of psalms and antiphons; then the bishop arrives, enters the grotto of the Resurrection, recites a prayer there, and blesses the faithful ("Peregrinatio", p. 46; cf. Cabrol, "Etude sur la Peregrinatio Sylviae", 45). During Lent, None is celebrated in the church of Sion; on Sundays the office is not celebrated; it is omitted also on Holy Saturday, but on Good Friday it is celebrated with special solemnity (Peregrinatio, pp, 53, 66, etc.). But it is only in the succeeding age that we find a complete description of None, as of the other offices of the day.

III. NONE IN THE ROMAN AND OTHER LITURGIES FROM THE SEVENTH CENTURY

In the Rule of St. Benedict the four Little Hours of the day (Prime to None) are conceived on the same plan, the formulae alone varying. The Office begins with Deus in adjutorium, like all the Hours; then follows a hymn, special to None; three psalms, which do not change (Ps. cxxv, cxxvi, cxxvii), except on Sundays and Mondays when they are replaced by three groups of eight verses from Ps. cxviii; then the capitulum, a versicle, the Kyrie, the Pater, the oratio, and the concluding prayers (regula S. P. Benedicti, xvii). In the Roman Liturgy the office of None is likewise constructed after the model of the Little Hours of the day; it is composed of the same elements as in the Rule of St. Benedict, with this difference, that, instead of the three psalms, cxxv-vii, the three groups of eight verses from Ps. cxviii are always recited. There is nothing else characteristic of this office in this liturgy. The hymn, which was added later, is the one already in use in the Benedictine Office—"Rerum Deus tenax vigor". In the monastic rules prior to the tenth century certain variations are found. Thus in the Rule of Lérins, as in that of St. Caesarius, six psalms are recited at None, as at Terce and Sext, with antiphon, hymn and capitulum.

St. Aurelian follows the same tradition in his Rule "Ad virgines", but he imposes twelve psalms at each hour on the monks. St. Columbanus, St. Fructuosus, and St. Isidore adopt the system of three psalms (cf. Martène, "De antiq. monach. rit.", IV, 27). Like St. Benedict, most of these authors include hymns, the capitulum or short lesson, a versicle, and an oratio (cf. Martène, loc. cit.). In the ninth and tenth centuries we find some additions made to the Office of None, in particular litanies, collects, etc. (Martène, op. cit., IV. 28).

IV. MEANING AND SYMBOLISM OF NONE

Among the ancients the hour of None was regarded as the close of the day's business and the time for the baths and supper (Martial, "Epigrams", IV, viii; Horace, "Epistles", I, vii, 70). At an early date mystical reasons for the division of the day were sought. St. Cyprian sees in the hours of Terce, Sext and None, which come after a lapse of three hours, an allusion to the Trinity. He adds that these hours already consecrated to prayer under the Old Dispensation have been sanctified in the New Testament by great mysteries— Terce by the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles ; Sext by the prayers of St. Peter, the reception of the Gentiles into the Church, or yet again by the crucifixion of Our Lord ; None by the death of Christ ("De oratione", xxxiv, in P.L., IV, 541). St. Basil merely recalls that it was at the ninth hour that the Apostles Peter and John were wont to go to the Temple to pray ("Regulae fusius tract.", XXXVII, n. 3, in P.G., XXXI, 1013 sq.). Cassian, who adopts the Cyprian interpretation for Terce and Sext, sees in the Hour of None the descent of Christ into hell (De coenob. instit., III, iii). But, as a rule, it is the death of Christ that is commemorated at the Hour of None.

The writers of the Middle Ages have sought for other mystical explanations of the Hour of None. Amalarius (III, vi) explains at length, how, like the sun which sinks on the horizon at the hour of None, man's spirit tends to lower itself also, he is more open to temptation, and it is the time the demon selects to try him. For the texts of the Fathers on this subject it will Suffice to refer the reader to the above-mentioned work of Cardinal Bona (c. ix). The same writers do not fail to remark that the number nine was considered by the ancients an imperfect number, an incomplete number, ten being considered perfection and the complete number. Nine was also the number of mourning. Among the ancients the ninth day was a day of expiation and funeral service— novemdiale sacrum, the origin doubtless of the novena for the dead.

As for the ninth hour, some persons believe that it is the hour at which our first parents were driven from the Garden of Paradise (Bona, op. cit., ix, section 2). In conclusion, it is necessary to call attention to a practice which emphasized the Hour of None &151; it was the hour of fasting. At first, the hour of fasting was prolonged to Vespers, that is to say, food was taken only in the evening or at the end of the day. Mitigation of this rigorous practice was soon introduced. Tertulian's famous pamphlet "De jejunio", rails at length against the Psychics (i.e. the Catholics ) who end their fast on station days at the Hour of None, while he, Tertullian, claims that he is faithful to the ancient custom. The practice of breaking the fast at None caused that hour to be selected for Mass and Communion, which were the signs of the close of the day. The distinction between the rigorous fast, which was prolonged to Vespers, and the mitigated fast, ending at None, is met with in a large number of ancient documents (see FAST).


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2014 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was born in Salient in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter