* The Origin of
the word Agpeya:
The word, Agbeya, is a Coptic (ancient Egyptian) word meaning “Book of Hours.” It is based on the Coptic root word, ti agp, which means “hour.”
* The Book of Hours:
The Agpeya is primarily used by the Coptic Orthodox Church. It contains prayers for seven different hours to be said throughout the day. The hours are chronologically laid out, each containing a theme corresponding to events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each hour is composed of an introduction which includes the Lord’s Prayer, the Prayer of Thanksgiving, and Psalm 50. It is followed by various Psalms, an excerpt from the Holy Gospel, and Litanies. Lord Have Mercy is then chanted 41 times (representing the 39 lashes Christ received before the crucifixion, plus one for the spear in His side, plus one for the crown of thorns), followed by several other prayers and a conclusion.
* When do we Read the Agpiya?
The Agpeia is read throughout the day and in many situations. The hours of the day start from sunrise and end at sunset. The morning prayer (Prime), which corresponds to 6 a.m., is said upon waking up in the morning or after the Midnight praise the previous night. The Terce (9 a.m.) and Sext (noon) hours are prayed before each liturgy during the Offering of Incense. The None (3 p.m.) hour is also read during fasting days. Vespers (sunset) and Compline (9 p.m.) are read in the early evening and before bedtime, respectively. and are both read before the Liturgy during the Lent and the fast of Nineveh. The Midnight hour is read just before the Midnight Praise. The Veil hour is reserved for priests, monks and bishops.
Morning Prayer is designed to be prayed early coming of the true Light, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Prime is mainly associated with the eternity of God, His incarnation, His resurrection from the dead. It is intended to offer thanks to Him for having risen us from the sleep, beseeching Him to shin upon us, enlighten our lives, and grant us the power of His resurrection.
The Third Hour commemorated three significant events: Christ's trail by Pilate, His ascension to heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit may cleanse our hearts and renew our lives.
The Sixth Hour reminds us of the crucifixion and passion of Christ. We pray that, through His life-giving passion, He may deliver our minds from lusts, and turn our thoughts to the remembrance of His commandments, and make of us a light of the world and salt of the earth.
The Ninth Hour commemorates the redemptive death of Christ in the flesh on the cross, and His acceptance of the repentance of the Thief. We pray that the Savior may mortify out carnal lusts, make us partakers of His grace, and accept our repentance when we cry out with the Thief, "Remember us, O Lord, when You come into Your Kingdom." (Luke 23:42).
The Vespers (Sunset): Eleventh Hour, is associated with the act of taking down Christ's body from the cross. At the end of the day, we give thanks for God's protection, and confess our sins with the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) that we may be counted among the labours who were called at the eleventh hour of the day (Matt. 20:1-16).
The Compline (Retiring): Twelfth Hour, commemorates the burial of Christ. We remember the passing world and the final judgment. Mindful of our imminent standing before God, we ask forgiveness of our sins and protection through the night.
The Midnight Hour: commemorates the second coming of the Lord. The office consists of three watches, corresponding to the three stages of Christ's prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 25:1-13).
Veil: this prayer is to be read by bishops and priests as a means of examining their hearts. It is also a prayer which concerns Monks.
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