What are the Royal Hours?

As the Nativity services approached, I commented that it was almost time for Royal Hours, and I received an inquiry as to what Royal Hours are. Here was my response:

From the earliest days of the Church, there have been appointed certain prayers to be read at certain times (or certain Hours if you will). This derives from the Jewish practice of having appointed times for prayer. During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns were held at specific fixed times of the day.

In the early Church, which borrowed heavily from the Jewish structure of liturgical worship, hours of prayers evolved consisting of Psalms, hymns and prayers.

The service of the Royal Hours is served three times a year, on the eves or shortly before Nativity, Theophany and Pascha. It is a special service that reads the four principal Hours of prayer together, and is called Royal Hours because the emperor would traditionally be in attendance. Obviously, there is no emperor anymore, but as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of our heavenly King, what better title than Royal Hours could we have?!?

So basically, this morning we spent two hours reading Psalms, singing hymns of the Incarnation, reading scripture from both the Old and New Testaments, and praying.

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