"Seven times a day I praise You for Your righteous rules" (Psalm 119:164).
From the most ancient of times in the Old Testament, Christians have gathered at various times of the day to worship God. Over the course of time, the Church has developed liturgies for each of these times of day. In the Middle Ages, this became the great establishment of the monasteries and convents. The religious orders would worship throughout the day. They took this Psalm verse to be prescriptive of all good Christians that they would worship seven times a day. Therefore they devised a system of readings (lectionary) that would be read at each of the services.
Especially under the Benedictines and Franciscans, these seven services were firmly established:
- Lauds (dawn) - Jesus rose from the dead "while it was still dark" (John 20:1)
- Prime (6am)
- Terce (9am) - Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25)
- Sext (noon) - Darkness spread over the whole earth between the sixth and ninth hours when Jesus was on the cross (Matthew 27:45)
- None (3pm) - Jesus speaks His Seven Words and gives up his Spirit at the ninth hour
- Vespers (sunset)
- Compline (bedtime)
Our service of Matins in the Lutheran Service Book (as well as all the previous Lutheran hymnals) is a combination of the Lauds, Prime, Terce and Sext services. Matins covers everything in the morning. Vespers combines the ancient Vespers with None to cover the afternoon/evening.