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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter X.—Of Stations, and of the Hours of Prayer.

In like manner they censure on the count of novelty our Stations as being enjoined; some, moreover, (censure them) too as being prolonged habitually too late, saying that this duty also ought to be observed of free choice, and not continued beyond the ninth hour,—(deriving their rule), of course, from their own practice.  Well:  as to that which pertains to the question of injunction, I will once for all give a reply to suit all causes.  Now, (turning) to the point which is proper to this particular cause—concerning the limit of time, I mean—I must first demand from themselves whence they derive this prescriptive law for concluding Stations at the ninth hour.  If it is from the fact that we read that Peter and he who was with him entered the temple “at the ninth (hour), the hour of prayer,” who will prove to me that they had that day been performing a Station, so as to interpret the ninth hour as the hour for the conclusion and discharge of the Station?  Nay, but you would more easily find that Peter at the sixth hour had, for the sake of taking food, gone up first on the roof to pray;10771077    See Acts x. 9. so that the sixth hour of the day may the rather be made the limit to this duty, which (in Peter’s case) was apparently to finish that duty, after prayer.  Further:  since in the self-same commentary of Luke the third hour is demonstrated as an hour of prayer, about which hour it was that they who had received the initiatory gift of the Holy Spirit were held for drunkards;10781078    Acts ii. 1–4, 13, 15. and the sixth, at which Peter went up on the roof; and the ninth, at which they entered the temple:  why should we not understand that, with absolutely perfect indifference, we must pray10791079    The reference is to Eph. vi. 18; Col. iv. 2; 1 Thess. v. 17; Luke xviii. 1. always, and everywhere, and at every time; yet still that these three hours, as being more marked in things human—(hours) which divide the day, which distinguish businesses, which re-echo in the public ear—have likewise ever been of special solemnity in divine prayers?  A persuasion which is sanctioned also by the corroborative fact of Daniel praying thrice in the day;10801080    See Dan. vi. 10. of course, through exception of certain stated hours, no other, moreover, than the more marked and subsequently apostolic (hours)—the third, the sixth, the ninth.  And hence, accordingly, I shall affirm that Peter too had been led rather by ancient usage to the observance of the ninth hour, praying at the third specific interval, (the interval) of final prayer.

These (arguments), moreover, (we have advanced) for their sakes who think that they are acting in conformity with Peter’s model, (a model) of which they are ignorant:  not as if we slighted the ninth hour, (an hour) which, on the fourth and sixth days of the week, we most highly honour; but because, of those things which are observed on the ground of tradition, we are bound to adduce so much the more worthy reason, that they lack the authority of Scripture, until by some signal celestial gift they be either confirmed or else corrected.  “And if,” says (the apostle), “there are matters which ye are ignorant about, the Lord will reveal to you.”10811081    See Phil. iii. 15.  Accordingly, setting out of the question the confirmer of all such things, the Paraclete, the guide of universal truth,10821082    John xiv. 26; xvi. 13. inquire whether there be not a worthier reason adduced among us for the observing of the ninth hour; so that this reason (of ours) must be attributed even to Peter if he observed a Station at the time in question.  For (the practice) comes from the death of the Lord; which death albeit it behoves to be commemorated always, without difference of hours; yet are we at that time more impressively commended to its commemoration, according to the actual (meaning of the) name of Station.  For even soldiers, though never unmindful of their military oath, yet pay a greater deference to Stations.  And so the “pressure” must be maintained up to that hour in which the orb—involved from the sixth hour in a general darkness—performed for its dead Lord a sorrowful act of duty; so that we too may then return to enjoyment when the universe regained its sunshine.10831083    See Matt. xxvii. 45–54; Mark xvi. 33–39; Luke xxiii. 44–47.  If this savours more of the spirit of Christian religion, while it celebrates more the glory of Christ, I am equally able, from the self-same order of events, to fix the condition of late protraction of the Station; (namely), that we are to fast till a late hour, awaiting the time of the Lord’s sepulture, when Joseph took down and entombed the body which he had requested.  Thence (it follows) that it is even irreligious for the flesh of the servants to take refreshment before their Lord did.

But let it suffice to have thus far joined issue on the argumentative challenge; rebutting, as I have done, conjectures by conjectures, and yet (as I think) by conjectures more worthy of a believer.  Let us see whether any such (principle) drawn from the ancient times takes us under its patronage.

In Exodus, was not that position of Moses, battling against Amalek by prayers, maintained as it was perseveringly even till “sunset,” a “late Station?”10841084    See Ex. xvii. 8–12.  Think we that Joshua the son of Nun, when warring down the Amorites, had breakfasted on that day on which he ordered the very elements to keep a Station?10851085    See Josh. x. 12–14.  The sun “stood” in Gibeon, and the moon in Ajalon; the sun and the moon “stood in station until the People was avenged of his enemies, and the sun stood in the mid heaven.”  When, moreover, (the sun) did draw toward his setting and the end of the one day, there was no such day beforetime and in the latest time (of course, (no day) so long), “that God,” says (the writer), “should hear a man”—(a man,) to be sure, the sun’s peer, so long persistent in his duty—a Station longer even than late.

At all events, Saul himself, when engaged in battle, manifestly enjoined this duty:  “Cursed (be) the man who shall have eaten bread until evening, until I avenge me on mine enemy;” and his whole people tasted not (food), and (yet) the whole earth was breakfasting!  So solemn a sanction, moreover, did God confer on the edict which enjoined that Station, that Jonathan the son of Saul, although it had been in ignorance of the fast having been appointed till a late hour that he had allowed himself a taste of honey, was both presently convicted, by lot, of sin, and with difficulty exempted from punishment through the prayer of the People:10861086    See 1 Sam. (in LXX. 1 Kings) xiv. 24–25.  for he had been convicted of gluttony, although of a simple kind.  But withal Daniel, in the first year of King Darius, when, fasting in sackcloth and ashes, he was doing exomologesis to God, said:  “And while I was still speaking in prayer, behold, the man whom I had seen in dreams at the beginning, swiftly flying, approached me, as it were, at the hour of the evening sacrifice.”10871087    See Dan. ix. 1, 3, 4, 20, 21.  This will be a “late” Station which, fasting until the evening, sacrifices a fatter (victim of) prayer to God!10881088    Comp. δε Ορ., c. xxviii.


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