I think that, by God’s help and to the extent that our limited skill was capable, I have explained the method of night-time prayer and psalms that is observed in Egypt. Now we shall have to discuss the Psalms services of terce (third), sext (Sixth), and none (Ninth), (Which when added to the night-time prayer, makes up the seven hours of the Agbia) according to the rule of the monasteries in Egypt, as we already mentioned in the preface, tempering with their institutes the perfection of the Egyptians and the incomparable rigor of their discipline.
The offices that we are obliged to render to the Lord at different hours and at intervals of time, at the call of the summoner, are celebrated continuously and spontaneously throughout the course of the whole day, in tandem with their work. For they are constantly doing manual labour alone in their cells in such a way that they almost never omit meditating on the psalms and on other parts of Scripture, and to this they add entreaties and prayers at every moment, taking up the whole day in offices that we celebrate at fixed times. Hence, apart from the evening and night-time gatherings, they celebrate no public service during the day except on Saturday and Sunday, when they gather at the third hour for Holy Communion. For what is unceasingly offered is greater than what is rendered at particular moments, and a voluntary service is more pleasing than functions that are carried out by canonical obligation. This is why David himself rejoices somewhat boastfully when he says: “Willingly shall I sacrifice to you,” and: “May the free offerings of my mouth be pleasing to you, Lord.”
Not without reason have these times been assigned more specifically for religious services, since in them was accomplished the fulfilment of the promises and the whole of our salvation. For at the third hour the Holy Spirit, promised by the prophets in ages past, is known to have come down for the first time upon the apostles as they were gathered for prayer. We see that this was fulfilled at the third hour and that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, which was foretold by the prophets, occurred at this same time.
At the sixth hour the spotless victim, our Lord and Saviour, was offered to the Father, and mounting the cross for the salvation of the whole world he destroyed the sins of the human race. At the ninth hour he penetrated hell and extinguished the inextricable darkness of Shoal by his shining brilliance. He broke open its gates of bronze, smashed its iron bars, and, having savingly captured the captivity of the holy ones who had been shut up in the cruel darkness of hell, bore it off with Him to heaven.
From this it is perfectly clear that we too should observe these times, which holy and apostolic men not without reason consecrated by religious rites we who, unless we were compelled as it were by law to fulfil these duties of piety at least at fixed moments, would spend the whole day in forgetfulness or idleness or consumed with activity, without any interval for prayer.