The Origin of the word Agpeya:
The word, Agpeya, 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:
Agpeya is the Coptic "Prayer Book of the Hours", and is equivalent to the Byzantine Horologion and Roman Liturgy of the Hours used by the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, respectively. Agpeya is primarily composed of psalm readings from the Old Testament and Gospel readings from the New Testament, with some added hymns of praise and other prayers.
Agpeya 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.
Chronology of the book:
- 1st Hour (Prime) Morning Raising of Incense: is said upon awaking up in the morning or after the Midnight Praise the previous night. It symbolises Jesus Christ's incarnation and Resurrection.
- 3rd Hour (Terce) 9 a.m.: reminds us of three events, Christ’s trial by Pilate, his ascension to the heavens, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost.
- 6th Hour (Sext) noon: commemorates the Passion of Christ. Terce and Sext are prayed before each Divine Liturgy.
- 9th Hour (None) 3 p.m.: commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This hour is also recited during fasting days.
- 11th Hour (Vespers) sunset: commemorates the taking down of Christ from the Cross.
- 12th Hour (Compline) 9 p.m. before bedtime: commemorates the burial of Christ, and the Final Judgment. Vespers and Compline are both recited before the Liturgy during Lent and the fast of Nineveh.
- The Midnight Praise (said in the early morning before dawn): commemorates the Second Coming of Christ. It consists of three watches, corresponding to the three stages of Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 25:1-13).
- Veil: is usually recited by bishops, priests, and monks, as a form of the examination of conscience. Some individuals and families also elect to recite it as a part of their daily devotions at home.