Sext, or Sixth Hour, is another of the fixed times of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of Psalms and is said at noon. Its name comes fromLatin and refers to the sixth hour of the day after dawn.
The hora sexta of the Romans corresponded closely with our noon. Among the Jews it was already regarded along with Trece and None, as an hour most favourable for prayer. It was the middle of the day, also the usual hour of rest, and in consequence for devout men, an occasion to pray to God, as were the morning and evening hours.
The writers of the early church devoted a lot of commentary on the symbolism of this hour. Noon is the hour when the sun is at its full, mirroring the splendour of divine light. Considered the hour of grace, the sixth hour is when Abraham received the three angels. Foremostly, it was the hour when Jesus was nailed to the Cross, the ultimate sacrifice and culmination of his life and ministry. The theme of the liturgy has always been that the conflight between good and evil is at it’s height at this hour. The words of the prayer “Lead us not into temptation” is the message of this hour.
The early church fathers, either those of the western or eastern churches would probably be overwhelmed and apalled at modern society. People gulping down a sandwich at their desk, or skipping lunch altogether, confined to a cubicle or anchored at a machine as though chained in place have no chance for the kind of introspective moment they recommended. The medieval monks, rose early and worked hard, but breaks for prayer were part of their mandated regime. They were insulated from all that modern people must deal with. Today the powers of good and evil still battle at the height of the day. Stressed workers get no break, frustrated people are on hold or cut off from the assistance they need and driven to yelling when they finally reach a call center worker. Doctors spend more time with paperwork than patients and care gets shortchanged. Delivery drivers fall behind in traffic and begin to drive aggressively. People don’t often stop and think of this as evil. Just the same, it is. Frustration, rudeness, anger and aggression are not good in any respect.
There are still some places in the world where mid-day siesta is customary. In Muslim countries, a lunch break is usually assured because this is when people do the required noon prayers. But for most of the world, there is little guarantee of a quiet midday break. While having a lunch meeting in a reastaurant is infinitely preferred to being stuck at a machine, it is still not a break in a quiet place to pray, meditate or otherwise find some calm. Even examining the day’s progress and reassessing what to do next would be out if you had specific things to discuss and lunch would certainly not be personal time.
And the words “Lead us not into temptation” can be applied to much more than what people usually think. Resisting the temptation to speed on the highway, to yell at the call center worker, to eat junk food instead of a healthy snack, to bully your employees into skipping lunch are as important to a good life for everyone as some of the things that come to mind when we use that expression. Do your best to take that noontime break. Breath deeply, find calm and temptaion will be easier to resist. You will feel better and so will all those you encounter.