Midnight Office

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The Midnight Office (Greek Mesonytikon, Slavonic Polúnoschnitsa) is part of the Daily Cycle of services in the Orthodox Church. The office originated as a purely monastic devotion inspired by Psalm 118:62 (119:62 KJV), "At midnight I arose to give thanks unto Thee for the judgments of Thy righteousness" , and also by the Gospel parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). This service is also known as Nocturne (though the corresponding western service with this name is not at all parallel, aside from being done in the early hours of the morning).

In monasteries it usually begins in the very early hours of the morning, prior to Matins. It contains a number of psalms together with the normal prayers found in other services, such as the call to worship, the Thrice-Holy Hymn, the Our Father, the Troparion. Its theme is the night and the need for vigilance. In the parishes, it is known almost exclusively as the service preceding Easter Matins at which the winding-sheet depicting the dead Saviour is taken from the tomb and is placed on the altar table.

In Greek Prayer Books, a modified form of the Midnight Office is used for morning prayers for laymen, while a modified form of Small Compline is used for evening prayers.


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