Monday, February 26, 2018

Learn the Office 3.6: Sext

But at the sixth hour the spotless Sacrifice, our Lord and Saviour, was offered up to the Father, and, ascending the cross for the salvation of the whole world, made atonement for the sins of mankind, and, despoiling principalities and powers, led them away openly; and all of us who were liable to death and bound by the debt of the handwriting that could not be paid, He freed, by taking it away out of the midst and affixing it to His cross for a trophy.

At the same hour, too, Peter, in an ecstasy of mind, there was divinely revealed the calling of the Gentiles…

St John Cassian, Institutes

Sext is properly said around midday.

As St John Cassian suggests in the quote above, the key focus of Sext is Christ's ascent to the cross, and the hymn's request for strength in the battle for ourselves, and for peace, reflects this.

The hymn: Rector Potens

The hymn for Sext, Rector Potens (O God of truth), was possibly composed by St Ambrose, and is the main text that remains unchanged each day at this hour.

The Antiphonale Monasticum provides a number of different versions for it (following the pattern for Terce) for different levels of feasts, days and seasons.

You can find audio files of many of these on the Liber Hymnarius site.

The antiphons of Sext

The main seasonal antiphons are included in the psalter sections of most Office books, but note that they can be displaced by antiphons of the week or day.

The Antiphonale generally just provides the intonation of the antiphon before the psalms, with the full text following.  In the 1962 Office, however, the antiphon is sung in full both before and after the psalms.

The psalms of Sext

There is no special version of  Sext for feasts, instead the psalms set for the relevant day of the week are used.

Sext uses three sets of psalms (or stanzas of psalms), for Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesday to Saturday respectively.  You can find notes on each of them to help you with the Latin and understand their meaning in the context of the Office more fully by following the links in the table below.

(Ps 118)
Tuesday to Saturday

Chapter and versicle

The texts for the chapters and versicles for most of the seasons are included in the psalter section of most Office books.  Those for feasts and particular days of the year though, can displace these.


The collect at Sext is either of the week (the previous Sunday) or day (of the season or feast).

Where there are two collects for each day (for example during Lent), the collect of Lauds is used at Sext.

Finding Sext in your book

The table below shows the page numbers for the various parts of the hour in the Monastic Diurnal (MD) and Antiphonale Monasticum (AM).

The first column provides links to notes on the rubrics for each component of the hour.

The relevant page numbers in the Monastic Diurnal (MD) and Antiphonale Monasticum (AM) are shown under the relevant days of the week.  

You can find notes on the appropriate body postures and so forth in the Introduction to Terce, Sext and None.

Tuesday to Saturday
                            MD 1/AM 1

Hymn (Rector Potens)
MD 155
AM 87
MD 169
AM 98
MD 183
AM 113

Of the season, day, date or feast

MD 156
AM 89
MD 171
AM 100
MD 191
AM 115

 Of the season, day, date or feast

 MD 154-5 with collect of the season, day, date or feast

And to continue on to the next part of this series, on None, click here.

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