Monday, February 26, 2018
Why is 12 PM Called Noon?

Have you ever wondered why we English speakers call the hour of 12:00 PM by the word "noon"? The answer is actually rooted in the history of the Catholic Church.

Some background: In the ancient world the "first hour" of the day was what we know as 6:00 AM.  The 3rd hour was 9 AM, the 6th hour was 12 PM, etc.  This makes sense when you realize the Scripture refer to Jesus as hanging on the Cross from the sixth to ninth hour (cf. Matthew 27:45, "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour").  This is corroborated by the fact that we know the Lord hung on the Cross from 12 PM to 3 PM in our modern sense of time.

So now that we understand that background in time, it's also important to understand that the Church since Her early days instituted prayers to be said throughout the day.  Known presently as the "Divine Office" - or in the modern day as the "Liturgy of the Hours" - all monks and consecrated religious like nuns and priests pray these prayers.  They occur traditionally 7 days a day at various hours.  And their Latin name relates to the time of day.

For instance, Terce is traditionally said at 9 AM and "Terce" is derived from the word for three, since it is the "third hour" in the day using the ancient sense of time.  Noon's prayer is known as Sext. And the one at 3 PM is called None.

So why is 12:00 called by the prayer that is traditionally said at 3 PM?  It is entirely due to Lent. 

In the Medieval Church, all days of Lent were days of fasting.  And fasting was only broken after the None prayer was said.  Over time the prayer was moved up to as early as 12:00.  Dr. Taylor Marshall shares the insight here:
Breaking the no food fast before 3pm began to creep in as early as AD 800. The reason we English speakers call 12pm “noon” is because the liturgical recitation of nones (“ninth hour” or 3pm in Latin) was moved up by hungry monks more and more until nones (3pm) was celebrated as early as 12pm so that they could break fast and eat lunch!)
Thus, 12:00 became known as Noon!  Share this interesting piece of trivia with your friends!

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