Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Could Your Grace please explain the prayer of Prostration (SAGDA) on the Day of Pentecost? Although the descent of the HOLY SPIRIT was at the third hour (9 AM), the prayer is usually performed at the ninth hour (3 PM). Why are there three prayers with three Gospel readings?

It is the custom to pray the Prostration (Sagda) prayers on the ninth hour of Pentecost Sunday although the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on the third hour (Acts 2:15).

In the Old Testament, God had commanded His people to celebrate the Passover annually at sunset, the same time they had left Egypt (Deut 16:6). Also fifty days after the Passover, on the feast of Pentecost, God gave Moses the Law. Therefore, the Church has arranged to pray the Prostration prayers at the ninth hour to point to the Lord Jesus Christ our Passover who was slain at this same time (Mt 27:50).

The Church fathers arranged these prayers into three parts based on the name of the Holy Trinity. The first and second prostration prayers take place in the second section of the church. The third prostration prayer is prayed in the first section close to the altar for when the believers use the trisagion they resemble the heavenly saying "Holy, Holy, Holy..."  (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8).

This manner of prayers is biblically based. For just like when Jacob sought his brother Esau's mercy as he was coming back from his uncle Laban; he prepared great gifts of goats, rams, camels and donkeys; and arranged his people into three groups to get the acceptance of Esau. "And he commanded the first one, saying, 'When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, 'To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?' "then you shall say, 'They are your servant Jacob's. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.'' So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, "In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; "and also say, 'Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.' For he said, 'I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.' So the present went on over before him, but he himself lodged that night in the camp" (Gen 32:17-21).

Thus the church has followed the path of those men of God in doing repeated offerings of many prayers, litanies and incense on behalf of her children; asking for His goodness and mercy in order to find favor before God.
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