Terce is a noun that has multiple definitions, one of which refers to a specific time of day in religious practice, while the other refers to a type of Gregorian chant. Firstly, terce can be described as one of the seven canonical hours in Christian liturgy, specifically occurring at around 9:00 a.m. It is typically observed as a time for prayer and reflection, often practiced by monastic communities. In this context, terce can signify the third hour after sunrise, symbolizing the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
Secondly, terce can refer to a particular melody or chant that is sung during the aforementioned canonical hour of terce. It falls within the category of Gregorian chants, which are sacred melodies used in liturgical worship, typically associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Terce chants have their own distinctive characteristics and musical structure, often including specific melodies and texts that are sung during the morning liturgical prayer service.
Overall, terce is a versatile term that encompasses both a specific time of day and a style of chant within religious observance. Its historical and cultural significance lies in its connection to Christian liturgy, particularly in the context of canonical hours and Gregorian chants.
The word terce is derived from the Latin word tertia, which means the third hour. In the Christian liturgical tradition, the day is divided into eight parts known as the canonical hours, with terce specifically referring to the third hour of the day. It has been used since the medieval period to denote one of the hours of prayer. The term was also borrowed into early Old French as tierce, and later adopted into Middle English as terce.