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Why is 3pm the holy hour?

3pm is considered the holy hour for several reasons rooted in Christian tradition and biblical events. In examining why 3pm has taken on spiritual significance, we must look to key moments in scripture as well as church history to understand how this particular time became associated with holiness.

The Death of Jesus

One of the most pivotal events leading to 3pm being deemed the holy hour is that this is believed to be the time when Jesus died on the cross. The Gospels give varying accounts of exactly when the crucifixion took place, but a general consensus emerged that Jesus’ death occurred around 3pm.

For instance, Matthew 27:45-50 states:

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Mark 15:33-37 gives a similar timeline:

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46 describes it this way:

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

John 19:14 clarifies that this took place around the time of preparation for the Passover, which also aligns with a 3pm timeline:

It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

Given the theological significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, the approximate time of 3pm became immortalized as the holy hour.

The Mercy Hour

In line with Jesus’ death being understood as an act of mercy and redemption, 3pm is also known as the “hour of mercy” in Catholic tradition. This connects back to the passion of Christ and the mercy He showed in sacrificing Himself.

In the 1930s, Polish nun Faustina Kowalska reported having powerful visions of Jesus, including exchanges where He asked her to pray and meditate on His mercy at 3pm each day. These visions led to the creation of the Divine Mercy devotion and Faustina’s diaries sparked a strong association between 3pm and Christ’s mercy.

Jesus’ words to Faustina that inspired connecting the hour of mercy to 3pm included:

“As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it” (Diary 1572).

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony” (Diary 1320).

This resulted in 3pm becoming not only the hour when Christ died for humanity’s salvation, but a reminder of how His willing sacrifice radically exemplified divine mercy.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

3pm is also considered holy in connection to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus. Acts 2:15 mentions that this occurred at the third hour:

“These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”

Given that the Holy Spirit’s empowering of the early church marked a pivotal moment, the association of this happening at the third hour, or 3pm, also confirmed the spiritual significance of that time.

A Time Set Apart for Prayer

In light of these important biblical events, Christians began to set apart 3pm for prayer and reflection. The Divine Mercy prayers, for instance, intentionally take place each day at 3pm.

Some churches ring bells at 3pm to call Christians to prayerfully remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There is also a longstanding tradition of 3pm Friday services focusing on Christ’s passion and death.

3pm has become woven into Christian spiritual disciplines and worship services to intentionally pause and reflect on foundational theology – like atonement, communion with God, and living mercifully. This intentionality around praying at the “holy hour” sustains its sacredness.

Theological Symbolism

On a symbolic level, there are also connections between 3pm and biblical concepts that infuse this hour with meaning. For example:

  • It is recognized as the halfway point between sunrise and sunset, dividing the daytime hours in half and representing balance.
  • Three symbolizes the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • There is a theological contrast between three and nine – humans faltering at the ninth hour while God redeems at the third hour.

These patterns and imagery evoke a sense of completeness and divine grace regarding the hour of 3pm.

Father Damien’s Insights

Catholic priest Father Damien Fandal O.M.I offered perspective on why 3pm is the holy hour based on his theological study. According to Father Damien:

“Christ’s Passion occurred at the ninth hour, which corresponds to 3pm. This is traditionally understood as the Divine Mercy hour, as Jesus’ willing sacrifice brought redemption through God’s mercy. The descent of the Holy Spirit also arrived at 3pm, establishing the church and its mission. When we pray and reflect at 3pm, we’re reminded of Christ’s suffering, led to appreciate God’s mercy, and asked to carry forward the Holy Spirit’s work in the world today.”

Martin Luther’s View

Protestant theologian Martin Luther preached on why 3pm carries such spiritual weight for followers of Christ. In Luther’s teaching:

“The Savior died at the ninth hour, completing His atoning work and offering salvation to all through faith. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit came at the same ninth hour, empowering believers. So at 3pm we gratefully recall Christ offering Himself for us, we open our hearts to the Spirit’s guidance, and we praise the Lord for His eternal love and grace.”

A List of Key Moments at the Ninth Hour

To summarize some of the pivotal events that occurred around the ninth hour, or 3pm, here is an overview:

Event Description Bible Reference
Death of Jesus After being crucified, Jesus took His last breath and died at Golgotha. Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46
Descent of the Holy Spirit On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ followers. Acts 2:15
Establishing of the Church Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the early Christian church began its mission. Acts 2

Why 3pm Remains Significant Today

While the ninth hour held great theological importance for early followers of Jesus Christ, its relevance continues today for several reasons:

  1. It hearkens back to foundational Christian beliefs – like Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – anchoring us in our faith.
  2. It celebrates God’s mercy, reminding us of His love and motivating us to show grace.
  3. It spurs us to listen to the Spirit’s guidance in sharing the Gospel.
  4. It allows us to show honor and gratitude to the Lord at a symbolic time.

Connection to Core Beliefs

Praying or meditating at 3pm connections Christians to seminal events like the crucifixion, which represents the cornerstone of salvation theology. This practice remains impactful in grounding our faith.

Recognizing Divine Mercy

The 3pm hour is strongly linked to God’s mercy and Christ’s sacrifice for us. Taking time at 3pm fosters appreciation for this undeserved grace.

Experiencing Spirit Guidance

With the Holy Spirit being poured out at 3pm on Pentecost, this hour reminds us to seek the Spirit’s guidance in how we live and serve.

Offering Thanks and Praise

Honoring the 3pm hour allows us to intentionally thank and worship God at a time filled with meaning – both historically and symbolically.


In summary, 3pm is considered the holy hour due to its theological significance in scripture and church history. Christ’s crucifixion and the descent of the Holy Spirit at the ninth hour, combined with intentional prayer practices centering around 3pm, imbued this time with deep spiritual meaning. Today, remembering the mercy of Christ’s sacrifice and seeking the Spirit’s guidance at 3pm allows Christians to connect back to core beliefs and nurture their faith.