Pray without ceasing.THE EDITORS INTERVIEW PHYLLIS TICKLE See Tcl/Tk and tickle packet.
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Halfway into our interview with Phyllis Tickle, the alarm on her watch beeped. It was noon. Time to pray--as she does every three hours throughout the day. Call it saying the breviary bre·vi·ar·y
n. pl. bre·vi·ar·ies Ecclesiastical
A book containing the hymns, offices, and prayers for the canonical hours. , saying the divine office, or, as Tickle does, "fixed-hour prayer," she and thousands of Christians have been doing it for centuries. Now there's a new resource for those who pray this ancient combination of prayers, psalms Psalms (sämz) or Psalter (sôl`tər), book of the Bible, a collection of 150 hymnic pieces. Since the last centuries B.C., this book has been the chief hymnal of Jews, and subsequently, of Christians. , and readings. Tickle edited the three-volume set of The Divine Hours, a modern reworking of the sixth-century Benedictine Rule of fixed-hour prayer. The Summertime and Autumn/ Wintertime editions have already been published by Doubleday, with the Springtime edition due in bookstores this October.
Tickle is not only an advocate of fixed-hour prayer, she is one of the most sought-after commentators on religion and spirituality in America. As the first full-time religion editor of Publishers Weekly magazine, she had a front-row seat during the religion publishing boom of the 1980s and '90s. She is the author and editor of dozens of books, most recently her own spiritual autobiography Spiritual autobiography is a genre of non-fiction prose that dominated Protestant writing during the seventeenth century, particularly in England, particularly that of dissenters. , The Shaping Spiritual Landscape (Doubleday), which just came out this month.
Tell us about your own prayer life. When did you start doing fixed-hour prayer?
Although the roots of regular daily prayer go back to my college years, it wasn't until I switched from Presbyterianism to Anglicanism that I started fixed-hour prayer. That was when I was in my late 20s, although everything prior in my life had led me toward that discipline. I think my vocation is to prayer, and so my life and prayer life are in essence the same. And although fixed-hour prayer is important in my prayer life right now, it's not the whole of it. I also offer up innumerable "prayers on the fly"--everything from the Gloria to the "Please help me's" of daily life.
But back when I started teaching at the college level, I got regular breaks and I was enough of an Episcopalian that I was saying morning prayer, vespers vespers (vĕs`pərz) [Lat.,=evening], in the Christian Church, principal evening office. In the Roman rite, vespers have consisted since the 6th cent. of a few prayers, five psalms, a lesson, the Magnificat, and an antiphon. , and compline com·pline or Com·pline also com·plin or Com·plin Ecclesiastical
1. The last of the seven canonical hours recited or sung just before retiring.
2. The time of day appointed for this service. . By the time I started teaching in Memphis, I was keeping fixed-hour prayer, doing it in the faculty lounge or faculty bathroom. That was the only place that was safe from undergraduates; they'll find you anywhere else. But I was jury-rigging the words. I didn't actually own a breviary until I was about 32. I knew what one was, but it never occurred to me to buy one.
What exactly is a breviary?
A breviary is a very specific thing. It comes out of the monastic tradition, and Catholic priests This is an annotated list of men primarily known for their work as Catholic priests. Catholic priests who are mostly known for their non-priestly work should be placed on other lists. are still enjoined to say the breviary every day. The breviary itself as a form didn't begin until the 11th century, when one of the popes could no longer juggle all the books required to keep the Hours and asked his librarian to put together what were essentially Cliff Notes, just the opening six or eight words of each part of each service, so he would have a road map himself. The Latin word for short things is breviarum, and so it became in English breviary.
What I did with each volume of The Divine Hours is refashion Re`fash´ion
v. t. 1. To fashion anew; to form or mold into shape a second time.
Verb 1. refashion - make new; "She is remaking her image"
redo, remake, make over the breviary into a manual that I hope is more accessible for contemporary usage. One of the imperatives that Doubleday, my publisher, laid down was that everything in The Divine Hours had to be immediately accessible, so there would be no need for prior understanding. And the accessibility had to be not just for Roman Catholics but for other liturgical Christians--Episcopalians and Eastern Orthodox--and for more liturgical Protestants like Methodists and Lutherans. What I think nobody counted on was the tidal wave tidal wave, term properly applied to the crest of a tide as it moves around the earth. The wavelike upstream rush of water caused by the incoming tide in some locations is known as a tidal bore. of other Protestants buying the book.
Did you ever think that you would be compiling a modern-day breviary?
When my agent first approached me, I said, "No, I can't." Prayer books--whether they're manuals or breviaries--are made by 70 little old men sitting in a dark room for 70 years, right? Some lay woman from Tennessee doesn't just go cough one out.
I'd like to say that I prayed I beg; I request; I entreat you; - used in asking a question, making a request, introducing a petition, etc.; as, Pray, allow me to go s>.
See also: Pray about it and got directed, but that's not true. What I thought about was how irritated ir·ri·tate
v. ir·ri·tat·ed, ir·ri·tat·ing, ir·ri·tates
1. To rouse to impatience or anger; annoy: a loud bossy voice that irritates listeners. I have always been by all the breviaries I've used. Every time I think I've found the perfect one, it picks up a flaw, usually somewhere around the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost. Because I began my professional life as a poet, I was especially annoyed by the disrespect for the poetry of the psalter and in some breviaries for the cacophony of the collect prayers. So the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "Yes, I would love to do this."
Never before have I felt such union with what I was doing, such total lack of self-awareness for hours and hours. I used to say that the seven little Tickles were what I came to earth for. But now I think this may really be what I came for.
Do you think fixed-hour prayer works well for people who need structure? Some people might say they would rather pray from their heart.
Well, do it, pray from the heart, but just don't do it on fixed-hour prayer time. Fixed-hour prayer means that you are doing the same thing your fellow Christians have just done or are about to do or are doing in your time zone. Everybody's praying the same thing. You are part of a choir, and no one likes an off-key soloist.
Certainly, there is a rigidity that is more comforting to some personality types than to others, but there is more than comfort involved in fixed-hour prayer. People who go into fixed-hour prayer to "achieve" something miss what it's about. It's about joining the communion of saints The Communion of Saints is the union of all the "saints" which is all of the church on Earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. They are a single body, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all. from the church's beginning until now, which is a privilege. When I finish the 12 o'clock prayers, I finish what somebody back in the Eastern time zone began at my 11 o'clock and passed on to me.
What about those books of daily meditations?
Meditation books certainly play to some of the same things--they're daily and build a routine. But they're distinctly different from fixed-hour prayer. Fixed-hour prayer is to join the fixed words of a tradition, to join the whole community at praise and worship.
With those meditation-a-day books, you aren't doing the same words as others are and you're not doing praise. You're basically doing internal housekeeping, and fixed-hour prayer isn't internal housekeeping.
Some of us try to do it for a while but keep forgetting and then feel guilty ...
No, no, no! Fixed-hour prayer is as old as Judaism, and Judaism says it's better to pray some than not at all. If you can only do one office, do one office. If you can only do one office on Saturday, do one office on Saturday. Join the communion when you can. Don't feel guilty.
Fixed-hour prayer is really as old as Judaism?
That's where both Islam and Christianity got it. Nobody is quite sure when, but certainly the psalmist psalm·ist
A writer or composer of psalms.
a writer of psalms
Noun 1. says of himself, "Seven times a day do I praise you" (Ps. 119:164). The prophet Daniel is thrown into the lion's den Into the Lion's Den is a Discovery Channel documentary about zoologist and big cat trainer Dave Salmoni, armed only with a camera on a pole, carefully conditioning a wild pride of lions to accept his presence. for doing fixed-hour prayer, for example. So there's a tradition.
There's nothing that says that Jesus did fixed-hour prayer, but we have every reason to assume he did because he was a good Jew. We definitely see it in the apostolic ap·os·tol·ic ap·os·tol·i·cal
1. Of or relating to an apostle.
a. Of, relating to, or contemporary with the 12 Apostles.
b. days. The first post-Resurrection healing miracle happens as Peter and John are going into the temple for 3 o'clock prayers (Acts 3:1).
We also know that the forum bell controlled every part of life in the Roman Empire. It rang at 6 o'clock in the morning (which we call prime) to tell people to open the shops. At 9 o'clock (terce TERCE, law of Scotland. A life-rent competent by law to widows who have not accepted of special provisions in the third part of the heritable subjects in which the husband died infeft.
2. , or third hour), it meant take a coffee break--or if you were a good Jew, a prayer break. The sixth hour of the day (sext sext also Sext
1. The fourth of the seven canonical hours.
2. The time of day set aside for this service, usually the sixth hour, or noon. ) was what we call noon, and it meant to close the shops and go home for the siesta.
The ninth hour of the day (none) was 3 o'clock--time for the shops to open again--and then at 6 o'clock (vespers) the shops closed. There were also prayers for retiring and midnight (compline and lauds Lauds is one of the two "major hours" in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. It is to be recited in the early morning hours, preferably near dawn. Structure of the hour ).
At some point, probably around 100 B.C. or thereabouts there·a·bouts also there·a·bout
1. Near that place; about there: somewhere in Kansas or thereabouts.
2. About that number, amount, or time. , the fixed-hour prayers became attached to those forum hours and nighttime events.
Fixed-hour prayers were said in families, but at some point during the first two centuries of Christianity it became customary for several families to go to what was essentially a church. The Hours began to be seen as something one did with fellow Christians.
So in the beginning it was for the laity--not just for priests?
Yes, but the clergy, forgive me, were a greedy lot. They were just as territorial as bears in summer. Increasingly fixed-hour prayer got to be seen as something you had to have clergy to do. As that happened, there was less and less sense of its applicability for ordinary folk.
Also, as illiteracy illiteracy, inability to meet a certain minimum criterion of reading and writing skill. Definition of Illiteracy
The exact nature of the criterion varies, so that illiteracy must be defined in each case before the term can be used in a meaningful increased after the fall of Rome, it became nearly impossible for unlettered laity to do the prayers individually. You'd have to have a huge memory.
Then you get the Desert Fathers, bless their little hearts, who got the notion--and I think they're right--that Paul meant it when he said "pray without ceasing." So as one of their disciplines they reinterpreted fixed-hour prayer and required a choir of monks to read the psalter for the whole three hours before passing it on to the next choir who picked up the prayers for another three hours.
Now, obviously that's something that few laity can do. No woman with a baby can do such a thing because the baby is going to cry or dirty a diaper or something else. So fixed-hour prayer, in that form, became totally impractical for laity, especially women. By the time you get to the Dark Ages, it has essentially disappeared from lay life entirely. The only residual is the Angelus, which is said at 9 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.
How did the practice return to the laity? Priests alone haven't made The Divine Hours a bestseller. Does it have something to do with the current spiritual revival in this country?
Well, the Reformation introduced a new prayer book, which does have the lay offices. That historically was the beginning of the move back to the laity. Vatican II Noun 1. Vatican II - the Vatican Council in 1962-1965 that abandoned the universal Latin liturgy and acknowledged ecumenism and made other reforms
Second Vatican Council
Vatican Council - each of two councils of the Roman Catholic Church , of course, came along and really kick-started it again in this century. But it has been a gradual return and is definitely tied to the return of literacy.
As for a return to ancient spiritual practice and to an increased interest in religion, I don't think there's any question we're in a major paradigmatic See paradigm. shift in those directions.
When did this spiritual shift begin?
Any good sociologist of religion, I think, would say that it began in 1935 with the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), worldwide organization dedicated to the treatment of alcoholics; founded 1935 by two alcoholics, one a New York broker, the other an Ohio physician. . AA talks about a generic god, a greater spirit you don't have to name or put a label on, but who saves you. It says, unlike 200 years of American Protestantism, "Friend, if you're hurting, that doesn't prove God doesn't love you or you aren't right with God. It just proves you're hurting." And that was a real blow to the traditional stances of American religion.
AA also said that two adults working together as fellow sufferers were of more benefit than an adult and clergyman. We've always been very anticlerical an·ti·cler·i·cal
Opposed to the influence of the church or the clergy in political affairs.
an in this country--you don't leave home and go 2,000 miles on a floating tub if you're happy with the powers that be. But AA is the beginning of an overt manifestation of truly modern anticlericalism an·ti·cler·i·cal
Opposed to the influence of the church or the clergy in political affairs.
an in this country. It's also the beginning of the small group movement.
When AA's Big Book went on sale in 1959, the cat was out of the bag because then the bookstore began to become the new pastor's study. In 1987--and this was one of the few times I've ever been prophetic and smart enough to get it down on paper--I said for the first time that books are "portable pastors." They are.
What do you think about this explosion of interest in spirituality--in books, on Oprah, everywhere?
I used to say that if one more person tells me, "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual," I was going to throw up. But I've changed my mind. There is increasingly a legitimate distinction in the popular mind between the two, and I think you have to honor the search.
A lot of this change goes back to the influence of Eastern spirituality in the second half of this century. And, of course, the electronic media. Before mid-century, popular culture didn't really matter. Now Godtalk is being done in the populace. It's vox populi vox populi Voice of the people Sociology A language, as spoken, which includes slang and jargon. See Jargon, Slang. . Not vox ecclesiae. It's being formed in the streets and at watercoolers.
When people say they're spiritual, are they talking about a level of authenticity they don't find in religious experience?
You see, it's the institution and its political and social ramifications ramifications npl → Auswirkungen pl that are troubling. There are also doctrinal doc·tri·nal
Characterized by, belonging to, or concerning doctrine.
Adj. 1. positions people say they can't possibly believe in. I think also that religion bears with it the stench of social expectation. If you're religious, you're supposed to be somewhere between Pollyanna and Goody Two Shoes Goody Two Shoes
mawkish girl, overpleased to have two shoes, exclaims her fortune to all. [Nurs. Rhyme: “Little Goody Two Shoes” in Barnhart, 502]
See : Sentimentality . And if you're spiritual, you're human.
Also, increasingly, religion is seen as theory and spirituality as practice. If I'm a God-fearing person, I want both, but I'll probably put more energy over here in spirituality.
What would you do if you were a pastor?
If I were a pastor, I'd shoot myself (laughs). But seriously, one of the things that's happening right now is that the ordained or·dain
tr.v. or·dained, or·dain·ing, or·dains
a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. are coming back into their own in a way. There is an increasing sense, especially among the X and Y generations, that when you lay hands on a man or woman, you do indeed enter a mysterium. What we're seeing in the culture now is older Ys and younger Xs who, because they do, indeed, live in cyberspace Coined by William Gibson in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer," it is a futuristic computer network that people use by plugging their minds into it! The term now refers to the Internet or to the online or digital world in general. See Internet and virtual reality. Contrast with meatspace. , have no problem believing that two contradictory things can be true and that there is a mystery in life to which they must return.
But if I were a pastor right now, and I had to make a choice between the two, I would forget my old people and worry about my 4- to 10-year-olds. Statistics show that if you let a child go to age 14 without introducing her to religious impulses, she's gone. You've got about a 1 percent chance after that. But if you can catch a child from 4 to 10, you've got him.
So I'd put computers in every single church school classroom, because if you don't have computers, you don't have kids' respect or the tools they're familiar with. And computers allow for instruction in a non-hierarchal way. You do a search, and you don't organize it hierarchically, you organize it by relationships. The minute you start lecturing, however, you're back to hierarchal and youngsters will tune out.
I'd also be doing anything that plays to mystery and to the visual--the flannel flannel, large group of napped plain-weave or twill-weave fabrics made of cotton, wool, or man-made fibers. Flannel fabrics vary in closeness or firmness of weave and in degree of napping. boards of Grandma's parish church, the icons, the banners. In fact, I'd also hang a banner from every post that had a nail on it or could support a nail. This is a very visual generation.
For more information about praying the Liturgy of the Hours