Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Silence at Terce. A Benedictine oblate blog

One of my additional services for Lent is to spend more time in silence during the middle of day. I seldom take time for silence while I am working.

I rarely honor the day by stopping for terce, sext, and none (the three little hours of the divine office during the day, such as at 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 3:00 pm)(1). It is a constant regret in my oblate life even though I know oblates are to pray the divine office as our situation in life allows. I want my oblate life to allow it.

Lent is a training time of extra effort for me to stop and spend time in silence. A good time for silence is after one or more of the three divine offices during the middle parts of the day.

Today I did terce at about 11:30 am. It was WONDERFUL. "Why don't I do this everyday?" is what I repeat to myself on each of those rare occasions when I do pray the little offices (terce, sext, none).

I stopped for an early lunch today and found a still, quiet place outside near a garden. Here in Florida the weather is about 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius), with clear skies, and with a slight breeze that is more like a conversation with God.

Terce today was a garden doorway into a warming light.



The picture is "Cat napping in the midday shade in Marpissa" by Varmazis. This was the state of my heart after my terce in the late morning sun today.

(1) "The origin of Terce, like that of Sext and None, to which it bears a close relationship, dates back to Apostolic times. ... According to an ancient custom of the Romans and Greeks, the day and night respectively were divided into four parts of about three hours each. The second division of the day hours was that of Terce from nine o'clock until midday. These divisions of the day were also in vogue among the Jews at the time of Christ. In the New Testament we find mention of the sixth hour in Matthew 20:5; 27:45; Mark 15:33; John 19:14; of the ninth hour, in Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:25; the Holy Ghost descends upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost at the third hour, Acts 2:15.

"Some of these texts prove that these three hours were, in preference to others, chosen for prayer by the Christians, and probably also by the Jews, from whom the Christians appear to have borrowed the custom. We find frequent mention in the Fathers of the Church and the ecclesiastical writers of the third century of Terce, Sext, and None as hours for daily prayers." From "Terce" in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.



  1. I am right there with you in this. So many times I get to the end of the workday and realize I blew right past the little hours. Yet when I manage to be aware of them and take the time for them my days seem so much more rewarding.

    I'll remember your efforts in my prayers.

  2. Michael,

    Thank you for your prayers. Maybe your prayers have already worked.

    I am going to practice something the abbot at St. Leo Abbey (near Tampa, Florida, USA) told an oblate group when someone asked what he could recommend when we are too tired at the end of the day to pray the divine office with our full devotion as we would like. He suggested that we take 5 to 10 minutes and do nothing but rest and at the end of that time we should feel much more able to begin.

    On several occasions when my brain was drained from weariness at night and I had no energy for compline, I tried the “just-rest-for-5-minutes-plan” and it worked.

    Today it struck me that I could do the same thing for the little hours in the day — stopping work is difficult as you know. It is difficult to drop work and pick up the prayer book So, I am going to try the two-step stopping plan, a five minute rest from work and then I will pick up the prayer book for those little hours.

  3. John, That is excellent advice and I am going to start using it. Stopping for 5 minutes or so makes such simple common sense, a few minutes of realizing God's presence before I even start praying. I am reading Francis De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life and he talks of the same thing. Just stop and recognize the presence of God, which is always there anyway, before you being a prayer.

    The one I am working on is remembering to stop for the little hours in the middle of the work day. When I remember them, I close my office door, put my phone on cover so all calls go directly to voicemail and spend some time in God's pressence. The problem for me is remembering that it's time for the little hours. I tend to get so wrapped up in what I am doing that five o'clock comes and I realize I never stopped to spend time with God.

  4. Michael,

    "The one I am working on is remembering to stop for the little hours in the middle of the work day." Amen, this is what I am working on too and have been for some time.

    When I learn to stop as a regular part of my day, it will mean that I have learned many of the most basic lessons of the Benedictine way. Stopping for the little hours is my test of whether I really “get it” where it counts!