Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ember Saturday

A reminder to all readers that today is Ember Saturday.

The Ember Days are a distinctive practice of the Western Rite, without an exact counterpart in the East. At four times a year near the onset of the four seasons, the Western Church decreed that everyone must fast on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week. In Latin, the quarterly fasts were remembered as the "four times" (Quatuor Tempora). John Mason Neale recorded this couplet that describes their timing:
Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie
The latter two refer to Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14) and St. Lucy's Day (Dec. 13). Wikipedia notes, "According to the Julian calendar the night of Lucia was the longest night of the year." J.M. Neale adds the Roman practice is to observe the winter Ember Day during the third week of Advent.

The Ember Days add solemnity to the penitential seasons, while reminding us during the most joyous of feasts that fasting and mortification are an indispensable part of the Christian life. May we make the most of it.
O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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