21 September 2011

21 September - Ember Day (Tempora Autumnalia)

Weather - Ember Day: the weather today foretells the weather of October.

A gloriously beautiful day!  Warm, sunny, gorgeous!


The Ember Days, of which these three (today, Friday, and Saturday) are the last of the church year, are three days set aside in every quarter of the year during which we fast and pray, thanking God for his many blessings, and asking for the grace to use them well and in the service of others.

Saturday of the Ember days was traditionally the time to ordain priests, and Dom Prosper Gueranger, in his Liturgical Year, says that we should offer up our fasting and abstinence "for the purpose of obtaining worthy Ministers of the Word and the Sacraments, and true Pastors of the people."

As with other times of the year, when one season slips into another, or one year into the next, or daylight into night, these were considered days in which the dead could return and walk the earth.  Therefore we pray for the holy souls in Purgatory as well.

The other Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy (December 13); the first Sunday in Lent (sometimes February, sometimes March); and Pentecost (most often in May, but not always).  For some reason, however (which has been explained before, but I still don't understand), the autumn ember days, which traditionally are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Holy Cross (September 14), must, in the new calendar of the church, fall a full week after Holy Cross.  Well, that is the Church's prerogative. She created these days, She can move them around as She pleases. For the purposes of my Book of Days, I tend to follow the old almanacs.

The theme of the autumn Ember days is the harvest of the works of our hands, whether agricultural or spiritual.  A fifteenth century homily tells us to fast "that we may have grace to gather the fruits of God into the barns of our conscience."

According to the medieval Golden Legend, there are different sins assigned to each set of Ember days from which we pray to be delivered.  For the autumn days, the sins are pride and covetousness.

As the autumn is considered cold and dry, we fast to prevent the drought of pride, and the coldness and darkness of ignorance. From the choler of summer with its frenzy of living, we pass to the melancholy of autumn, whose nature is cold and covetous; we pray for the grace to combat that temperment with the fruits of good works.  The summer represents youth; autumn represents the adult, wherein we look at the harvest of our lives - what we have done, and what we have failed to do - and pray for the grace to do better, and for our harvest - our deeds - to be used for the glory of God and in the service of others.

Let us then consecrate to God the season of Autumn and the harvest.

And for fun, read about the Four Temperaments and take the Medieval Personality test.  (The Widow's personality is Melancholic.)