14 December 2011

Ember Day in Advent

WeatherEmber Day – the weather today foretells the weather of January.


The Ember Days, of which these three (today, Friday, and Saturday) are the first 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 the first Sunday in Lent (sometimes February, sometimes March); Pentecost (most often in May, but not always), and Holy Cross (September 14, but calendars differ on whether they fall in the same week or the week after).

The theme of the Winter Ember days – the Tempora Hiemalia – is rest from our labors; the fruits of the earth have been gathered in – let us give thanks to God for the bounty with which he has blessed us.  A fifteenth century homily tells us to fast "that we may destroy all the stinking weeds (of our sins) and vicious living."

According to medieval Golden Legend, there are different sins assigned to each set of Ember days from which we pray to be delivered.  For the winter days, the sins are dishonesty, malice, and inconstancy.

As winter is considered cold and moist [with which we have no argument here], we fast to chastise the coldness of untruth and of malice, and to be mortified to the world as the dying plants. From the melancholy of autumn, we pass to the phlegmatic lightness of winter, with its inconstancy and neglect of important things; we pray for the grace to combat that temperment with prudence and an honest life.  Autumn represents the mature adult; winter is the old man, experienced and ready for a justly earned rest.

Let us then consecrate to God the season of Winter and rest in Him.

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