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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Ember Day

Psalm 85, verse 10:
10 Near indeed is his salvation for those who fear him; glory will dwell in our land.

Not fear but revere!  This is Holy fear which acknowledges, He that is, and that we exist in and through Him by the saving grace of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit.  The opposite of revere is to despise.  There are many in our country and world who despise the Lord.  How did this come about?  According to the US Army Leadership manual[1] followers tend to ask two questions:  1) Is the leader powerful? 2) Does he care about me?


Does He care about me?
Does He  have power?
Yes
Yes
No
Trusted and Respected
Feared
No
Tolerated
Despised

To get to Holy fear we must know that God has power (thus acting accordingly by following his commandments) and know that He cares about us.  To not do this we will fear, tolerate or despise our Lord but if we acknowledge His power and His love we will have reverence and according to the second part of this verse, “Glory will dwell in our land.”  

In America, we have until now had no fear in worshiping him in holiness and righteousness.  In fact the model in American since its founding has been one of “Many religions, but one covenant”. 

We are certainly a blessed people because we as a whole have not abandoned the covenant, nor shall we if the vision of George Washington at Valley Forge is true.  In it he saw that American would remain true to our creator.

"Son of the Republic…Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land and the Union." With these words the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt that I had seen a vision wherein had been shown to me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States.[2]


Marking the Changes of the Seasons

Before the revision of the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar in 1969 (coinciding with the adoption of the Mass of Paul VI), the Church celebrated Ember Days four times each year. They were tied to the changing of the seasons, but also to the liturgical cycles of the Church. The spring Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the First Sunday of Lent; the summer Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost; the fall Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the third Sunday in September (not, as is often said, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross); and the winter Ember Days were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of Saint Lucy (December 13).

The Roman Origin of Ember Days

It's common to claim that the dates of important Christian feasts (such as Christmas) were set to compete with or replace certain pagan festivals, even though the best scholarship indicates otherwise.
In the case of the Ember Days, however, it's true. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding.

Keep the Best; Discard the Rest

The Ember Days are a perfect example of how the Church (in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia) "has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose." The adoption of the Ember Days wasn't an attempt to displace Roman paganism so much as it was a way to avoid disrupting the lives of Roman converts to Christianity. The pagan practice, though directed at false gods, was praiseworthy; all that was necessary was to transfer the supplications to the true God of Christianity.

An Ancient Practice

The adoption of Ember Days by Christians happened so early that Pope Leo the Great (440-61) considered the Ember Days (with the exception of the one in the spring) to have been instituted by the Apostles. By the time of Pope Gelasius II (492-96), the fourth set of Ember Days had been instituted. Originally celebrated only by the Church in Rome, they spread throughout the West (but not the East), starting in the fifth century.

The Origin of the Word

The origin of the word "ember" in "Ember Days" is not obvious, not even to those who know Latin. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Ember" is a corruption (or we might say, a contraction) of the Latin phrase Quatuor Tempora, which simply means "four times," since the Ember Days are celebrated four times per year.

Optional Today

With the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, the Vatican left the celebration of Ember Days up to the discretion of each national conference of bishops. They're still commonly celebrated in Europe, particularly in rural areas.
In the United States, the bishops' conference has decided not to celebrate them, but individual Catholics can and many traditional Catholics still do, because it's a nice way to focus our minds on the changing of the liturgical seasons and the seasons of the year. The Ember Days that fall during Lent and Advent are especially useful to remind children of the reasons for those seasons.

Marked by Fasting and Abstinence

The Ember Days are celebrated with fasting (no food between meals) and half-abstinence, meaning that meat is allowed at one meal per day. (If you observe the traditional Friday abstinence from meat, then you would observe complete abstinence on an Ember Friday.)
As always, such fasting and abstinence has a greater purpose. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, through these activities, and through prayer, we use the Ember Days to "thank God for the gifts of nature,. teach men to make use of them in moderation, and assist the needy."[3]


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