Friday of the First Week of Lent-Ember Day
Sirach, Chapter 40, Verse 2
Troubled thoughts and fear of heart are theirs and anxious foreboding until death.
Life is a journey that is full of joys and miseries. Every person, high or low, is burdened from birth to death with fears, anxieties, and troubles, by day and often by night, the time appointed for rest. For sinners, the suffering is much greater. What they gained by violence and injustice is quickly destroyed; but righteousness will prevail. In the end they will meet the mother of all the living things and return to the earth. Listen to the words of King David on his death to Solomon.
“I am going the way of all flesh. Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn, and the LORD may fulfill the promise he made on my behalf when he said, ‘If your sons so conduct themselves that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart and with their whole soul, you shall always have someone of your line on the throne of Israel.’” (1Kg. 2:2-4)
Friday of the First Week of Lent
BE merciful, O Lord, to Thy people, and as Thou makest them devout to Thee, mercifully refresh them with kind assistance.
EPISTLE. Ezech. xviii. 20-28.
Thus, saith the Lord God: The soul that sinneth, the same shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son: the justice of the just shall be upon him and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he hath committed, and keep all My commandments, and do judgment and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done in his justice which he hath wrought, he shall live. Is it My will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live?
But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? all his justices which he had done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die. And you have said: The way of the Lord is not right. Hear ye, therefore, O house of Israel: Is it My way that is not right, and are not rather your ways perverse?
For when the just turneth himself away from his justice, and committeth iniquity, lie shall die therein: in the injustice that he hath wrought he shall die. And when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness, which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment and justice: he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away himself from all his iniquities which he hath wrought, he shall surely live, and not die, saith the Lord Almighty.
GOSPEL. John v. 1-15.
Four times a year, the Church sets aside three days to focus on God through His marvelous creation. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons that “like some virgins dancing in a circle, succeed one another with the happiest harmony,” as St. John Chrysostom wrote. These four times are each kept on a successive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and are known as “Ember Days,” or Quatuor Tempora, in Latin. The first of these four times comes in Winter, after the the Feast of St. Lucy; the second comes in Spring, the week after Ash Wednesday; the third comes in Summer, after Pentecost Sunday; and the last comes in Autumn, after Holy Cross Day. Their dates can be remembered by this old mnemonic:
Father Peter Carota at the blog Traditional Catholic Priest offers some additional historical information on Ember days:
The Ember days are true Catholic tradition dating actually dating back to the Apostles, (Pope Leo The Great claims it was instituted by the Apostles). Pope Callistus (217-222) in the “Liber Pontificalis” has laws ordering all to observe a fast three times a year to counteract the hedonistic and pagan Roman rites praying for:
By the time of Pope Gelasius, (492-496), he already writes about there being four times a years, including Spring. He also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of Ember week. This practice was mostly celebrated around Rome, from Pope Gelasius’ time, they began to spread throughout the Church. St. Augustin brought them to England and the Carolingians into Gaul and Germany. In the eleventh century, Spain adopted them. It was not until Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) that these Ember days were prescribed for the whole Catholic Church as days of fast and abstinence. He placed these “four mini Lents” consisting of three days; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
The purposes of these “mini Lents” were to pray, fast and to thank God for the gifts He gives us through nature. They follow the four seasons of the year with the beauty and uniqueness of each particular season. They are here for us to teach us to use, with moderation, what God gives us through nature, and to also share these gifts with the poor.
So, what does this mean for you? Well, because of the changes in Church law, not a whole lot. At least not officially. The mandatory observation of Ember days was excised from Church practice during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI. But as a voluntary practice, there is much that is salutary in observing the Ember days of the Church.
I don’t know about you, but as a typically indulgent American, I’ve never been very good at fasting. Lately, I’ve noticed more and more people are advocating fasting as a counter-measure in today’s troubling times. This is the first year I will be observing these fasts, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m already pretty famished and a bit punchy. But the way I see it, there’s no point in continuing to put off the inevitable penance that I’m going to have to do for being a big, fat sinner. To say nothing about making reparations for the increasingly hostile darkness of a world steeped in its own sins. Fasting isn’t going to get easier at some point in the future when I get “holier.” In fact, I’m guessing the latter isn’t going to happen until I master the former. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where fasting and penance are more needed than right this moment. We can’t rely on others to do it for us. Gotta cowboy up and put our mortification where our mouth is. What do you say? Who will be hungry with me?!
First Friday Devotion
Nine consecutive Fridays in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690), a French nun in the Visitation Order, and gave her the special task to spread devotion to His Most Sacred Heart at a time when religion was growing cold in the hearts of mankind. He said to her:
“Behold this heart which, not withstanding the burning love for men with which it is consumed and exhausted, meets with no other return from most Christians than sacrilege, contempt, indifference and ingratitude, even in the sacrament of my love [the Eucharist]. But what pierces my heart most deeply is that I am subjected to these insults by persons especially consecrated to my service.” Jesus asked for special prayers and practices to make amends (reparation) for this great neglect to the proper reverence owed to God. For those who did this faithfully, he made what St. Margaret Mary referred to as the “Great Promise” which was the last and greatest of the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“I promise you in the unfathomable mercy of my heart that my omnipotent love will procure the grace of final penitence for all those who receive communion on nine successive first Fridays of the month; they will not die in my disfavor [the grace of final repentance], or without having received the sacraments, since my divine heart will be their sure refuge in the last moments of their life.”
Conditions to Fulfill the First Friday Devotion
The specific conditions to receive the Great Promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are:
1. Receive Holy Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays of the month (this assumes that the person is in a state of grace, having made a sacramental confession for any mortal sins prior to receiving communion).
2. Having the intention, at least implicitly, of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all the sinfulness and ingratitude of men.
Manhood of the Master-Day 26
Goffine’s Devout Instructions