Ember Wednesday-fast day
Sirach, Chapter 33, Verse 1
No evil can harm the one who fears the LORD; through trials, again and again he is rescued.
Emmalon Davis, CCEL Staff Writer
First degree of love: wherein man loves God
for self's sake
Love is one of the four natural affections, which it is needless to name since everyone knows them. And because love is natural, it is only right to love the Author of nature first of all. Hence comes the first and great commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.' But nature is so frail and weak that necessity compels her to love herself first; and this is carnal love, wherewith man loves himself first and selfishly, as it is written, That was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual' (I Cor. 15.46). This is not as the precept ordains but as nature directs: No man ever yet hated his own flesh' (Eph. 5.29). But if, as is likely, this same love should grow excessive and, refusing to be contained within the restraining banks of necessity, should overflow into the fields of voluptuousness, then a command checks the flood, as if by a dike: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'. And this is right: for he who shares our nature should share our love, itself the fruit of nature. Wherefore if a man find it a burden, I will not say only to relieve his brother's needs, but to minister to his brother's pleasures, let him mortify those same affections in himself, lest he become a transgressor. He may cherish himself as tenderly as he chooses, if only he remembers to show the same indulgence to his neighbor. This is the curb of temperance imposed on thee, O man, by the law of life and conscience, lest thou shouldest follow thine own lusts to destruction, or become enslaved by those passions which are the enemies of thy true welfare. Far better divide thine enjoyments with thy neighbor than with these enemies. And if, after the counsel of the son of Sirach, thou goest not after thy desires but refrainest thyself from thine appetites (Ecclus. 18.30); if according to the apostolic precept having food and raiment thou art therewith content (I Tim. 6.8), then thou wilt find it easy to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, and to divide with thy neighbors what thou hast refused to thine own desires. That is a temperate and righteous love which practices self-denial in order to minister to a brother's necessity. So our selfish love grows truly social, when it includes our neighbors in its circle. But if thou art reduced to want by such benevolence, what then? What indeed, except to pray with all confidence unto Him who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not (James 1.5), who openeth His hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness (Ps. 145.16). For doubtless He that giveth to most men more than they need will not fail thee as to the necessaries of life, even as He hath promised: Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all those things shall be added unto you' (Luke 12.31). God freely promises all things needful to those who deny themselves for love of their neighbors; and to bear the yoke of modesty and sobriety, rather than to let sin reign in our mortal body (Rom. 6.12), that is indeed to seek the Kingdom of God and to implore His aid against the tyranny of sin. It is surely justice to share our natural gifts with those who share our nature. But if we are to love our neighbors as we ought, we must have regard to God also: for it is only in God that we can pay that debt of love aright. Now a man cannot love his neighbor in God, except he love God Himself; wherefore we must love God first, in order to love our neighbors in Him. This too, like all good things, is the Lord's doing, that we should love Him, for He hath endowed us with the possibility of love. He who created nature sustains it; nature is so constituted that its Maker is its protector for ever. Without Him nature could not have begun to be; without Him it could not subsist at all. That we might not be ignorant of this, or vainly attribute to ourselves the beneficence of our Creator, God has determined in the depths of His wise counsel that we should be subject to tribulations. So when man's strength fails and God comes to his aid, it is meet and right that man, rescued by God's hand, should glorify Him, as it is written, Call upon Me in the time of trouble; so will I hear thee, and thou shalt praise Me' (Ps. 50.15). In such wise man, animal and carnal by nature, and loving only himself, begins to love God by reason of that very self-love; since he learns that in God he can accomplish all things that are good, and that without God he can do nothing.
One question that comes up repeatedly is why are the Ember Days only Wednesday, Friday and Saturday? Is there any rhyme or reason to these days?
In the days of the early church, Mass was originally only on Sundays. Gradually other days were added, the development can be seen in connection with the Roman Station Churches, as I wrote about last year in Roman Pilgrimage: Station Churches. The Ember Days fall on the days that had assigned stational churches, originally Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Station churches for Thursdays were a much later addition and are not included in the Ember Days.
Unique Character of the Spring or Lent Ember Days
The Lent Ember Days were the last ones added to the liturgical calendar, and they have a slightly different character than the other three. Since the Lenten season already had fasting and abstinence, observing Ember Days in Lent only added a little extra in penance to the already formerly strict laws of Lent.
The focus of the Lenten Ember Days:
- Consecration of the New Season. The other Ember Days marked thanksgiving for different harvests, but the Lent Ember Days did not. Instead this was a time of consecrating the new spring to God and asking blessing on the upcoming growing season. This was also a time of thanksgiving for the gift of light. Instead of harvest offerings on Ember Wednesday, flowers were usually presented and blessed. The symbol of the Lenten Ember Days is the Paschal and baptismal candles. (I have not found any evidence, but I conjecture that perhaps the wax harvest from the honeybee might have been featured during these Lenten Ember Days? It would seem to be a logical connection.)
- Days of Spiritual Renewal. Holy Mother Church provides us so many opportunities to redirect, refresh and renew. The Lenten Ember Days blends with the season of Lent, providing reminders to continue and persevere in the spirit of conversion and penance.
- Praying for Priests. The Church no longer regularly ordains priests during the Quarterly Ember Days, but this is a special time, particularly Ember Saturday, to pray for priests and for seminarians, particularly the ones who are about to be ordained within the year.
- Reflecting the Spirit of the Season. Each set of Ember Days reflect the season of the Liturgical Year in which they occur. The Lenten season focuses on our conversion of our hearts, and also a focus on the supernatural life we receive at baptism, whether it be as a catechumen or a renewal of baptismal promises.
Wednesday in the First Week of Lent
EPISTLE, m. Kings xix. 3-8.
IN those days came Elias to Bersabee of Juda, and left his servant there, and he went forward one day s journey into the desert. And when lie was there, and sat under a junipertree, he requested for his soul that he might die, and said: It is enough for me, Lord, take away my soul: for I am no better than my fathers. And he cast himself down and slept in the shadow of the juniper-tree: and behold an angel of the Lord touched him and said to him: Arise and eat. He looked and behold there was at his head a hearth-cake, and a vessel of water: and he ate and drank, and he fell asleep again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said to him: Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go. And he arose, and ate, and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb.
GOSPEL. Matt. xii. 38-50.
At that time, some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Jesus, saying: Master, we would see a sign from Thee. Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so, shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: be cause they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas here. The queen of the south shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and behold a greater than Solomon here. And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seek ing rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So shall it be also to this wicked generation. As He was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold His Mother and His brethren stood without, seeking to speak to Him. And one said unto Him: Behold Thy Mother and Thy brethren stand without, seeking Thee. But He answering him that told Him, said: Who is My Mother, and who are My brethren? And stretching forth His hand towards His disciples, He said: Behold My Mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my father, that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.
Prayer. Mercifully hear our prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and against all our adversaries extend the right hand of Thy majesty. Amen.
What are the Ember-Days?
Days instituted to thank God, each season of the year, for the benefits received during that season, and to remind the faithful, each quarter of the year, of the duty of penance; also, to pray to God for deserving priests, for on those days the ordination of priests usually takes place. (Goffine’s Devout Instructions)
· The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost).
· The English title for these days, "Ember," is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the "Four Times" or "Four Seasons."
· The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.
· Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday were days of particularly devotion in the early church: Wednesday, as recalling the betrayal of our Lord, and Friday in memory of His Passion, Saturday was later added to these days of prayer and penance as a continuation of Friday, and as far back as the second century they were set apart as Stational days, that is as days of special religious service and fasting.
· The Ember Days, although the occasion of their institution is uncertain, are a reminder of these ancient days of devotion. Their purpose is to thank God for the fruits of the earth and other gifts of nature, to teach moderation in their use, and to assist the needy. From the time of Pope Gelasius in the fifth century it has been allowed to confer the diaconate and priesthood on the Saturdays of Ember weeks.
The Four Occurrences of Ember Days are as Follows:
· Winter: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy.
· Spring: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Ash Wednesday.
· Summer: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost.
· Fall: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of the Holy Cross.
Read: Pope Francis’s 2019 Message for Lent. . . .
Reflect “…we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.” (Pope Francis, Message for Lent, 2014)
Pray: Today is the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’s election as Supreme Pontiff. Take time to pray for him and to thank God for the gift of his papacy.
Act: Having read the pope’s Message for Lent 2019, take time to journal about what struck you most about his message.
Ember Day Prayers
Prayer: Antiphon: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for thee.
V. Lord, Thou has been our refuge. R. From generation to generation.
V. Lord, Thou has been our refuge. R. From generation to generation.
Let us Pray: Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that as year by year we devoutly keep these holy observances, we may be pleasing to Thee both in body and soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In Honor of Christ's Betrayal and Passion
O God, Who for the world's Redemption was pleased to be born, circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the kiss of traitor Judas, bound with chains, led like an innocent lamb to sacrifice, and shamefully presented before Annas, Caiphas, Pilate, and Herod, accused by false witnesses, beaten with whips, buffeted, insulted, spat upon, crowned with thorns, smitten with a reed, blindfolded, stripped of Thy garments, fastened with nails to the cross and lifted up on high, reputed among thieves, made to drink gall and vinegar and wounded by a lance; oh, by these most sacred sufferings, which, unworthy as I am, I thus commemorate, and by Thy holy cross and death, deliver me, Lord, from the pains of hell, and deign to lead me where Thou didst lead me where Thou didst lead the penitent thief, who was crucified by Thy side. Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, forever and ever. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc. five times.
Prayer for God's Blessing on our Labors
O Lord, graciously look down upon Thy servants and upon the work of their hands, and do Thou, Who givest food to every creature, bless and preserve the fruits of the earth, that the needy may be filled with good things and that all may praise the glory of Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Vocations to the Priesthood
Antiphon. Why stand ye all the day idle, go ye into my vineyard.
V. Ask the Lord of the harvest.
R. That He send laborers into His vineyard.
V. Ask the Lord of the harvest.
R. That He send laborers into His vineyard.
Let us Pray God, who willest not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live; grant, by the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin and of all saints, laborers for Thy Church, fellow laborers with Christ, to spend and consume themselves for souls. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer Source: Blessed Be God: A Complete Catholic Prayer Book by Charles J. Callan, OP, S.T.M, P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1961
Goffine’s Devout Instructions
Preparing for Battle
Know Your Commander and Comrades
Our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of hell and death, calls us to battle alongside Him against the Enemy so that we can have a share in His victory. To fight the good fight, however, we must know not only our adversary and his strategies; we must also know the comrades that our great Commander has given to us. Our comrades in arms are our Lady and the Saints. Just as Eve’s yes to the Enemy’s temptation brought death and the Devil’s domination into the world, so Mary’s yes to God opened the door for the ultimate victory of her Son over Satan. Whenever the Enemy’s assaults on us seem to multiply, we should call on Mary not just as our Blessed Mother, but as a mighty warrior before whom the demons tremble. St. Bonaventure once put it: “Men do not fear a powerful, hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.” We also have the aid of St. Michael and the Angels. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them” (Ps 34: 7). We also have our fellow Christians. We must not focus so much on heavenly warriors that we forget our earthly comrades-in-arms. Our brother and sister soldiers in the battles of this life need our support, and we need theirs. We should be praying daily with them and for them, spiritual soldiers “vigilant in all perseverance and supplication for all” our fellow combatants (Eph 6: 18). We should be offering them encouragement and counsel when we find them weary or confused, tempted by the Devil’s lies, accusations, doubts, enticements, and provocations. Roman soldiers were taught to fight alongside comrades with their backs toward one another. That way, as they battled the enemy, they were protecting one another’s backs. One man’s sword was another man’s shield. If they didn’t fight in this way, they were exposed to mortal danger. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Wherever a fellow soldier is vulnerable to the Enemy’s onslaught, we must make up the difference with the shield of our faith. This is one important reason why Our Lord established the Church. His grace to conquer the Enemy comes to us through her worship, her sacraments, and her teaching.
Manhood of the Master-Day 24
 On Loving God, Chap. VIII. St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Thigpen, Paul. Manual for Spiritual Warfare. TAN Books.