The Ember Days recall an age when the rhythms of human life were still bound to the changing of the seasons. A corruption of the Latin Quatuor Tempora (“Four Times”), the Ember Days were an attempt by the ancient Church to preserve and sanctify the pagans’ observation of equinoxes and solstices. Our predecessors in the faith marked the cycles of Creation with fasting, prayer and acts of charity – giving thanks to “the Lord of the Harvest”, as Jesus called his Father.
The Ember Days are seldom marked by Catholics today, when every fruit and vegetable is available in the supermarket all year round…
We mentioned Bishop Zubik in the preceding Ember Days post; Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, also has an excellent letter in his Diocesan newspaper. Bishop Morlino is an excellent teacher; he explains succinctly what reparation is (and why it is a worthy act even by those not guilty of a particular sin), gives a very concise history of Ember Days (between the intro to the Catholic herald piece and Bishop Morlino’s paragraph, one can get a good outline of what Ember Days were), what the traditional dates are, and how one should do reparation, should one so choose.
The Ember Days came to be celebrated rather vigorously in the Church. In the reform of the liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the Church retained the days but left the actual selection of the days to the various bishops’ conferences (because days tied to the seasons will not be the same in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, among other reasons).
The United States bishops never selected particular dates, but the generally accepted dates are noted below. While the bishops never selected days, some Catholics have maintained the practice on a personal level.
When are the Ember Days?
The traditional celebrations of Ember Days loosely correspond to the seasons of the year. They occur on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following certain liturgical feasts. These are noted below:
After Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)
September 19, 21, 22, 2018
After Feast of St. Lucy (December 13)
December 19, 21, 22, 2018
After First Sunday of Lent
March 13, 15, 16, 2019
June 12, 14, 15, 2019
…This is entirely voluntary and is not a requirement of the Church or diocese (of Madison, or any other Diocese, for that matter – TC). It is an option for us all to offer our entire being to God in reparation of sin.
There it is.
Curate, ut valeatis.