We are one day late in publishing this post on the Ember Days of Lent. This year these days are: Wednesday 24th February, Friday 26th February, and Saturday 27th February.
The Church calls for Ember Days four times a year. They are tied to the Liturgical seasons, being: The Feast of St Lucy; Ash Wednesday –Lent; Pentecost and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Roodmas).
Ember days are observed by fasting to the extent that the total sum of food taken for the whole day equals one small meal, taken by one small meal with two smaller meals and no food between meals. Tea, coffee, wine and beer are allowed, (believe it or not).
The Ember days of Wednesday and Saturday are of partial abstinence – that is, a small amount of meat can be taken, but complete abstinence from meat is required on Ember Friday and, indeed, every Friday, both during Lent and generally.
The fasting can have beneficial results physically, but its purpose is spiritual:
- To give thanks and praise to God;
• To pray and fast for the conversion of sinners;
• To pray for priests and vocations;
• To petition God to do great things in the coming season;
• To pray for the forgiveness of our own sins and our own conversion.
Ember Friday in Lent
On the Friday in Ember Week the Station was always made in the Church of the Twelve Apostles, situated at the foot of the Quirinal, for the examination of candidates for ordination. Thus were the future priests and deacons put under the protection of the whole Apostolic College. This basilica, one of the oldest in Rome, was built shortly after the time of Constantine by Julius I., on the occasion of the translation of the bodies of the Apostles Philip and James the Less, which rested there. John III made of it a votive monument for the freeing of Rome from the Goths of Totila.
Addressing herself to the public penitents in the first centuries of Christianity, the Church told them by the mouth of Ezechiel that God was ready to forgive them because they repented (Epistle). Like the sick who assembled in the porches of the pond situated on the north of the Temple in Jerusalem they waited at the doors of the church, and on the great day of the Sabbath, which is the Feast of Easter, Jesus cured them, as He healed the paralytic spoken of in the Gospel.
Our souls, washed in the waters of baptism, but since fallen back into sin, must atone for their faults, and Jesus, through the instrumentality of His priests, will pardon them in the holy tribunal of Penance.
The excuse, “I have no man,” will not avail us, for if we remain stricken with the palsy of sin, it is because we do not have recourse to the ministry of priesthood, which is always at our disposal.
Ember Saturday in Lent
The Station for the Saturday of Ember Week is always at the great basilica erected by Constantine and rebuilt by the Popes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the hill of the Vatican on the spot where St. Peter died on the cross and where his body rests. Besides the Gospel is about the Transfiguration of which St. Peter was the chief witness.
It was in this basilica that ordinations took place, preceded, during the night, by twelve lessons of which we have a trace in those occurring in the Mass for to-day. The Introit verse alludes to this nocturnal vigil: “I have cried in the day and in the night before Thee.”
Like the Apostles selected to be present on Mount Thabor, at the manifestation of the divine life of Jesus (Gospel), the new Priests will ascend the steps of the altar to enter into communication with God. It is they who in His name will exhort us to prayer, to patience and to charity. If we abstain during Lent from even the appearance of evil, our souls and our bodies will be preserved unstained for the day of the eternal Pasch, when Christ (Epistle) will allow us to participate in the glory of His Transfiguration for all eternity.
Let us pray to God to fortify us with His blessing so that, during this Lent, we may never depart from His holy will.
[sources: Venite Prandete and Liturgia Latina blogspot]