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:
- a good harvest (June),
- a good vintage (September),
- a good seeding in December.
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:
- after St. Lucy’s Feast Dec. 13,
- After Ash Wednesday,
- following Whitsunday, (Pentecost),
- and after Sept. 14, the Exaltation of the Cross.
The purpose 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.
In the Roman Missal, the Ember days, the Latin Mass has more readings called lessons that are from Scripture, in addition to the ordinary two readings: Ember Wednesday has three, Saturday, six, with seven on the Saturday in December. Included in some of these readings are the promises of a bountiful harvest for those who are faithful to God and serve Him.
In the New Missal, these Ember days have been completely removed by Bugnini, the Concilium and Pope Paul VI. I say that this is a sin of modernist, because no member of the Church, even as high as the pope, has the right to abrogate what was instituted by the Apostles.
But, for us traditional Catholics, let us take full advantage of these few days to pray, fast and abstain for the conversion of sinners, beginning with the pope, cardinals, bishops, religious, priests and laity. We participate in these days because we are asking God to do great things. We need great faith that He will work mightily.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday it is 2 small meals and 1 regular.
Wednesday and Saturday, only meat at the regular meal.
Friday no meat at all like all Fridays.
Oh yes, let us not forget, we are also praying for the forgiveness of our own sins and for our own conversions as well. We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics and to have these powerful leverages like Ember Days. Don’t forget there will be long readings on these days.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.