Ember Days Wed, Fri, Sat the 23, 25, 26 of September

Don’t forget, next week are the first Ember Days Wed, 23, Fri. 25, Sat. 26 for the Autumn season.

Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross).

The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales.

The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The “Liber Pontificalis” ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four.

This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week–these were formerly given only at Easter. Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan.

The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.

— Catholic Encyclopedia


You can learn more about ember days from fisheaters.com here.

7 Replies to “Ember Days Wed, Fri, Sat the 23, 25, 26 of September”

  1. Father, do the ember days start tomorrow? Both of my traditional calendars suggest they start a week from tomorrow.


  2. Padre,

    Thank you for this information. However, I looked at 2 calendars and they both state that Ember days are next week. Beginning Wednesday 9/23/15.

  3. Dear Fr.,

    My missal and calendar says the Ember days begin September 23. 25, and 26.

    God Bless

  4. I thought the September Ember Days came on the days following the first full week after the Exaltation of fhe Cross. Wouldn’t that make the Ember Days next week?

    1. Ember days in the fall are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of the Holy Cross. The Traditional day of the feast of the Holy Cross is on the 14th of September. The traditional calendar and the new calendar are different, and in some places, very different.

      Here are two different sources for you: Aquinas and more and Traditional Calendar

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