23 September 2022

Ember Days

A meditation on the Ember Days. Remember, today and tomorrow are days of fasting (if you're under 60) and partial abstinence (if you're seven or over).

From The Thinking Housewife
Yesterday was the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun is at its highest point directly above the equator, and the fall season, with its smoldering and melancholic beauty, begins in this part of the world. The liturgical calendar also assigns significance to the day. Wednesday, today and Saturday this week are all Ember Days on the traditional Catholic calendar, days of fast, prayer and almsgiving.
O Lord, may the remedies of Thy mercy uphold our weakness, we beseech Thee; and in pity renew our strength which by its nature is ever failing.
(From the Collect of the Mass for Ember Wednesday)
Did you know that the Japanese dish tempura comes from priests in Nagasaki, Japan who wanted new ways to eat vegetables and seafood on Ember Days? Read these and other details at Fish Eaters. (More here on appreciating the September Ember Days with your children.)
In the 13th century, Blessed Jacopo de Voragine gave eight reasons to fast on an Ember Day:
The seventh reason is because that March is reported to infancy, summer to youth, September to steadfast age and virtuous, and winter to ancienty or old age. We fast then in March that we may be in the infancy of innocency. In summer for to be young by virtue and constancy. In harvest that we may be ripe by attemperance. In winter that we may be ancient and old by prudence and honest life, or at least that we may be satisfied to God of that which in these four seasons we have offended him.
Another purpose of these days is to express gratitude to God for the gifts of nature. Do you ever meditate deeply on just how predictable and rhythmic the seasons are? It’s almost too much to absorb. Not once has fall failed to show up! Heck, not once has winter completely given way to summer! And scientists observe all this regularity and say it just happened by chance. Scientific nerds are obsessed with the physical details and fail to see … the forest. Peasants in the Middle Ages were not hounded by these powerful nerds who tell us that what we see before our very eyes is meaningless (despite its political significance). The scientific establishment has zero gratitude. It denies what we see — the spiritual undertones of every season, the artistic design, the masterful strokes of the masterful poet, composer and painter. When nature is its own god, there is no reason to be grateful to it. One appeases it with greater and greater sacrifices, but one cannot thank it. We need Ember Days more than ever.
The autumn season of shortening days and colorful, decaying vegetation truly is magnificent. Let it not be confined to the astronomical calendar alone. Let it smolder within. And as Robert Frost said, delay.
— by Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

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