St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect for all Christians in their vocations:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Today is the first Ember Day for Advent. What is Ember Day?
I remember when I was first in process, I remember when my presenting priest asked me, “Have you sent in your Ember Day letter?” My response: “What’s that? And what’s Ember Day?” Well, it is mostly something that is the focuse of those seeking ordination, but in the busy-ness of the season, I thought I would touch base with you about some neat parts of the Church calendar.
Here is what I found:
Three days which occur four times a year: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy's Day (Dec. 13), Ash Wednesday, the Day of Pentecost, and Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14). The name comes from the Latin title Quattuor tempora, meaning "four times." Or from the ancient Anglo-Saxon ymbra meaning cycle. I will share another idea at the end. In ancient Italy the times (originally three) were associated with sowing, harvest, and vintage, for which one prayed, fasted, and gave alms. Later the four times became occasions for ordination, for which the Christian community prayed and the candidates prepared themselves by prayer and retreat. The BCP appoints proper collects and readings for this observance under the title "For the Ministry (Ember Days), including propers "For those to be ordained," "For the choice of fit persons for the ministry," and "For all Christians in their vocation" (BCP, pp. 256-257, 929).
Ember Days and Ember Weeks, in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, four “times” set apart for special prayer and fasting and for ordination of the clergy. The Ember Weeks are the complete weeks following (1) Holy Cross Day (September 14); (2) the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13); (3) the first Sunday in Lent; and (4) Pentecost (Whitsunday). The current practice is to compute the Ember Days directly as the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the third Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of Lent, Pentecost Sunday, and the third Sunday of September.
The exact origin of the Ember seasons is uncertain. In the early church, they were limited to three and may have been the Christian transformation of pagan festivals. From Rome the observance of the Ember Weeks and Days gradually spread throughout the Western church. On February 17, 1966, Pope Paul VI excluded the Ember Days from the church year as formal days of fasting and abstinence for Roman Catholics.
So was it four seasons in Latin, or cycle in Anglo-Saxon? Here is another idea from Pamela Dolan:
“In the famous vision found in chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah the prophet encounters God on his throne, attended by seraphim. He is filled with dread until
one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’The live coal that touches Isaiah's lips--might an "ember" be a faint reminder of that? I certainly look forward to future Ember Days, and the opportunities they provide to pause and reflect on where and how (and in whom) I am seeing God, on what areas of my life need some cleansing and refining fire (in other words what are the sins that need to be "blotted out" through confession and absolution), and finally on how faithfully I am answering God's call to me.” source