embderThe Ember Days

Fast and pray. Learn moderation in your use of the goods of the Earth. Repent of sins against Creation. Help the poor. Work for justice.

Four times a year, the Church invites us to focus on God's revelation of his love through the natural Creation.  The four days are associated with the transitions of the natural seasons of the year.  The Ember Days are "the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of these days of fasting and abstinence, 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." Ember Days They were known in Latin as Jejunia Quattuor Temporum -- the fasts of the four times of the year..

The word "Ember" is derived from the Anglo Saxon word "ymbren", referring to a cycle of the year.  Embertide refers to the three days of fasting.    We speak of the Advent, Lenten, Whit, and Michaelmas embertides (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall).

A traditional English phrase to remember the dates is --

Holy Cross, Saint Lucy, Ash Wednesday, and Pentecost, are when the quarter holidays follow.

Or -- Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross.

The practice of fasting four times a year is rooted in the practice in ancient Israel of four annual fasts.

We received these observances as gifts from the ancient Romans, who held celebrations each year at the turning of the seasons.  As Christianity became the predominant religion, these pagan feasts were "baptized" as Christian festivals. The traditional observances included fasting and abstinence from meat, acts of charity towards the poor, and processions

Good ways to  observe these days are fasting, attendance at Mass, going to Confession, "half-abstinence" from meat (only once/day), and works of reparation, mercy, justice, and peace.  Depending on the weather, get outside and observe the glories of God's Creation with your own eyes!

You Tube Playlist for the Ember Days, curated by Bob Waldrop

Medieval Recipe for Ember Day Tart

Ember Days: What are they and where did they go?

The Glow of the Ember Days

A Modest Proposal to Pope Francis: Restore the Ember Days