Oh, Dearest Mother, Sweetest Virgin of Altagracia, our Patroness. You are our Advocate and to you we recommend our needs. You are our Teacher and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all of the love of our hearts. Receive, dearest Mother, our offerings and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen.



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Mackfam
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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 4:34pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

My dd and I have been thinking of ways to observe the Ember Days of the Church more - ways to incorporate them into our observance of the seasons. They were originally intended to sanctify the seasons.

From "A Continual Feast" by Evelyn Birge Vitz:
A Continual Feast wrote:
Ember Days occur in the Catholic tradition four times a year, at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year. (The word "Ember" apparently derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "circuit".) They are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the Feast of St. Lucy (for winter); following the first Sunday of Lent (for spring); following Pentecost (for summer); and following the Feast of the Holy Cross (for fall).

These three days are set apart for some degree of fasting or abstinence from meat, and for prayer, to sanctify each of the seasons. Ember days have been observed since ancient times; we know they were already customary of the time of St. Augustine (AD 354-430), and it is said that they go back to the time of the Apostles. They may well in fact derive from the Jewish tradition, in which there were four yearly fast periods.


The next Ember Day will be this September 24 to sanctify the season of Autumn (hands down...my favorite season of the year!!! ).

Aside from fasting on an Ember Day, do you do anything else to prepare the Domestic Church for the upcoming season on Ember Days? Do you refresh your seasonal displays and tables? How else do you fast and sanctify the seasons on this day in your family?

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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 6:07pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

Mackfam wrote:

The next Ember Day will be this September 24


Correcting myself...the ember days are three days set aside for prayer and fasting at the beginning of the seasons - Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

I found a very helpful and lovely description of Ember Days here at Catholic Culture listing of Feasts for September - scroll down to Month of the Harvest for a lovely description (written by our own JennGM )

Jenn points out that after the reorganization of the Roman Calendar in 1969 Ember days and their observance was left to individual ordinaries and was no longer listed on the calendar...

Anyway, in my digging I find references to many traditions and folklores surrounding Ember Days and their observance, but no specifics - other than prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and specific Mass readings (prior to 1969).

I'm looking for ways to make the observance of these days meaningful within the home - some practical to go along with the prayer.


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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 7:50pm | IP Logged Quote LeeAnn

Jennifer, elsewhere (in Joanna Bogle's book? or was it the Catholic Culture website?) I've read that Ember Days is named for the embers or ashes strewn on the fields and perhaps a blessing of the farms and such during the different agricultural seasons.

It would be nice if we could find some info about some remote village that still observes these days to see what could be adapted for American suburbia. :)

It's interesting, I've been drawn to the tradition of Ember Days this year too...trying to figure it out and observe them in some way.


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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 8:57pm | IP Logged Quote JennGM

I'm having deja vu on this post. I think when it was discussed in May I started to write something and never got to finish!

There was an earlier thread Ember Days, also.

I've always found this site so helpful: Ember Days, Rogations Days, and Station Churches.

I also posted F. X. Weiser's whole whole chapter on Ember Days

See also Old Farmer's Almanac

Catholic Encyclopedia

I have some other notes, and found some great quotes and thoughts I want to share, so I hope I can back...but this is to whet your whistle.

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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 9:24pm | IP Logged Quote JodieLyn

Ok.. I know you said you were correcting yourself Jennifer.. but

the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday folowing the Feast of the Holy Cross would be this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday right? the 17, 19 and 20.. as in starting TOMORROW??

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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 9:58pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

Well...yes, but it's confusing to me. Since the revision of the calendar, most liturgical calendars don't even list ember days. However, in some searching I found the Farmer's Almanac lists this years fall ember days as the 17, 19 and 20th...so that's tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, and that makes sense based on the formula I listed above.

However, I also have a traditional liturgical calendar (for those following the latin rite) and it lists the ember days as:
Quote:
the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the First Sunday in Lent and after Pentecost Sunday, during the third full week of September and after the Third Sunday of Advent.


...so...my calendar has the fall Ember Days as the 24, 26 and 27.



I can't wait to read through all the links you provided, Jenn. I confess... ...I didn't search before I posted my question. My dd was so excited to ask you all for ideas and insight we just posted in glee.    We have much to read tomorrow.

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Posted: Sept 16 2008 at 10:31pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

JennGM wrote:

I also posted F. X. Weiser's whole whole chapter on Ember Days


I had seen most of the links you posted Jenn, but this chapter by Fr. Weiser was new to me, and so extraordinary!

I can't wait to hear your other thoughts!

Isn't this great, LeeAnn?!

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Posted: Sept 17 2008 at 1:56am | IP Logged Quote LeeAnn

Yeah, I'm happily working through those links. Thanks, Jenn! I think generally I am wanting to work on developing fasting & penances into regular habits this year. Ember Days seems like an interesting way to begin.

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Posted: Sept 17 2008 at 2:46am | IP Logged Quote MaryM

I found this explanation on wiki - which isn't always totally accurate - but this really makes sense and seems correct, from some other pieces of information I've been putting together tonight.

The ember days, still observed by Traditional Roman Catholics who use pre-1969 liturgical calendars, began on the Wednesday immediately following those days. This meant, for instance, that if September 14 were a Tuesday, the ember days would occur on September 15, 17, and 18. As a result the ember days in September could fall after either the second or third Sunday in September. This, however, was always the liturgical Third Week of September, since the First Sunday of September was the Sunday closest to September 1st (August 29 to September 4). As a simplification of the liturgical calendar, Pope John XXIII modified this so that the Third Sunday was the third Sunday actually within the calendar month. Thus if September 14 were a Sunday, September 24, 26 and 27 would be ember days, the latest dates possible; with September 14 as a Saturday, however, the ember days would occur on September 18, 20 and 21 - the earliest possible dates.

It's funny because they give one of the examples of Triumph of the Cross falling on a Sunday (as it did this year) so we now have the specific dates.

So it looks like the ember days will be next week (September 24, 26 and 27), and I have to tell you I am super excited about those dates.   In reading these and other links I see that one of the elements of the Ember weeks that has been stressed in recent centuries is as a time of special prayer on the part of the faithful for vocations to priesthood and for the sanctification of priests. It is a traditional time for ordinations.

I never realized it, but I see that our diocese does follow that. The ordination for the transitional diaconate for our diocese will be on Saturday, Sept. 27. One of the seminarians being ordained a deacon is a friend to our family and we will be attending. We will be observing the Saturday Ember day in that way - which I find very exciting. Check your diocese, maybe there are ordinations that week.


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Posted: Sept 17 2008 at 8:15pm | IP Logged Quote JennGM

MaryM wrote:
I found this explanation on wiki - which isn't always totally accurate - but this really makes sense and seems correct, from some other pieces of information I've been putting together tonight.

The ember days, still observed by Traditional Roman Catholics who use pre-1969 liturgical calendars, began on the Wednesday immediately following those days. This meant, for instance, that if September 14 were a Tuesday, the ember days would occur on September 15, 17, and 18. As a result the ember days in September could fall after either the second or third Sunday in September. This, however, was always the liturgical Third Week of September, since the First Sunday of September was the Sunday closest to September 1st (August 29 to September 4). As a simplification of the liturgical calendar, Pope John XXIII modified this so that the Third Sunday was the third Sunday actually within the calendar month. Thus if September 14 were a Sunday, September 24, 26 and 27 would be ember days, the latest dates possible; with September 14 as a Saturday, however, the ember days would occur on September 18, 20 and 21 - the earliest possible dates.

It's funny because they give one of the examples of Triumph of the Cross falling on a Sunday (as it did this year) so we now have the specific dates.

So it looks like the ember days will be next week (September 24, 26 and 27), and I have to tell you I am super excited about those dates.   In reading these and other links I see that one of the elements of the Ember weeks that has been stressed in recent centuries is as a time of special prayer on the part of the faithful for vocations to priesthood and for the sanctification of priests. It is a traditional time for ordinations.

I never realized it, but I see that our diocese does follow that. The ordination for the transitional diaconate for our diocese will be on Saturday, Sept. 27. One of the seminarians being ordained a deacon is a friend to our family and we will be attending. We will be observing the Saturday Ember day in that way - which I find very exciting. Check your diocese, maybe there are ordinations that week.


So cool, Mary! I'm glad I have another week, too!
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Posted: Sept 17 2008 at 9:39pm | IP Logged Quote SusanJ

Oh, phew. We committed last winter to observing the Ember Days this year and halfway through this day--after we'd eaten chicken for lunch and made plans to get pizza out for dinner I opened my calendar and saw that I'd written "Ember Day" because I just stuck it in after Triumph of the Cross. So glad we have a chance to try again next week to get it right!

We have only incorporated fasting so far but I'm looking for other traditions as well.

Susan

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Posted: Sept 18 2008 at 4:00am | IP Logged Quote Carole N.

This is truly exciting! We are going to the Cathedral on the 27th for an ordination to the diaconate as well. How cool is it that this is an Ember Saturday.

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Posted: Sept 19 2008 at 7:27pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

Just coming back to thank all of you for the ideas for Ember Days upcoming.

I make no secret that Autumn is my favorite season of the year. Here are some things we're planning to do in our domestic church to prepare for the autumnal season...we plan on accomplishing these preparatory tasks during the Ember days set aside next week...

1. Fasting and days of prayer -

**Wednesday** prayers and fasting offered for all those farmers that so faithfully labor on our behalf
**Friday** prayers and fasting for an increase of vocations to the priesthood
**Saturday** prayers and fasting for all those men being ordained as well as asking Our Lady to watch over and protect her sons that they may be faithful to their vows.

2. Seasonal preparations -

**Look ahead to the liturgical year in the fall - make plans for Feast Day celebrations and any "Feasting" menus. Make notes on calendars and add special ingredients to appropriate weekly shopping lists.
**Freshen seasonal display and set out fall colors around the home.
**Big bonfire Saturday night in the back to burn the brush that has been piling up all summer.
**Fall cleaning - wash windows, dust cobwebs off front porch and deck, thorough house dusting, tidy the pantry and cupboards.
**Set out fall tea set - polish
**Get down-comforters out and hang on the line to freshen.
**Tidy the big freezer and check inventory - make plans for special meals (outside of my normal menu) in the fall and note on weekly menus.
**Check on supplies for making spiced tea and add necessary missing items to shopping list.

I might come up with more to add to my seasonal preparations, but for now this is it. I love the idea of tying my seasonal home-making to the naturally existing and centuries old rhythm of the Church.

Incidentally, if you're wondering when the Ember Days for winter will be this year, they are December 17, 19 and 20 - during the 3rd week of Advent.

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Posted: Sept 19 2008 at 8:41pm | IP Logged Quote JennGM

Beautiful, Jennifer! I can't add to your wonderful plans, but I've been working on posting more as I've been finding out more on our beautiful ember days.

If you can get your hands on the 5 volume set, Pius Parsch's Year of Grace is a wonderful resource on understanding the liturgy. I'm in between tasks right now, but I thought I would share just a few thoughts on what he said about the spirit of the days, and specific focus of the days. Excuse me if some of it repeats...

There are sermons from Pope Leo I (c. 450) that show the established ember days. You can find the sermons in this link, although you'll have to dig a bit. The description:
Quote:
Leo's 97 preserved sermons are divided according to the Roman liturgical year of his time. They include 10 on Christmas, 8 for Epiphany, 2 for Easter, 2 for the Ascension, 3 for Pentecost, 12 for Lent, 19 for Holy Week, 4 for the ember days of Pentecost, 9 for the ember days of September, 9 for the ember days of December, and 6 for the so-called collects, plus sermons for the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Lawrence, the Maccabees, and for his ordination and anniversary. LNPF II includes 48 sermons.


I love the explanation that Pius Parsch explains about these days of fasting:

Quote:
Originally the Ember Days were an occasion of thanksgiving for the three great harvests of wheat, grapes, and olives -- all very meaningful nature symbols employed by the liturgy. In the Offertory procession the faithful brought tithes of the harvest to be used for the offering then and there, for the support of the Church, and for the poor.

These days also stress spiritual renewal. In the bustle of business and work, we too easily forget our future status. Therefore, during these four times of the year we should concentrate on God and scrutinize our spiritual condition. Lent is our annual retreat, while the Ember Days serve as quarterly check-ups. A grave and earnest mood comes over Mother Church, but there are no tears or mourning. Feasting is not so much an expression of penitence and sorrow as a joyous tithe to God, and an incentive to almsgiving. (Vol I)


Quote:
Ember week is a recognized time for spiritual renewal, an occasion to review the past as well as to scan the future.... Gratitude, not penance, should be the dominant Ember spirit. Even fasting can be an act of thanksgiving! Let us stress positive rather than negative values in our Christian life, cultivate the consciousness of being God's holy children rather than feel ourselves as outcasts and sinners.

Wednesday of Ember week is dedicated to Mary, it is a day of interior recollection. Friday is devoted to penance, while Saturday lays greatest stress on thanksgiving. Make a summary review today of the past quarter year. (Vol. 3)


Quote:
We may accordingly characterize Ember Friday's liturgy as "joy in penance!" (Vol 5)


Quote:
As we learned in Advent, the stational service on the four Ember Fridays has taken place since very ancient times in the basilica of the Twelve Apostles. Grisar supposes that this church was Rome's official penance or reconciliation church....

Today the Church preaches penance in various ways. The twelve apostles stand before us. They too are penance preachers, especially the first two: Peter, down whose cheeks fell tears of remorse for his denial, and Paul, who is a model for faithfulness after conversion. In the station church rest the bodies of Philip and James. James the Less was a man devoted to prayer and fasting. It would be quite in order, then, to observe the present Ember Friday as a day of penance for the past quarter year. (Vol. 2)


Quote:
No longer are we able to sense fully the uplifting nature of the Ember day service in the ancient Church. After fasting the entire day the Christians would assemble at St. Peter's grave, spend the whole night in prayer, reading, and song, and celebrate the Eucharist early Sunday morning. At this service priests were ordained. The brightly lit church in the darkness of the night, the large number of assembled people, the clergy gathered in full strength around the Pope, the heavenly singing of the choir, the fragrant clouds of incense about Peter's grave -- all this formed a solemn setting for the Ember liturgy.

Ember Saturday is the official thanksgiving day for benefits received during the past quarter year. It is likewise the day for renewing our covenant with God. St. Leo the Great brought many of his Ember homilies to a conclusion with the words: "Let us fast on Wednesday and Friday, and celebrate the vigil on Saturday at the (grave of) the holy apostle Peter." (Vol 2)


Quote:
Ember Saturday is the official thanksgiving day for all the blessings of the past quarter-year... In ancient times today's Mass served as a thanksgiving sacrifice and as a renewal of the Christian covenant with God. The text presumes that the Ember days are the Christian counterpart to the Old Testament feasts of Atonement and Tabernacles, highlighting penance and gratitude respectively. (Vol. 5)


Note he says that Ember Wednesdays are dedicated to Mary; they are always "Mary's Day". All 4 ember Wednesdays were celebrated in the station church St. Mary Major. Wednesday, devoted to our Lady, is a day of reflection and spiritual orientation.

All 4 Ember Fridays take place in the stational church of the basilica of the Apostles. I like how Father Parsch puts it: "Ember Friday is the liturgy's 'Yom Kippur.'" Friday emphasizes conversion and penance.

All the Ember Saturdays take place in the stational church of St. Peter. Saturday is a preview of Easter, and it marks the renewal of our baptismal covenant.

I have a wonderful graphic and explanation that shows the difference of the different ember days of the seasons that I'll try to post before Wednesday. But for now I need to go mop my kitchen floor!

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Posted: Sept 19 2008 at 8:54pm | IP Logged Quote JennGM

Oh, and I put up two more pages on Ember and Rogation Days. I had these from last discussion and never posted them!

Ember Days

Ember and Rogation Days from Handbook for Teachers of Religion in Grades 6, 7, 8 by Ellamay Horan

Ember and Rogation Days by Adolf Adam from From The Liturgical Year: its history & its meaning after the reform of the liturgy


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Posted: Sept 19 2008 at 10:16pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

Jenn - those are wonderful and they helped me tremendously in understanding the traditional purpose Mother Church set aside for the Ember Days.

So...edited my goals to reflect the original focus of the days...

1. Fasting and days of prayer -

**Wednesday** Dedicated to Mary - prayers (Rosary) and fasting offered for all those farmers that so faithfully labor on our behalf as well as thanksgiving for the harvest. Alms offered (tbd by dad)

**Friday** Dedicated to a thorough examination of conscience and penance (confession if available) - prayers (Rosary) and fasting for an increase of vocations to the priesthood

**Saturday** Dedicated to thanksgiving - prayers (Rosary) and fasting for all those men being ordained as well as asking Our Lady to watch over and protect her sons that they may be faithful to their vows. Offer prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest of the past season, as well as prayers of thanksgiving for the newly ordained.


I have a question after some digging - some dots I'm connecting, but I still am uncertain about one thing.

Most agree that Ember Days were to be a time of thanksgiving for the harvest of wheat, grapes, and olives.

Here's what I've found and have managed to put together...

**wheat....grain....harvest
**grapes...wine.....vintage
**olives...oil......sowing

What I can't figure out is if one season was focused on one thing at a time, so in fall did the thanksgiving focus on only wheat or only grapes, **or** did thanksgiving focus on all 3 during each set of Ember days. If the latter is the case, would it be more appropriate to fast from the wheat, grapes and olives during the Ember fast, or would it be more in the spirit of thanksgiving to allow the fast to include a modest representative from each category as the main sustenance during the fast. ???? Just thinking out loud here mainly. Any ideas?

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Posted: Sept 19 2008 at 10:26pm | IP Logged Quote JennGM

Mackfam wrote:
Here's what I've found and have managed to put together...

**wheat....grain....harvest
**grapes...wine.....vintage
**olives...oil......sowing

What I can't figure out is if one season was focused on one thing at a time, so in fall did the thanksgiving focus on only wheat or only grapes, **or** did thanksgiving focus on all 3 during each set of Ember days. If the latter is the case, would it be more appropriate to fast from the wheat, grapes and olives during the Ember fast, or would it be more in the spirit of thanksgiving to allow the fast to include a modest representative from each category as the main sustenance during the fast. ???? Just thinking out loud here mainly. Any ideas?


Yes, I've got some ideas and some answers. I had some other sources I pulled that explained the origin and how each season reflected a bit differently but all three harvests. I've got a birthday party tomorrow, but I do promise to come back and give a more complete answer.

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Posted: Sept 21 2008 at 10:48pm | IP Logged Quote Mackfam

I posted a collection of all the useful information shared here on this thread on my blog...Ember Days and Seasonal Thanksgiving.

I did discover the same thing you did, Jenn...

Quote:
Because the Ember days were originally instituted to sanctify pagan practices of worship, Mother Church in her wisdom took what was good from those practices and left the rest. The end result being that each season was focused on asking God's help for the particular seasonal bounties...

    Ember Days in summer for a bountiful harvest - harvest, wheat, grain
    Ember Days in fall for a rich vintage - vintage, grapes, wine
    Ember Days in winter for the seeding - sowing, olives, oil

You'll notice that there are only 3 seasons mentioned. There is some question as to when the fourth season came in to regular observance, but somewhere along the way all four seasons were observed and sanctified through the Church (Pope Gelasius I mentions all four - 492 - 496 AD). The focus for the spring Ember Days was then set...

    Ember Days in spring to give thanks for the rebirth of nature and the gift of light


That was the last real piece of the puzzle for me, but I will enjoy digging more into this in the future. I especially enjoy hearing how earlier Christians celebrated these days.

Thank you all so much for the help in fleshing out this beautiful time set aside in the Church year. And thank you so much Jenn for sharing your wealth of information on the liturgical year - they are treasures and I'm very grateful you shared!

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Posted: Sept 22 2008 at 4:30am | IP Logged Quote MaryM

Thank you for compiling everything, ladies. Jennifer I really appreciate the goals you shared. We are going to use those as well.

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Mary M. in Denver

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MaryM
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Joined: Feb 11 2005
Location: Colorado
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Posts: 13104
Posted: Sept 22 2008 at 12:29pm | IP Logged Quote MaryM

On that Old Farmers Almanac site Jenn listed above, one of the folklore pieces they discuss is:

"Folklore has it that the weather on each of the three days foretells the weather for three successive months; that is, for Septemberís Ember Days, Wednesday forecasts weather for October, Friday for November, and Saturday for December."

That would be an interesting little experiment, to log the weather for those days and see if it corresponds at all to the upcoming 3 months.

Mackfam wrote:
**Saturday** prayers and fasting for all those men being ordained as well as asking Our Lady to watch over and protect her sons that they may be faithful to their vows.


And if anyone would like to have any specific names to add to this prayer request, please pray for our friend, Mauricio.

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Mary M. in Denver

Our Domestic Church
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