By: Crystal Peccia

One of the perks of living in Colorado, is the changing of the seasons. There is nothing better than watching the seasons change and all that comes with it. During the winter season, the beauty of freshly fallen snow and the quiet, peaceful feeling makes for quite the scene. We move into spring from there and one of the things first noticed are the little flowers popping up everywhere. The snow gives way to new life. The subtle hues of the colors of the rainbow are everywhere, the warm air excites the mind, and we look forward to summer. Summer brings warm days and many outdoor activities. Gardens are in full bloom with comfortable evenings spent sitting on a front porch or lying in the cool grass daydreaming. Summer gives way to autumn, my personal favorite. The cool crisp days, a bountiful harvest, and the coming holidays spent with family and friends – there’s nothing better. The Church too thought of all this and gave us what are called “Ember Days.”

You may have noticed this on the 2021 OLMC calendars and thought, “What exactly are Ember Days?” Well, Ember Days are additional opportunities for sacrifice and spiritual growth throughout the year. They occur four times a year, one for each season. Ember Days are kept on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. They occur after Ash Wednesday (February 24th, 26th, and 27th), after Pentecost (May 26th, 28th, and 29th, after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 15th, 17th, and 18th), and after the Feast of St. Lucy (December 15th, 17th, and 18th this year). The term “Ember Days” comes from the Latin “Quatuor Tempora,” meaning four times. Ember Days are an ancient practice instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings received and to ask for additional blessings in the seasons to come. They are also intended to thank God for the gifts of nature and to teach us to use those gifts in moderation.

As my grandmother always said, “Everything in moderation.” They also remind us to help those in need. Ember Days originated from at least the fifth century and the modern format was arranged by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). The ordination of priests was also held on Saturdays during Ember weeks; however, that is not the case since the Second Vatican Council. The Church also instituted these days to sanctify the four seasons of the year. So, we should thank God during these days for the beauty of the seasons and remember all our Lord does and has done for us. Every moment of our day should be for the glory of God. Our thoughts, as often as we can throughout the day, should be on God and the beauty around us given by God our Father. Given all God does for us, what then can we do for Him? We can fast, pray, and be thankful. Ember days provide opportunities for this and are a great way to do that during the year.

Why Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays? These are particular days of devotion in the early Church. Wednesday recalls the our Lord’s betrayal by Judas. Friday is in memory of His Passion and Saturday is a continuation of Friday. These are days of penance and fasting. How we fast during Lent applies to the Ember Days as well.

So, why do we fast anyway? Well, we do that in expiation of our sins. Despite all that we see and hear now – that is, “do what makes you feel good” – Christ’s teachings are clear. When the Pharisees complained that the Apostles were not fasting, Jesus said they were not because He was with them, but that they would fast once He was gone (Matthew 2: 18). Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Let us exhibit ourselves as servants of God, in patience, in fastings” (2 Corinthians 6: 4). In other words, I indulged my senses at the expense of God’s law; I will therefore now mortify them at the expense of my own comfort. Ember Days allow us the opportunity to show God how much we love Him. God has not changed; however, the world has. We should not change with the world, but stay close to God.

Since Vatican II, Ember Days, along with other devotions, are not officially observed; however they are still encouraged by the Church. There is absolutely no reason not to observe Ember Days because any assistance we can get that will bring us closer to God should be pursued. God does not abandon us so we MUST not abandon Him. Lent began on Ash Wednesday and what a great time to ask God to be with us and to forgive what we have done to offend Him. We can show our love for God and our sadness over hurting Him by participating in the Ember Days. Below are some prayers that can be said. The spring Ember Days are coming up this week, on February 24th, 26th, and 27th. These are days of fasting and abstinence, allowing one full meal, with meat at the principal meal only, except on Fridays where complete abstinence is required.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He has done for you.
V. Lord, You have been our refuge.
R. From generation to generation.

Grant, we beseech You, almighty God, that as year by year we devoutly keep these holy observances, we may be pleasing to You both in body and soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, Who for the world’s redemption was pleased to be born, circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the kiss of the traitor Judas, bound with chains, led like an innocent lamb to sacrifice, and shamefully presented before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, accused by false witnesses, beaten with whips, buffeted, insulted, spat upon, crowned with thorns, smitten with a reed, blindfolded, stripped of Your garments, fastened with nails to the cross, and lifted up on high, reputed among thieves, made to drink gall and vinegar, and wounded by a lance; oh, by these most sacred sufferings, which, unworthy as I am, I thus commemorate, and by Your holy cross and death, deliver me, Lord, from the pains of hell, and deign to lead me where You did lead the penitent thief, who was crucified by Your side. Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns, forever and ever. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be x5 (Indulgence of 3 years)