Many Catholics today have no idea what Ember Days are, while some older Catholics may still even remember them from their childhood. Many of us in traditional communities still observe and celebrate the Ember Days throughout the year. These are weeks where Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are days of fasting and abstinence required by Holy Mother Church. In 1969, the USCCB decided the United States didn’t need fasting and prayer, and not only removed the obligation to fast, but fully removed Ember Days from the church calendar.
The Ember Days are placed in very specific times throughout the year, four weeks to be exact. They fall in the weeks following the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia; Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.
Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost; are when the quarter holidays follow.
These each mark the beginning of a new season and we are called to reflect and thank God for his gifts of nature to us for the upcoming season.
These times were first chosen to combat the common practice of the Romans praying to pagan gods for bountiful harvests. The Ember Days were put in place to remind farmers of the Roman Empire that all nature is under the dominion of the One True God.
Traditionally, ordinations to the Holy priesthood and diaconate were only held within Ember Days, usually an Ember Saturday. Thus, all people attending the ordinations would offer their fasting for the newly ordained.
For those of us who attend the Traditional Latin Mass, we see the external celebration of Ember Days within the Mass and Divine Office. I invite all of you, whether Latin Mass goers or not, to observe and celebrate Ember Days with me this week: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, December 18th, 20th, and 21st