In a previous article, I talked about Ember Days. To recap: these were quarterly times of penance and fasting that coincided with the seasons. Once a season, on a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, the Church took the time to thank God for the bounty of nature. It was also customary to confer the priesthood and diaconate on Ember Saturdays.
We are privileged to have Ember Days that fall in Advent. They are on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy’s Feast Day, which is December 13. That means, this year (2017), our Ember Days fall on December 20, 22, and 23.
Stations of Advent
The Ember Days are what are known as “station days”. These were special days where people processed to a particular church in Rome. It started as an early Church practice of visiting the tombs of martyrs and celebrating Mass at those sites. The practice of station days started in the season of Lent before extending beyond that and being incorporated into different parts of the calendar.
(For more information, read the entry in the New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia.)
The station churches for Ember Days each season. Wednesdays are “Mary’s Day”, with the station occurring at St. Mary Major. The station church on Friday is the Basilica of the Apostles and on Saturday, it’s St. Peter’s.
Advent Ember Days
To celebrate the Ember Days, fasting and partial abstinence is to be observed. Following the current guidelines on fasting (one meal and two snacks if necessary) is sufficient.
The Introit for the Ember Wednesday Mass (according to the 1962 Missal) is the following:
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the work of His hands.
It’s fitting, then, that a series of days meant to thank God for creation should use natural imagery to turn our attention to the Savior of the World.
Advent is supposed to be a time of penance. However, it’s easy to lose sight of that because of commercialism that begins celebrating Christmas earlier each year. Advent, though, is a time to take stock of our spiritual lives. When the world is out buying more things, either to keep or to give, we Catholics need to take advantage of a season where we must ask if we’ve become too attached to the world.