“Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood and Lucie.”
-old English rhyme
We often find Ember Weeks and Days to be rarely celebrated or discussed amongst Anglicans, except maybe by seminarians who are reminded to write to their bishop this week. Yet Ember Days are dutifully noted, four times a year, on our Episcopal liturgical desk calendars from Church Publishing. What gives?
Ember Days have a spotty historical origin. They seem to have been established to settle a conflict between the ancient pagan practices of celebrating the seasons of the year, and the interests of the Church in Rome to garner support and instill traditions of fasting and prayer to Jesus Christ. It’s all speculative history, mildly interesting, and you can read more about it here. But what is compelling is the purposes for which Ember Days remain in our calendar. They mark the ebb and flow of the seasons with a pause for gratitude to God – not just the transition from spring and summer’s bounty to autumn’s harvest and winter’s rest – but from our birth in baptism, to life in the Eucharist, to anointing and death. (As the photo above illustrates.) Clergy are often ordained during Ember Weeks, to serve as the stewards of these sacramental mysteries. Priests and deacons are charged to connect the people from things temporal to things eternal, and by that same token, Ember Days allow us all to remember that we live by a different calendar in the Christian Church than the rest of the world. As Christ’s own, we celebrate Ember Days as a seasonal pause for thanksgiving for God’s gifts, whatever they may be.
Sed Angli is four years old this week. It is therefore in the spirit of this Ember Week that we pause to mark the changing season and celebrate. We give thanks to God for His abundant blessings in each of our lives, for the opportunity to publish our thoughts and opinions on our beloved Church, and for readers who engage with us in thoughtful dialogue. We pray for the decently habited clerics in their charge to orient the people to the Kingdom of God. We also pray for the indecent, the un-habited, and the disoriented souls who might find a home in the Church we love so much. We ask for God’s blessing on what we offer in this space, and pray that we might, for many years to come, continue to worship Him in the beauty of holiness.