This week we keep the Lenten Ember Days. The Ember Days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. They are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"). There are those who say that the word “ember” is a corruption of the Latin "tempora" from the title, but it is as likely that it comes from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle." As the year progresses and returns to its beginning, the ember days are part of the circle of the year. These days of prayer and fasting originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine with his arrival in the year 597.
These days are to be used to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us - for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it is a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.
Another important aspect of the Ember Days is for us to pray for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during these four periods of time throughout the year.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.