Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Ember Wednesday

Catholic Groundhog Days!

Did you know that it is a Catholic custom to predict the weather with these Ember Days? The weather today foretells the weather of January, the weather Friday foretells February, and Saturday foretells March. We're going to mark the weather today on the calendar to see if it comes true.

The Ember Days are one of those mysterious customs of the Church that are hard to appreciate. For a long time, I just thought they were a nuisance. For one thing, I always seem to miss them. I know that they're due to come up every season of the year, but there's little fanfare about their iminent approach, save Father's reminder the previous Sunday morning. By the time Wednesday comes along, it has just slipped right out of my mind! And fast and abstinence can be such a bother. No, more than that; let's face it ~ it's a pain. But, the more I have come to understand, not only the origin and use of these days, but their application to our health and the universal good of the discipline, the more I've come to appreciate the wisdom of the Church.

First of all, it's good during Ember Week to be shaken out of my stupor and forced to focus on heavenly things. Heaven knows, there's nothing like being deprived of food to get my attention. And, as good as it is for our souls to offer the sacrifice of fast and abstinence, we've learned that both are equally good for our physical well-being! Among other benefits, fasting gives our bodies the chance to rest and repair without the hard work of digesting, and I'm sure we've all heard the benefits of abstaining from meat ~ or at least cutting back on our consumption
But, even if we can't appreciate the invisible benefits to body and soul, we can soothe our hunger with the interior joy of doing good for others. Did you know that the flipside of our deprivation is the custom of almsgiving during Ember Week? In times past, the poor depended upon this quarterly observation to remind the faithful of their charitable responsiblity to those less fortunate.

One of the chief devotions of thse days is also to give thanksgiving to God for the blessings of nature. A nature walk to drink in the beauty of this winter season is a good idea during Ember Week, but these seasonal feasts are good times, as well, to remember our spiritual ( not political) responsibility to care prudently for the good earth that God has given us.
These days have also been traditionally used to pray for priests and vocations and for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, as well as for mothers to pray for their children and for safe deliveries. So, all you expectant moms out there ~ these days are for you! Most especially, as we remember Our Blessed Mother, nine months pregnant, now on her way to Bethlehem, it's an easy, happy thought to pray for all the mothers soon to give birth. We might also offer our prayers and sacrifices for the unborn who are so tragically vulnerable in our day.

That's well worth a little tummy grumbling!

There's nothing like a little fast and abstinence, too, to give us practice in the fine art of self control. Our world has been so overtaken with the priority of self gratification, that many have lost the capacity to "tighten their belts" in times of necessity. We don't have to look far to find the many sad results of a society that has not learned self discipline. The fast and abstinence of the Ember Days, and of Advent and Lent are meant to train us to have mastery over our bodies ~ and therefore our minds and souls as well. It truly is a good thing. Something our world could much benefit by practicing.

So, here are the fast and abstinence rules for the Ember Days in a nutshell: Today and Saturday, the fast requires us to eat one main meal, at which meat may be served, and two smaller meatless meals that, together, do not exceed the size of the main meal. On Friday there is complete abstinence from meat and the fast rules remain the same ~ two small meals, one normal size meal. And no snacking. (Coffee and other drinks are ok, though, thank goodness!) And we can't grumble and complain or we lose points! (That's the hardest part!)

Yeah, it's a pain. (Oops, I'm complaining, aren't I?) But how pleasing it must be to Our Lord when we make this small effort!

You can go here for a wonderful, thorough explanation of the Ember Days ~ and here to find some study aids to share with the children this week.


Memarie Lane said...

I really love the image of Mary you've been using. It shows her as a loving mother, someone I can relate to.

Mrs. L said...

I love your post on Ember Days! I hope you don't mind but I linked to it on my blog. God Bless:)

GrandmaK said...

Though I have failed to begin on time. I think I will remember to follow the fast the other two days...Thank you! Haven't really done this since I was a child...God Bless!!!! Cathy

Laura said...

These are the things that were lost in my religious education.
I just learned a lot from your post.
Thank you.

GrandmaK said...

When you get a minute, please stop by and pick up your gift. Good day to you! Cathy