Ember Days

Page 18 of the BCP states that “The Ember Days, (are) traditionally observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after the First Sunday in Lent, Holy Cross Day (September 14), December 13 (St. Lucy’s Day), and (relevant for this time of the church year) the Day of Pentecost.” The name is a corruption of the Latin, quattuor tempora (meaning “four times”). In third century Italy, the times were associated with sowing, harvest, and vintage, for which one prayed, fasted, and gave alms. However, beginning in the twelve century, the days became occasions for ordination for which the Christian community prayed, and the candidates for ordination prepared themselves by prayer and retreat. Our BCP lists prayers “For the Ministry (Ember Days)” on pages 356-357. These prayers are divided into “For those to be ordained”, “For the choice of fit persons for the ministry”, and “For all Christians in their vocation”. Three lectionaries for these days are listed on page 929. In recent times, Roman Catholics and Anglicans have been far less strict in linking “Ember Days” and the ordinations with which they are associated with specific days of the church’s year.