WDTPRS – Ember Friday in Lent – (1962MR)

This is Ember Week in Lent. 

I had a PODCAzT which spoke about Ember Days.

During the week after the 1st Sunday of Lent we observe the Ember Days of Lent.  “Ember” derives from Anglo-Saxon ymbren, “a circuit or revolution (from ymb, “around”, and rennen, “to run”), the annual wheel of the sun.”

Winter, spring, summer and autumn all had their Ember Days.  These days of fasting and abstinence on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday fell during the weeks after the first Sunday of Lent, after Pentecost, around the time of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on 14 September, and after the third Sunday of Advent (more or less St. Lucy’s day, 13 December). 

There is a medieval couplet in rather degenerate Latin about the times they fell rendered in archaic English that is just about as bad: “Fasting days and Emberings be / Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.”  Rood is Middle English for a Crucifix.  Whitsunday is Pentecost, from Old English hwita sunnandæg, “white Sunday” for the color of vestments once used for that feast. 

The Fathers of the Church (e.g., St. Leo the Great (+461) and St. Jerome (+420) spoke of this custom, which perhaps stemmed from a Jewish practice of fasts at different times during the year.  As far back as Pope Gelasius (+496) Ember Days were often auspicious for ordinations. 

In Latin we call the Ember Days the Quatuor Tempora, or "four times" of the year.  This Latin term gave rise to a form of food which I am sure you all know.

In the 16th c. Spanish and Portuguese missionaries settled in Nagasaki, Japan.  From their interest in inculturation and out of sensitivity for the ways of the people, they tried to make meatless meals for Embertide, which is a fast time.  They started deep-frying shrimp.  The Japanese ran with and developed it to perfection.  This is “tempura,” again from the Latin term for the Ember Days "Quatuor Tempora". 

Per huius, Domine, operationem mysterii,
et vitia nostra purgentur,
et iusta desideria compleantur.

Through the working of this mystery/sacrament, O Lord,
both let our sins be purged,
and let our righteous desires be fulfilled

Mysterium and sacramentum are often interchangeable in liturgical prayers.  But when we do interchange them, be careful not to lose touch with the other term.  It should ring in your ear as an echo.

At Holy Mass, when we celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, we are also having an encounter with that which is mysterious, indeed, mystery itself.

This is an encounter which should leave us transformed.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. patergary says:

    Shrimp & vegetable TEMPURA, hmmmmm YUM YUM!
    Good Lenten Friday meal.

  2. dimsum says:

    This is new to me. Thanks for sharing Father! I really don’t care for sushi, but love tempura.

  3. pauljk says:

    I could live on sushi.

    I do like the the articles about food. I do like cooking, but I have a small repetoire, and I hate washing up. Maybe Father could have his own show? I wonder what could be a good title.

    As for the ember days, I understand that there where originally twelve lessons on the Saturday. Does anyone know where I can find them over the internet?

  4. So Rogation days are all about praying for nature and being green and organic and stuff, and Ember Days are days of the Revolution of the year.

    Man, liberals just don’t know what’s good for ’em, getting this stuff off the OF calendar.

    (Personally, Rogation days had me at the road trip and the dragon banner….)

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