There are several Collects in today’s extended edition of Holy Mass for Ember Saturday. There are five lessons before we even get to the Epistle and each lesson is followed by a Gradual and Collect.
After the the fifth lesson, the same as that for Ember Saturday of Advent (in case anyone doubted that Advent is a penitential season) about the three young men in the fiery furnace, and then the hymn of thanksgiving from Daniel, we have this:
Deus, qui tribus pueris mitigasti flammas ignium:
concede propitius; ut nos famulos tuos
non exurat flamma vitiorum.
SLAVISHLY LITERAL VERSION:
O God, who tamed the flames of the fires for the three young men,
mercifully grant that the flame of vices
not consume us your servants.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that one of the reasons the Lord went into the desert and permitted Himself to be tempted was to teach us that none of us are free from temptation.
Even those who are spiritually advanced experience the testing of temptations. Even seemingly small sins can be serious indeed when a person is well-along the spiritual road.
The enemy of the soul has bested better than you.
The world, the flesh and the devil exert their incessant pressures.
Let no one think he is immune to temptation.
If you give in to a particular temptation repeatedly, sin repeatedly in a certain way, you develop a habit of that sin. That habit, the opposite of a virtue, is a vice.
With clear and even brutal honesty examine yourselves for vicious habits. "Vicious" is the adjective related to "vice".
If you can’t picture your vices as if they were a burning fire about to sear the flesh from your bones and fry your guts, then perhaps the image of a pack of "vicious" animals might do.
We must be vigilant and disciplined and ask the help of Almighty God, especially during our annual Lenten discipline.
This is war.
A vice can destroy you, consume your soul like fire. Many vices, greater danger.
To rid yourself of one habit (a vice) you must drive it out with another habit (a virtue) or at least some beneficial activity.
Identify your habitual fault. Watch yourself for the recognizable patterns leading to the sins. Form a plan of what you are going to do ahead of time.
Repeat the process until you have a new habit that won’t destroy your soul and which will be pleasing to God and edifying to your neighbor.
Stay close to the sacraments.
Do not forget that you have an angel guardian. Thank him and ask him for help throughout the day.
Excellent advice, Fr. Z, thank you.
A little while ago, our school chaplain spoke to my Religion class: “if you’re not growing, even in small ways, in virtue, and you’re praying, then you’re praying in la-la land.”
I tend to think of John the Baptist when this topic of vices and repentance comes up. Deed worthy of repentance. Words, yes, but backed up with deeds.
Thank you, Fr. Z.
The remedy for habitual sins (vices) is constant prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We cannot fight sin and the evil one on our own. The merciful one will give us the grace we need to persevere in spiritual combat.
Thank you Fr Z,
for the serious presentation that made me think about my own life some.
The church is alive and well as long as there are priests like you who remember what this is all about.
I’m new to this Ember Days thing. I fasted and abstained Wednesday and Friday, but I’m wondering about Saturday. I’ve had no meat so far and have had 2 snacks for breakfast and now lunch. For supper, am I allowed a meal with meat or is Ember Saturday also a day of abstinence?
Ember Saturday is a day of fast and abstinence
AJP: The present legislation of the Church does NOT require fast and abstinence on the Ember Days.
People can chose to do as they please, of course, but we are not bound by the Church’s law to fast and abstain except on the days prescribed.
Even under the old rules Ember Wednesday and Ember Saturday were days of partial abstinence, so one might have meat at the main meal if one chooses to follow the older discipline.
So, cheese pizza or taquitos for supper? I’m trying to follow the “traditional” rules for the Ember Days.
I keep finding conflicting opinions on the internet.
Some of you may be interested in knowing the fasting rules that most Eastern Catholics and Orthodox following during Great Lent.
On weekdays (Mon-Fri), we abstain from meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, wine (alcohol) and oil. For those who are able to do so without imperiling their health, only one full meal is taken on those days. On Wednesdays and Fridays, if one is to receive communion at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, one abstains from all food during the day and eats supper after the Liturgy. On Saturdays and Sundays, we abstain from meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, but wine and oil are permitted. Fish is permitted on Palm Sunday and at the meal taken in the evening of the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25). The normal number of meals are taken on Sat-Sun after the Divine Liturgy.
During the first 5 days of Lent, according to the strict observance, only two meals are taken: on Wednesday and Friday, after the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, while on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, those who have the strength keep an absolute fast or else take only bread, water and uncooked food. While relatively few Orthodox Christians observe this special severity during the First Week in modern times, it remains an ideal for those who can take it upon themselves in humility of heart.
These rules are not applied legalistically. If one follows the Great Fast to the extent he or she is able to do so, one feels tired and a bit light-headed. One becomes more aware of one’s mortality. The other important about the Orthodox fasting tradition, is that it is to be done with humility, not pride or boastfulness.
I understand that Western fasting rules were similar to those followed in the East today, but they were progressively mollified following the great plagues of the Middle Ages. East and West have drifted apart in this regard, which is unfortunate. We need more traditions to bind Christians together during times when our very existence is threatened. The Ember Day tradition is a good one and should be applied throughout the Latin Church.
Let’s be honest now. Not many Byzantine Catholics really do all this, and probably only the convert Orthodox, and monks.
The culturally Orthodox around here, as in their great grandparents came from eastern Europe as Byzantine Catholics and their parents or grandparents reverted to Orthodoxy over the married priest issue or the who owns the parish church issue, have not so much as heard of the kind of fast you are talking about. I have asked a couple of them. Of course the kind of people who read religious blogs are aware of what the full fast is. I don’t know how many of them try to do it. The only Orthodox group around here who is really strict about it is a small group that seceded from ROCOR when ROCOR went back under Moscow, and joined up with a group of Greek Old Calendarists, who seem to be sort of like the SSPX of Orthodoxy.
What is required in my Eparchy is abstaining from meat and dairy the first day of Lent (the day after Cheesefare Sunday, (or the Monday before what is Ash Wednesday in the West) and on Good Friday, and abstaining from meat the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent.
The priest announces these rules from the pulpit with an air of expectation that people will comply. Last year he said that not liking your coffee without milk was not a good reason to be excused from abstinence from dairy, which means I think that someone asked him for a dispensation for that, which means that people feel some obligation to comply, even the less motivated.
I think you mean “modified” rather than “mollified,” in the first line of your last paragraph.
I can’t speak for all Eastern Catholics and Orthodox. I based my statement on what occurs in my own parish (Ukranian Greek Catholic) and in Orthodox parishes I am familiar with. Perhaps it varies from place to place. I still think there is great value to observing the fast to the extent one can. We do live in an age of spiritual minimalism.