Calendar confusion: Ember Week

As I look at the calendar, as I read comments on the blog, as I read my email, pace Johnny Mercer, is you is or is you ain’t Ember Saturday?

Today I said the Mass for Ember Saturday.   I think I was correct to do so.

Editions of the Ordo for the older, traditional Mass indicate that this week was Ember Week for Saturday (e.g., the FSSP Ordo).

However, some people think it was last week.  The site Traditio has a calendar showing last week.  But the excellency site Divinum Officium shows that it is this week, and today is Ember Saturday.

The calendars sent to me by Angelus Press (SSPX) have today as Ember Saturday.

I am going with today for Ember Saturday.

Ember Days, of course, are ancient practices tied in part to the changing of the seasons.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for sharing this, as I was one who was confused. We used to get the SSPX calendar and obviously, will have to again.

  2. kat says:

    From here:, September 14, 2010
    The Calculation of the September Ember Days
    by Gregory DiPippo

    “One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November. This change is often noticed in September, because it causes a shift in the occurrence of the Ember Days.

    The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read, in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther, in October the books of the Macchabees, in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.) The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of September” was actually August 29th, the closest Sunday to the first day of September, and the third Sunday of September was September 12th.

    The Ember Days of autumn are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the third week of September, during which the book of Tobias is read; according to the traditional system of calculation, this year they will occur on the 15th, 17th and 18th. The system is also calculated so that the Ember days will always begin on the Wednesday after the Exaltation of the Cross, and occur on the same three calendar days on which they will later occur in December.

    In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of September was the 5th of the month, the third will be the 19th, and the Ember Days will be the 22nd, 24th and 25th.

    This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the fourth of the month is a Sunday; according to the newer calculation, November always has four weeks. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary. ”

    Since the SSPX uses the 1962 calendar, it follows that their calendar says the Ember Days are this week, Sept. 25, 24, and 22. If you use a calendar from some of the sedevacantist groups or others who use earlier calendars, you will see it earlier.

  3. My friend and I have been going with this week, following the FSSP’s interpretation. My nth-hand pocket missal (Ideal Daily) is from 1953 and indicates “after the Elevation of the Cross” for Autumn. I remember from last year hearing about disagreement on whether that meant “the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after” or “Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the week after“. Perhaps an editio nuperior clarifies this point?

  4. revs96 says:

    Thankfully, I looked it up ahead of time. It changed in the 50’s (at least I think it was the 50’s). It used to be that the first week of the month did not have to be a full week, but now it does. The numbering of weeks of the month is used to determine the readings at Matins in the traditional form of the Divine Office, for those here that didn’t know. With ember week in September being the third week, ember week now comes a week later most years, since it is now the third full week, not the third week overall. This means that summer is extended by a week on the Church calendar (most years), since ember days mark the beginning of the seasons.

  5. lfandrew says:

    The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales also agree that this week is Ember Week in their Ordo.

  6. rayrondini says:

    my Maryknoll Fathers missal shows today as Ember Saturday as well… I think you’re right on, Pater.

  7. stpetric says:

    My head hurts.

  8. Yes, when using the 1962 Calendar this is Ember Week, too, because of that change in 1960 (if I am not mistaken as to the year). For a 2010 Dominican Rite Calendar in PDF form, use this link: It is also linked at the left sidebar of

    I might add, although it is a bit late, that Dominicans celebrating this Ember Saturday at Mass, since 1960 it has been permitted to omit the first six readings and responses. Although I suspect that none of those friars celebrating today will.

  9. Ed the Roman says:

    I’m afraid that the Ember Days present sufficient challenge in tracking that I will observe them when I am directed to by competent authority.

  10. RickMK says:

    Why in the world would you even think of using the Traditio web site as a legitimate reference for anything?

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    Even at OF Mass we had ember days Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. Well, at least, violet vestments for an appropriate votive Mass.

  12. q7swallows says:

    I was confused all week long until trying to set up my (1962 ed.–printed in 2004–Angelus Press) missal today for tomorrow’s Mass and discovered all the Ember Masses I had missed this week in the (front) “Sunday” section! I had not thought to look there!

    Rationale for that print set-up, anyone?

  13. apagano says:

    This week was Ember week. The only reason I know this is because our Church is observing 40hours Devotion this Fri-Sun, so the Priest told us that the celebration of 40hours surpasses the Ember days and we don’t have to fast on the Fri., Sat., of Ember week.

  14. Dear Mr. “Swallows,”

    The reason your missal (and all other EF missals) have the Ember Days with the Sundays is that the Ember Days are mobile. They are after the 17th Sunday after Pentecost because that is most likely week they will fall in. It would be odd to put them in the Sanctoral because it is organized by the calendar days and they, like Sundays, are not linked to a calendar day of the year.

  15. historyb says:

    So what are exactly ember days for?

  16. Jerry says:

    @historyb – “So what are exactly ember days for?”
    From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

  17. Geoffrey says:

    “Why in the world would you even think of using the Traditio web site as a legitimate reference for anything?”

    Good question! Though I myself go there occasionally, when looking for something I cannot find anywhere else. Usually I am silently saying Ave Maria’s the entire time I am at the site!

    It is my understanding that Ember Days in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite have been left to the bishops to designate, etc. Does anyone know of any bishop, diocese, etc. that has done this?

  18. Deo volente says:

    I have been using the F.S.S.P. ordo and today is Ember Saturday. I also agree, Father, that the Divinum Officium website is outstanding. I believe that Rubricarius who posts “Ordo recitandi” had the Ember days last week.


  19. ray from mn says:

    A few years ago I purchased a used Saint Andrew Bible Missal, copyrights 1962 by the Abbaye de St. Andre, A.S.B.I, Bruges, Belgium and 1960 Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. It has a lot of good background information on the liturgy of the Mass.

    Ember Days of September (p. 769)

    Among the Ember days of the year, those of September are nearest to the original purpose. They are clearly a meditation on the theme of fruit and harvest, as most of the lessons point out, and as the communion songs proclaim. They really make the new fall season holy. The other Ember periods received definite overtones from the important liturgical times during which they occurred. Their original meaning is sometimes hard to discover.

    Two ideas seem to be important in the liturgical celebrations of this Ember-time: to receive God’s natural fruits and harvest, we must thank him. But we must not forget that in the Christian world of Redemption there is another harvest and that there are other fruits.

    In Christianity, there is always the danger of preferring earthly goods to heavenly ones. Here again there is tension.

    In the Bible, harvest means the reaping of what has been sown, thus indicating a finality in human activities. Every harvest gives more wealth. It becomes like a step on the way to the messianic Kingdom. Every harvest is a gift of God. Therefore the poor have to receive a part of it, and God must have his share, the part given in sacrifice. We may read e.g. Ruth 2 and 3; Leviticus 25:5-11; Osea 10:12-13; Psalm 125-5-6; Matthew 9:37-38; and John 4:36-38. The last judgment and the particular judgment are also described as a harvest: Joel 3: 13; Jeremia 5:17; Matthew 13:24-30; John 4:35-38; and Apocalypse 14:15-16.

  20. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that got confused by the differing sources on when the Ember Days are for September.

  21. KristenB says:

    I had no idea about Ember days. I wish I had, or I would have made an effort to go to Mass this week.

    As a young Catholic, and as I learn more about the wealth of information within the Church, I feel as if I was shortchanged. At the same time, I cannot help but think that because I have to learn about these amazing practices, I appreciate these holidays and traditions more than I would have if I was just given them.

    All of this is just a testament to making sure our children receive good solid catechesis.

  22. Rich says:

    According to how you’ve celebrated, Father, Ember Wednesday and the first day of autumn were the same day. You’re good.

  23. Ed the Roman says:

    Talk about something well-hidden: I’m a 52 year old cradle, and I had never HEARD of Ember Days until I inherited ny great-grandmother’s prayer book (“Blessed Be God”) from my great-aunt around ten years ago.

  24. jrotond2 says:

    Simple answer for those who don’t read “Rubricalese””:

    Before January 1, 1961 – the September Ember Days were always the W, F, and Sat immediately following September 14 (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross).

    After January 1, 1961 (whe John XXIII’s Calendrical changes went into effect), they were calculated as the W, F, and Sat in the Third FULL week of September.

    Ergo, in the some years, they are a week apart and, in others, they are in the same week. Next year, these Ember Days will be on the same days under both reckonings.

  25. Geoffrey says:

    “Next year, these Ember Days will be on the same days under both reckonings.”

    Reminds me of the “Western” and “Orthodox” Easters, which occasionally fall on the same Sunday.

  26. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    OF Ember Days! I want to join your parish!

  27. EXCHIEF says:

    Fr Z: “…and from a President that’s pretty scary”. My version: “as a president, he is very scary”

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