QUAERITUR: Ember Days with the Novus Ordo

From a reader:

I was wondering if you could help me out. Are Ember days optional in the Pauline Mass? I ask because a friend of mine says hat they have been done away with in the Pauline Mass because they’re not in the Missal (we are Portuguese), but I was under the impression that they became optional.
What brought this up was an idea I had to help rehabilitate the Ember
days. Since they were once related to days of ordination, I thought of
suggesting to priests I know reviving their observation, only this time with the goal of praying for more vocations. Instead of just having that one week during the year when we are called at Mass to pray especially for vocations, we could have 4 periods during the year when we could do this again, only this time with fasting, prayer, and practice of charity.

Well… indeed.  Ember Days during the four periods of the year (“Lenty, Penty, Crucy, Lucy”) were traditionally the days when ordinations would take place.

I don’t have an 2010 or 2011 post-Conciliar/Ordinary Form Ordo with me right now.  In past editions were were some indications about how the Ember Days, that venerable tradition, could still be in some way observed.  That meant, of course, that they rare are, unless you are attending Holy Mass with the traditional Roman calendar.

Still, from what I dug up from a previous post about this issue, Ember Days are discussed in the General Norms for the Liturgical Year (GIRM) tuck into one of the very last paragraphs, 394, we find:

394. Each diocese should have its own Calendar and Proper of Masses. For its part, the of Bishops’ Conference should draw up a proper calendar for the nation or, together with other Conferences, a calendar for a wider territory, to be approved by the Apostolic See.153

In carrying this out, to the greatest extent possible the Lord’s Day is to be preserved and safeguarded, as the primordial holy day, and hence other celebrations, unless they be truly of the greatest importance, should not have precedence over it. Care should likewise be taken that the liturgical year as revised by decree of the Second Vatican Council not be obscured by secondary elements.

In the drawing up of the calendar of a nation, the Rogation and Ember Days should be indicated (cf. above, no. 373), as well as the forms and texts for their celebration,155 and other special measures should also be taken into consideration.

The U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy did this in the 2007 edition of Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers (Rogation Days, pp. 142 ff.; Ember Days, pp. 164 ff.).

That doesn’t impress me very much, I’m afraid.

This is one of those instances in which the newer, post-Conciliar calendar reveals the myopia of the “experts” who cobbled together the liturgical reform.

By moving saints’ feast days around, they caused disruption with celebrations of name days, patronal feasts, etc.  By changing the liturgical seasons – especially by eliminating the pre-Lenten Sundays – they diminished preparation for Lent.  By eliminating Rogation Days and Ember Days, they removed crucial moments of petition from our schedule.  In sum, they didn’t consider that people’s lives were tied or could be tied to the rhythm of the Church’s year of grace.

If there were ever a way in which the older, Extraordinary Form could provide “enrichment” for the newer, Ordinary Form, this would be one way: reconsideration of the structure of the newer and the older calendar and how they fit together or don’t fit together.  I advocate the addition of new feasts in the older calendar and the reintegration of elements of the older calendar into the newer.

Don’t make some of these things mere suggestions.  Put them back into the calendar.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “By moving saints’ feast days around, they caused disruption with celebrations of name days, patronal feasts, etc.”

    Some of these changes seem to “make sense”, as many saints were moved to their proper “dies natalis”. I noticed this when reading the old martyrology. Now, did the ancient saints whose “dies natalis” we do not know need to be moved? Perhaps not.

    I also think it was wise to try to keep Lent “clear”.

    I am all for restoring the season of Septuagesima ASAP, and even Ember Days and Rogation Days.

  2. Blackfriar says:

    In Australia, the bishops have decided on observing just two Ember Days, the first Friday of Spring and the first Friday of Autumn. These are duly noted in the national Ordo. The Mass is taken from the “Masses for Various Needs and Occasions” in the Missal.

  3. TomB says:

    One of the (many) things I love about the traditional rite is its calendar. It seems so coherent to me.

  4. Kate says:

    Oh, brother, Fr. Z!

    Heading into my mid-forties, cradle Catholic, twelve years of Catholic education, regular recipient of the sacraments, and I have never heard of “rogation days”. I have heard the term “ember days”, but I don’t know what they are. As I scrolled down the posts, I see Geoffrey mentions

    My ignorance astounds me. What were we learning in all those religion classes?
    God loves us. Grace. Service.

    – – -Thanks so much for your blog; I learn so much here.

  5. I’m with Kate–I had never heard of them until I starting regularly assisting at a TLM. We had been going about twice a month, but this year, we drive two hours to go twice a week. We made a decision that we would go to the TLM regularly. There are no reverent Novus Ordo Masses anywhere near us. This is the first year I knew about the ember days in Advent. I feel cheated and let down by my archdiocese.

  6. Dr. Eric says:

    I am trying to get up the nerve to ask my bishop to restore all 12 traditional Ember Days in our diocese.

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