QUAERITUR: Ember Day coincides with feast day

From a reader:

On consulting my Ordo [for the Extraordinary Form] this coming Saturday is the feast of St. Thomas.

This supersedes the Ember Day which should be commemorated at the Mass of the day.

Should we still observe the Ember Day with respect to our diet for the day?

It is a penitential season: Advent.

It is a penitential day, and Ember Day, in the penitential season.  Don’t let anyone tell you that Advent isn’t a penitential season.

It is a feast!  Of an Apostle!

I respond saying:

Liturgically, do what the Ordo says!

However, you can still observe well the Ember Day by abstaining, if not fasting.  Feast, just a … little.

May I recommend tempura?  That is a fine way to remember the universality of the Church.  HERE

Tempura reminds us also of the East, Japan.  Thomas went to the East, India.   Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian Faith and the spread of the one true Faith in all those regions.

In honor of St. Thomas, reflect on what a gift it is to have your Catholic Faith as you have it.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Paul VI’s 1966 apostolic constitution on penance does not define Advent as a penitential season, but the same year the U.S. bishops’ statement on penance says Advent is a penitential season. I’m wondering what the 1917 code said about it.

  2. The Masked Chicken says:

    This is something that has bothered me for years: is Christ’s chest wound on the right side or the left died? I always assumed it was on the left died, since, if the centurion wanted to make sure he were dead, he would have stabbed below the heart and upwards. In the picture, the wound is on the right side. Was the picture inverted?

    The Chicken

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    In my FSSP Ordo and on its calendar, The Second Class Feast is observed and red vestments are worn. It is a day of partial abstinence, with meat at only the principal meal. The Ember Wednesday was observed with fast and partial abstinence.

  4. Imrahil says:

    The 1917 Code as far as I know does not talk about penitential seasons, which is a rather liturgical thing. It does talk about fast and abstinence; in this sense, Advent is no more in anyway special, except (then) for the Ember Days and the Vigil of Christmas (a strict fast day). The 1983 Code also did away with the rest of the fasts, except for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and possibly (by not revoking) the idea that Lenten Days should be singled out by some undetermined penitential practices.

    Advent as such, though, contrary to some rumours, was not a time of fasting and/or abstinence until the 2nd Vatican Council. They always say it used to be such a season, but this ceased at the latest in 1917.

    I’m not saying by the way whether these changes were good or not. I do say, though, that even who thinks the change bad is not bound in any way to follow the more ancient and stricter practice he prefers.

    To relieve consciences, let it be mentioned that to follow the Ember Day and Vigil practices now is pious and traditional, yes, but not binding… which imho also means that to him who does want to keep them, the focus should be on the feasts and fasts themselves more than on the question “what would have been binding in 1960”.

  5. MJFarber says:

    To reply to the Masked Chicken, I think the wound would be on Our Lord’s left, which would be on your right as you gaze upon His Body. If the wound is on His Right Side, then I think it signifies in an artistic symbology to be a devotional piece for you to meditate on, somewhat like an icon.

  6. Paul M. says:

    Dear Masked Chicken:

    Personally, I’ve only seen the side wound on Christ’s right side in artistic representations. Do you have any examples where it appears on his left?

    I would think that a stab on the right side and upward would still pierce the heart, as the heart is centrally located on the body (though more massive on the left side than on the right).

    Also, recall that “blood and water flowed out” from the side wound according to John 19:34. A wound on the right side where the water poured forth would coincide with the direction of the flow of water referenced in Ezekiel 47:1 and in the antiphon Vidi aquam.

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    Let’s be clear that the Bible is silent on the issue (allegory, aside). Ezekiel 47:1 is, actually, ambiguous:

    “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar.”

    In this version, the lance would, indeed, be on the right (eastward side), but south, meaning, in the back. In a 3-d sense, since this could not have happened, since Jesus’s back was on the Cross, this allegory is unclear. There is, however, an ancient tradition coming for early Indo-european language traditions that associated the right-hand side with southward (a complicated derivation having to do with how shadows fall across the human body body when facing east in the northern hemisphere). This, however, seems at odds with Ezekiel, who puts east on the right.

    What we do know is that the Romans put marriage rings on the left middle finger, called, the vena amoris, the vein of love, because it was (erroneously, I think) thought that a vein went from this finger, directly to the heart. The heart is in the mediastinum with a slight curving towards the left (although, mostly in the center). While it is doubtful that a Roman soldier would have known this much detail, what they would have known is which side of the body produces more blood when pierced. After death, it is the right side (the right auricle fills with blood, from what I gather), but before death, I think it is the left. Now, presumably, the Roman soldier thought Jesus was alive (otherwise, why pierce him to kill him?), so, he would have pierced on the left side. Furthermore, whether right- or left-handed, all Roman soldiers held their sword with their right hand (think about trying to fight, side-by-side, otherwise). It is, therefore, probable, that the soldier, likewise, held the lance in his right hand, which means it would be easier to pierce the left side of the body.

    The Shroud of Turin show a piercing on the right side, however. It is argued that, since the sheep will be on Jesus’s right side, that the blood and water would have flowed there to symbolize baptism.

    As far as I know, there is no mention of which side the piercing was done in the Church Fathers, although I have not done an extensive search. Other than artistic renderings, I know of no Council that has spoken in the issue and no direct continuity of history (I don’t think that art history is infallible).

    Thus, the data I have is inconclusive.

    The Chicken

  8. Legisperitus says:

    Masked Chicken: I would assume St. Longinus thought our Lord was already dead; otherwise he would have broken His legs along with those of the others. The piercing with the lance was to make doubly sure, so the right side would make sense in context of what you said about the blood.

  9. Paul M. says:

    Dear Chicken:

    I mentioned Ezekiel 47:1 and Vidi aquam not as a historical argument for the actual location of Christ’s side wound but instead to suggest a scriptural-liturgical basis for the artistic inspiration of depicting Christ’s side wound a latere dextro.

    In addition, I would read that particular passage in Ezekiel as suggesting that the origins of the water were the east side. First, it notes that the temple faces east, from which the waters originate. Second, it notes that the water exited the temple complex on the south, which would be out of the right. Although I can see the reading that you are presenting, it appears that at least the authors of the liturgical music for the Roman Rite interpreted it as discussing water flowing toward and out of the right side. This could be the source of having the wound on Christ’s right.

    Finally, I don’t know if the Roman solider thought that Jesus was still alive. The Gospel suggests that they already knew that he was dead:

    So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

    John 19:32-34.

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    The Roman soldier was dispatched to kill them. Finding Jesus already dead does not mean that he wouldn’t ‘t thrust a lance, just to be sure, since it would have been more unnecessary work to break his legs.

    The Chicken

  11. gloriainexcelsis says:

    In chapter 7, “The Wound in the Heart,” from A DOCTOR AT CALVARY, by Pierre Baret, M.D., the doctor confirmed by experiment that the wound was in the right side and “reached the right auricle of the heart, perforating the pericardium.” The chapter covers in detail and with other testimonies why it was the right side. In THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS, by Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D., pictures of the shroud are shown. While this book tries to refute some of the conclusions of Dr. Baret, the fact that the wound is on the right side is confirmed.

  12. msc says:

    Fascinating. My wife is a Catholic by birth, almost fifty, and has never heard of Ember Day. I’m a convert and such things seem never to get mentioned. But there’s been no sign of it anywhere I’ve been for the last twenty years…. Once again the lack of uniformity in the Church amazes me. Off I go to look it all up.
    Oh yes, the calendar distributed throughout my diocese has Saturday only marked as the feast of Peter Canisius. Stranger….

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