Where are the September Ember Days? (And some other fascinating stuff!)

In the Roman tradition we observe the Ember Days four times a year, around the changes of the seasons, during Lent, at Pentecost, and close to St. Lucy’s Day and Exaltation of the Cross (“Lenty, Penty, Crucy, Lucy”).  These days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the week and they are penitential in spirit and aim.  The learnéd Fr. Hunwicke at his blog Mutual Enrichment (olim “Liturgical Notes”) has some interesting notes about the displacement of the September Ember Days (which we really ought to be observing this week) to next week.

Thus, Fr. H:

But when are the Ember Days?


According to the pre-modern versions of the Roman Rite, and the Book of Common Prayer, the September and December Ember Weeks come respectively after the festivals of the Holy Cross and S Lucy. What a nice easy rule. A child can apply it. So that is where you will find them in the ORDO which I compile, and in the admirable Saint Lawrence Press ORDO. [You can sense what is coming, right?  If it was easy before, it had to be made harder.]

So why, in ORDOs printed according to the 1962 Roman books (LMS; SSPX), does the September Ember Week, this year, come a week later? [Good question.]

Technically, the reason why the Ember Weeks come where they do is that, in the Breviary, [that’s the Breviarium Romanum as it was during the Council, with the 1961 rubrics, I think] their readings are [now] tied into those of the week after the Third Sunday of September. Before 1962, the “First” Sunday of September might actually be at the end of August. So, this year, August 31 is the official First Sunday of September. But the 1962 revisers, dippy lot of cleverclogs, [aka pointy-headed academics] changed this so as to be clear-cut and logical … First Sunday of September for them has to mean literally First Sunday of September. Hence (if you’re still interested) [we are!] the Third Week of September starts September 14 according to the old reckoning, but not until September 21 according to 1962.  [….?!?]

As so often happens when people try to tidy things up and to be neat and logical and clever, this decision of 1962 led to the potential dislocation of the Ember Week from its ancient mooring to Holy Cross Day.  [BOOOOO!]

Since the 1962 rite lasted in widespread use less than a decade, I find it hard to take it seriously in those matters where it conflicts with what the Latin Church had kept easy and natural for centuries.  [This would also apply, I assume, to the use of the 2nd Confiteor and the ridiculous changes to the Solemn Mass, as when the priest sits down for the Epistle… but I digress.]

Summorum pontificum, [Pontificum… reallyI presume, took the 1962 books as normative for ecumenical and practical reasons: because this is what the SSPX had done since Archbishop Lefebvre changed his liturgical policy around 1974. Logically, the 1965 rite should have been regarded as the last integral edition of a Missal before the Novus Ordo. But, although the 1965 Ordo Missae was ordered to be printed in editions of the Missal* and was declared typica in the Acta Apostolicae Sedisit seems that no copies of the Missale Romanum with the 1965 Ordo Missae in it ever in fact did roll off the printing presses. (Anybody got one?)  [Hmmm… good question.  Anyone?]

[NB:] But it appears that the 1962 Missal was never technically declared typica in the legal forum (AAS) in which it should have been so declared!!! Arguably, it does not exist (see the thread attached to my piece of 11 July 2014). [Hmmm… is this indeed the case?]

1962 should be regarded as an interim stop-gap.

Circa-1939ish should be the starting point for a measured, sensible reconstruction of the Vetus Ordo.  [Thus avoiding the Bugnini innovations promulgated by Pius XII.]
* The 1967 variations were never promulgated as an Ordo Missae, simply as Variationes … inducendae; nor were they ordered to be incorporated into a complete Missale, as the 1964 Ordo Missae was, nor were they declared typica in the AAS.

Question for you cleverboots out there.  There was an edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI which had to be withdrawn because there was theological error in the Praenotanda.   Does anyone have one of those?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Mike says:

    I don’t, but if I remember correctly Rorate Caeli ran photos of it a few years ago.

  2. tgarcia2 says:

    I love this website, nice hand missal too!

    This, imho (shorthand for in my humble opinion), should have been the Mass that came from VII


  3. Gregorius says:

    I remember one time in a seminary library grabbing a missal from around that time called the “Seraphic Missal”. It had stuff from the EF Mass but there were parts of it in English…

  4. mhazell says:

    @Mike (and anyone else interested): that Rorate page with the 1969 IGMR can be found here.

  5. Andrew says:

    “Before 1962, the “First” Sunday of September might actually be at the end of August.”

    Does that mean that if the 1st day of September fell on a Saturday, the first Sunday of Semptember would be on August 26 (going back 6 days)?

    I am asking because I wasn’t sure (now I know) when the “hebdomada prima Septembris” started this year in the Breviarium Romanum.

  6. Mike says:


    Great; thanks!

  7. UncleBlobb says:

    I thought today was Ember Wednesday, so I “observed” it.

  8. Siculum says:

    The only artifact I know I have from this time period is a 1966 “New Saint Joseph Continuous Sunday Missal and Hymnal.” Very neat and educational little book, including a special Mass for John XXIII . Anyone else have one? No Ember Days, though.

    Whatever happened to the Latin-to-English translators who prepared this Missal, anyway… merely 4 years later?

  9. TawdryPenitent says:

    All I know is that my “Old Farmer’s Almanac” has today as an Ember Day and I have acted accordingly.

  10. OrthodoxChick says:

    Are we looking for 1965? If so, this seems to be it. Or maybe not. It says it’s 1965 if you follow the link, but it can’t be. It’s too funky to be real. Ah, what do I know? I bury my nose in my 1955 St. Joseph hand missal at a N.O. mass just to get through it.


  11. Mike Morrow says:

    “Are we looking for 1965? If so, this seems to be it. “

    Yes…that’s what we used from late 1965/early 1966 until 1970. The altar was also abandoned in favor of a table facing the congregation at that time as well. A little later, lay lectors were introduced, and most of the older alter servers were sidelined into that. There was as yet no communion of both species, nor were there any so-called EMHCs.

    I very much did not like it…but I remember it well. I thought then that things could get no worse. I was very wrong.

  12. Matt R says:

    Gregorius, that would have been some form of an interim Missal for the Franciscans. Their calendar and prayers naturally differ for saints of the order and feasts not observed on the general Roman calendar. So yesterday 9/17 was the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, with the Sequence as on 4 October, his feast day. Unless someone hijacked the name “Seraphic”…

  13. Mike says:

    Whatever happened to the Latin-to-English translators who prepared this Missal, anyway… merely 4 years later?

    What happened was the displacement of faithful translation in favor of “dynamic equivalence” — which arguably, as Linda Richman would say, is neither, but whose spirit has infested Novus Ordo sanctuaries around the globe from that day to this.

  14. Athelstan says:

    The altar was also abandoned in favor of a table facing the congregation at that time as well. A little later, lay lectors were introduced, and most of the older alter servers were sidelined into that.

    The revolution moved with astonishing rapidity.

    But then, revolutions usually do.

  15. dans0622 says:

    Regarding the proper promulgation of the typical edition of the 1962 Missal in the AAS: it does seem that the decree, dated June 23, 1962, is not in the AAS. At least, I cannot find it in the online version of the 1962 or 1963 AAS….

  16. Eriugena says:

    The Ordo prepared by a young mathematician called Daniele di Sorco from Livorno (or “Leghorn”) in Italy was published by the Ecclesia Dei Commission and became a sort of editio typica for all other traditional Ordos. Daniele joined the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and prepared a special Franciscan edition for them. Now that the FFIs are forbidden from publishing books about anything, no “official” Ordo is available…

  17. Andrew says:

    But it appears that the 1962 Missal was never technically declared typica in the legal forum …

    The Motu Proprio “quo novum Missalis Romani Corpus approbatur” was signed by John XXIII and published on July 25 1960. It’s authority was subsequently invoked by a Decretum of the Sacra Rituum Congregatio on the 23rd of June 1962 which Decretum declares the publication of the new Missale Romanum to be the “editio typica” in accordance with the said Motu Proprio.

  18. Andrew says:

    The text of the said Decretum can be found here:


  19. Andkaras says:

    I don’t see a date on this Marion Missal,but the imprimater is from Frances Cardinal Spellman 1950.

  20. dans0622 says:

    Andrew: yes, that is the decree. Was it ever published in the AAS? It seems not. But, now that I think about it (better late than never, I guess), are such decrees customarily published in the AAS? For example, was the decree related to the second and third editions of the Missal of Paul VI put in the AAS?

  21. Mike says:

    Having just got a shot of Thomism from The Masked Chicken (may his flock increase!) on another thread, I am slightly more inclined than before to be at least as mindful of why we fast as of when we fast.

    Fasting, like all penitential practices, revivifies our daily conversion in the spirit of the radical conversion of Baptism and the (one hopes frequent) re-conversion effected by the Sacrament of Confession. To that end it might be thought of as the spiritual equivalent of a burst of adrenaline. No doubt, then, Holy Mother Church is wise in prescribing certain days and seasons of fast and mortification for Her children, lest by too frequent or intense penances we flag and lose focus. However, I doubt that excessive frequency or intensity of anything not utterly ordered to increasing earthly pleasure and comfort is an issue for most of us.

    Observing Ember Days and other penitential seasons, whenever the Church tells us they occur, in a spirit of repentance is surely conducive to our salvation. Quibbling over which week they fall in to the exclusion of that spirit would likely be conducive to our damnation.

  22. While I was still attending Wheeling Jesuit University, I found an older Roman Missal in the library there dated right around 1964/1965 (I can’t remember which year exactly it is). I remember reading it a few times (since my interest in the Extraordinary Form really caught on around then). It had a mix of both Latin and the vernacular in it. If I can make it up to the university for homecoming weekend (around the end of September), I’ll try to check it out again and see if it still has references to the ember days (I’m thinking it does, but I’ll check to be sure).

  23. bbooneesq says:

    Yes, the Ember Days are this week. I hope we all receive many blessings from them!

  24. jflare says:

    “First Sunday of September for them has to mean literally First Sunday of September”

    I can’t readily argue against that idea, really. I can’t think of any other context when we declare that the first something of any month is not actually in that month.
    I am a little puzzled though, about why the nth Sunday of the Month would be a focus point. Given that both liturgical calendar refer to either the nth Sunday in n Season (the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, for example) or else the nth Sunday after major feast day (the 3rd Sunday after Easter, for example), I should think that if a conflict arose, that a reference to time along those lines would make much more sense.

    As I consider this point, I’m inclined to wonder: Did the old rules really state that the date needed to be the nth Sunday of September? Or did it rather require a particular Sunday in September that would be the Sunday beginning the third full week, but say it in a way that made “the third Sunday of September” become a much more easily understood phrasing?

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