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Ember Days - Gone But Not Forgotten

by Ian on December 14, 2010

We attend an Extraordinary Form parish so some traditions that have been misplaced over the past forty years still are part of our parish life. On Sunday our pastor reminded us that this week has three ember days and that we should make an effort to observe fasting and abstinence on these days.  I went back through our article archive and found this article about the practice.

The term “Ember Days” is derived from the Latin term Quatuor Tempora, which literally means “four times.” There are four sets of Ember Days each calendar year; three days each – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Ember Days fall at the start of a new season and they are ordered as days of fast and abstinence. The significance of the days of the week are that Wednesday was the day Christ was betrayed, Friday was the day He was crucified, and Saturday was the day He was entombed.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the purpose of Ember Days, “besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.”

The Four Occurrences of Ember Days are as Follows:

  • Winter: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy.
  • Spring: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Ash Wednesday.
  • Summer: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost.
  • Fall: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of the Holy Cross.

Learn more about the history of Ember Days

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rev. Thomas Extejt December 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

“Tempus” can also mean “season.” I had always heard that “quatuor tempora” referred to the Four Seasons. Thanks for the post.

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Fran December 14, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for reposting this. It is very interesting.

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Dan December 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Thanks for this info! We celebrate the extraordinary form here at our parish every Sunday, too. I had noticed the ember days in my missal and was wondering about them. God has a way of helping us to understand his church. He is even tech savvy enough to use the internet to do it!

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crazylikeknoxes December 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

As a practical, wouldn’t the Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday already be days of fast and abstinence, and the following Wednesday a day of fast?

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