Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ember Week of Advent

Words of wisdom from a priest correspondent:

Tomorrow (December 19, 2012) is Wednesday in Ember Week of Advent.

On the Wednesday of Ember week in Advent, the mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning. That Mass is sometimes called the Golden Mass, Rorate Mass, or Messias Mass. On that occasion the church is illuminated, as a token that the world was still in darkness when the Light of the world appeared.

The Mass is called the Golden Mass possibly because in the Middle Ages the whole of the  Mass propers - or at least the initial letters - were written in gold on vellum or parchment, or on account of the golden magnificence of the solemnity, or more probably on account of the special, great, "golden" grace which, at that time, is obtained by the numerous prayers.

It is called Rorate Mass after the first words of the introit of the Mass: Rorate Coeli; and Messias Mass because the Church, like our Lady, expresses on that day her longing for the arrival of the Messias.

The Ember Fasts

At the beginning of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year, the Ember Days were instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season. Their importance in the church was formerly very great.

They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday:

  • after the first Sunday of Lent for spring,
  • after Pentecost Sunday for summer,
  • after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Sep 14) for autumn,
  • after the third Sunday of Advent for winter.
They were intended, too, to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who were about to be ordained. Ordinations generally took place on the Saturday of Ember Week. The Faithful ought to pray on these days for good priests; in our Diocese, to pray for vocations to the priesthood. Until 1960 the Ember Days were fast days of obligation.

I encourage you to spend Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week in fasting and abstinence in a manner that accords with your age and state in life.

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