Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ember Days in the Anglican Church


In the nearly five years that I have attended weekday services at the Anglican Church in Alpine (first at Christ the King and now at Blessed Trinity), I have discovered much to celebrate in the Church Year and in Biblical Saints' Days. But some of the lesser-known Holy Days are still a bit of a mystery to me, and Ember Days fits firmly in that category.

I "Googled" (how did that become a verb?) Ember Days this morning, and I read the Wikipedia and Catholic Encyclopedia explanations with a little puzzlement. I understood what Ember Days were, but their explanations were quite complex, too much so to post here. I finally found a web site that explained Ember Days (and Rogation Days, too, but that's another post), and I copy from it this explanation of Ember Days:

The "Four Times," or Ember Days

The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost). [Note: this week we observe the Summer Embertide, just after Pentecost.]

The English title for these days, "Ember," is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the "Four Times" or "Four Seasons."

The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.

The Old Law prescribes a "fast of the fourth month, and a fast of the fifth, and a fast of the seventh, and a fast of tenth" (Zechariah 8:19). There was also a Jewish custom at the time of Jesus to fast every Tuesday and Thursday of the week.

The first Christians amended both of these customs, fasting instead on every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed, and Friday because it is the day that He was slain. (And we now know that this biweekly fast is actually older than some books of the New Testament). Later, Christians from both East and West added their own commemorations of the seasons.

The Ember Days thus perfectly express and reflect the essence of Christianity. Christianity does not abolish the Law but fulfills it (Mt. 5:17) by following the spirit of the Law rather than its letter. Thus, not one iota of the Law is to be neglected (Mt. 5:18), but every part is to be embraced and continued, albeit on a spiritual, or figurative, level. And living in this spirit is nothing less than living out the New Covenant.
Quite often these "Four Times" are set aside for the ordination of clergy, and I recall Father Acker stating that it is a time to fast and pray for our clergy as well. I think that this application of Ember Days to fast and pray for our priests and pastors is of the utmost significance. Yes, the evangelical branch of Christianity has its informal "Pastor Appreciation Month" each October, but it's simply not the same as fasting and praying for our pastors and for future pastors and priests who are called to the vocation.

Physically I cannot fast completely because of my various health issues, but I will do an "oatmeal fast" (eating unsweetened oatmeal only) instead, an idea a former pastor suggested as he also has hypoglycemia. So tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, I will pray for these pastors for whom I pray on a daily basis:

Father Keith Acker, Rector of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity (Alpine, CA)
Bishop Richard Boyce, Diocese of the West, Reformed Episcopal Church
Dr. Stephen Sammons, Senior Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church (La Mesa, CA)
Nathan Hogan, Associate Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church
Bob Benthin, Pastor to Seniors of Lake Murray Community Church
Seth Clark, Youth and Worship Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church
Kirt Edwards, President of Freedom in Truth Ministries (trips to Turkey and T'stan)and former Pastor at Lake Murray
Chris Rader, Youth Pastor of Journey Community Church and former Associate Pastor at Lake Murray
Rollo Casiple, Senior Pastor of La Vina Community Church (Miami, FL) and former Youth and Worship Pastor at Lake Murray
Joe Murrell, Senior Pastor of Pine Valley Community Church (Pine Valley, CA)

So I encourage you, my dear readers, to use these Four Times, these Ember Days, to pray for the pastors in your life, those who guide your flock now and those who have in the past and continue to minister in other ways currently as well as those who may be called to the pastorate in the future. These church leaders need our prayers on a daily basis (I love that the Book of Common Prayer contains prayers for our pastors and leaders in government in both the Morning and the Evening Prayer Offices) and also a more concentrated time of prayer and fasting four times per year.

Will you join me?

PS: If you have specific pastors for whom you would like our family (and perhaps our readers) to pray for, please list them in the Comments section, and we will pray for them.

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