The Advent Ember Days

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Guéranger: The Advent Ember Days

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Below is the entry for Advent Ember days in Dom Guéranger’s The Liturgical Year. He begins by writing: “Today the Church begins the fast of Quatuor Tempora…” If only this were true in our day and age!

The practice of the Ember days was for many years prior to the Second Vatican Council seldom, if ever, practiced, having fallen into disuse in many places. After the Second Vatican Council they were completely forgotten in a Church governed by the predominate attitudes of the day, and the various opinions of Modernism and liberalism that looked down on bodily mortification and anything that seemed disassociated with the new found “Jesus is my friend, not my Lord” spiritual and moral laxity. Worldly men, who had infiltrated the Church of Christ, wanted to bend religion into a system whose only objective was to justify sin, not forgive it, and bend man’s mind to earthly things, instead of inspiring him to strive, by the grace of God, for otherworldly excellence.

The pastors of Holy Mother Church did the faithful a great disservice by watering down the Church’s practices of fasting, abstinence, acts of reparation and other mortifications. It is a great injustice that, in a day and age that requires more than in any other man’s resolve to war against the lusts of the flesh, the pastors of Holy Mother Church, with minds clouded by the delusions of Modernism and liberalism, have denied to the faithful sound teaching concerning those practices that are so efficacious in gaining the graces that triumph over concupiscence.

It is not just a mere coincidence that the proliferation of error and moral laxity, through which the Church has had to suffered for over a half century, came on the heels of a generation that failed to practice and hand down to their children the precious gift of the Ember days. This failure was part and parcel of a general disdain for all those methods supplied by Holy Mother Church throughout her history that, when practiced with the right interior dispositions, gain all the necessary graces for man to triumph over temptation and the weakness of the flesh. Has the world ever before suffered the degree of immodesty as it does today? Has the world ever before been plagued by the degree of impurity that it is now? Has there ever been such an absence of wise resolutions and salutary counsel as there is today in a world wherein men, women and children fiddle away their time, staring mindlessly into television sets, or chasing after one meaningless distraction after another?

As this past decade has demonstrated, painfully, the filth of the modern world has struck deeply into a Church left vulnerable by these negligent pastors. The priest sex abuse scandal is a constant reminder that the Church has fallen victim to liberalism and moral laxity. The December Ember days were traditionally linked with the ordinations that occurred on the Saturday, and these days of fast and abstinence were offered for the intention of obtaining worthy priests. However, the faithful have failed in this duty, and the affects of this failure are clearly evident in our modern Church!

Is there any time in history in which men and women of good will should embrace with zeal and enthusiasm the practice of the Ember days? Happily the ever growing interest in, and return to, traditional Catholicism has brought with it a new appreciation for the Ember days. In traditional homes and communities the Ember days have once again taken a prominent place in keeping the time of the year. Wherever they flourish, no doubt, grace will flourish for the peace and welfare of God’s children.

Winter Landscape with a Church by Caspar David Friedrich, 1811


The Liturgical Year
by Dom Guéranger, O.S.B.

Today the Church begins the fast of Quatuor Tempora, or, as we call it, of Ember days: it includes also the Friday and Saturday of this same week. This observance is not peculiar to the Advent liturgy; it si one which has been fixed for each of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year. We may consider it as one of those practices which the Church took from the Synagogue; for the prophet Zacharias speaks of the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months. Its introduction into the Christian Church would seem to have been made in the apostolic times; such, at least, is the opinion of St. Leo, of St. Isidore of Seville, of Rabanus Maurus, and of several other ancient Christian writers. It is remarkable, on the other hand, that the orientals do not observe this fast.


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