As we were forewarned last week, the Advent Ember Days are here! Although in some places the purpose of these days have changed somewhat, their original purpose was to be a time of fasting and prayer for the clergy, those preparing for ordination, and those discerning a call to ordination. Positioned fairly evenly throughout the year near the changes of the season, these were often the days when ordinations would take place and people would have a quarterly reminder to pray for their clergymen.
Those who are discerning for holy orders, including transitional deacons awaiting the priesthood, typically write an Ember Day letter to their bishop, updating him on their ministerial progress and how the discernment process has been proceeding.
Each seasonal group of Ember Days is a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after an anchor date. For Advent that date is December 13th (Saint Lucia Day): the first Wednesday after that day starts off the Ember Days – that’s today! This time around, however, we only get two Ember Days, as the Friday one coincides with a “greater” or “higher ranking” liturgical observance: Saint Thomas’ Day (December 21st). I haven’t done the math, but I can add that the Advent Ember Days almost always land in the third week of Advent, which has a Collect that is very appropriate for the Ember Days:
Lord Jesus Christ, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedience to the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
This reference to the role of the clergy in preparing God’s people for His return is an excellent set-up for the Ember Days of prayer for the clerical state.
Today and on Saturday, feel free also to use one of the Ember Day Collects in the Daily Office as the Collect of the Day!