The Pentecost Ember Days are here! It’s been a few months since we last talked about Ember Days, so let’s hazard some repetition of material. 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 (winter) that date is December 13th (Saint Lucia Day): the first Wednesday after that day starts off the Ember Days; for spring it’s in the first full week of Lent, for summer it’s in the Pentecost Octave (starting today), and for autumn the anchor date is September 14th (Holy Cross Day).
It’s a little tricky because the Ember Days appear in threes, yet our Prayer Book only gives us two sets of Communion Propers (Collects on page 634 and Lessons on page 732). This may be easier to deal with in the Daily Office: choose one Collect of the Day for mornings and the other for evenings.
Although the Ember Day Propers are fixed, the context of Pentecost can afford these days a different teaching emphasis. Consider the subject of ordination from the perspective of a spiritual gift. Many Anglicans believe in the “indelible mark” or “ordination character” bestowed upon the imposition of the Bishop’s hands, akin to the baptismal change the Holy Spirit also brings about. These summer ember days are good opportunities to meditate on (or teach about) that angle of the ministry.