Fasting For Clergy on Lent’s Ember Days

If we return to the prayer and fasting of the Ember Days, we have the opportunity to sacrifice for the renewal of the Church.

Though often forgotten today, the Ember Days are among the oldest traditions of the Church’s calendar. The Romans marked the beginning of new seasons with particular times of prayer, which were embraced by the early Christians of Rome. The Ember Days focus on thanksgiving and penance, thanking God for his providence in providing for our needs through the fruits of the earth and fasting to show dependence upon God as the highest good. Because they were linked to the seasons, they were celebrated four times a year, and in Latin they are simply known as the quatuor tempora (four times). 

The Ember Days involve prayer and fasting on a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and are marked during the middle of Advent (following St. Lucy’s feast on December 13), the first full week of Lent, the week following Pentecost, and finally the middle of September (following the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14th). Venerable Prosper Gueranger described the purpose of these days in his great work, The Liturgical Year: “Holy Church comes claiming from her children the tribute of Penance, which, from the earliest ages of Christianity, was looked upon as a solemn consecration of the Seasons. . . . The beginnings of the Winter, Spring, and Autumn quarters were sanctified by abstinence and fasting, and each of them, in turn, has witnessed heaven’s blessing falling upon their respective three months.” These days seek to bless and sanctify the year by drawing Christians together in prayer and penance. 

If we return to the prayer and fasting of the Ember Days, we have the opportunity to sacrifice for the renewal of the Church. In particular, it was common to pray for clergy on these days, because ordinations were often scheduled in conjunction with them. Uniting men together to pray for their priests and spiritual leaders can have a powerful impact on our communities. This is why Exodus is gathering the names of clergy for prayer during the Ember Week of Lent. To bring about renewal in the Church, we need holy leaders and need to support them through our own deeper conversion. The Ember Days call us to take up our own role in the renewal and to support our shepherds. 

Join us in praying for bishops, priests, deacons, and ministers during these Ember Days of Lent:

O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep your priests and all your ministers within the shelter of your Sacred Heart, where none may touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch your Sacred Body, keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with your Precious Blood. Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood. Let your holy love surround them and shield them from the world’s temptations. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

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