Ember DaysThe Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer (page 18) has “The Ember Days, traditionally observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after the First Sunday in Lent, the Day of Pentecost, Holy Cross Day, and December 13”. The mnemonic is “Lenty, Penty, Crucy, Lucy”.

In ancient Italy the times (originally three) were associated with sowing, harvest, and vintage, for which one prayed, fasted, and gave alms. Later the four times became occasions for ordination, for which the Christian community prayed and the candidates prepared themselves by prayer and retreat. The New Zealand Prayer Book only recognises two sets (page 12): “Ember Days. Prayers are offered on the weekdays following the Day of Pentecost and the week preceding St Andrew’s Day.” TEC’s BCP appoints proper collects and readings under the title “For the Ministry (Ember Days), including propers “For those to be ordained,” “For the choice of fit persons for the ministry,” and “For all Christians in their vocation” (BCP, pp. 256-257, 929).

In a recent discussion we noted the wonderful connection with Jewish roots (Yom Kippur and Sukkot) at this time. Fr Robert Lyons noted the Western pre-Vatican II readings:

readings for the September Ember Days:

Wednesday:
Amos 9: 13-15
Nehemiah 8: 1-10 (References month 7, day 1 – Yom Teruah)
Mark 9: 16-28

Friday:
Hosea 14: 2-10
Luke 7: 36-50

Saturday:
Leviticus 23: 26-32 (References Yom Kippur)
Leviticus 23: 39-43 (References Sukkot)
Micah 7: 14, 16, 18-20
Zechariah 8: 14-19 (Oblique reference to fasting days, including the seventh month)
Daniel 3: 47-51
Hebrews 9: 2-12 (Discussion on the Tabernacle and Sanctuary)
Luke 13: 6-17 (Fruitless fig tree, healing of a woman on the sabbath)

(Note: The first Leviticus reading, the Hebrews Reading, and the Luke Gospel are provided for the short form of Mass on Ember Saturday)

My Saint Andrew Daily Missal (1961) makes this connection:

To the Jews they recalled the twofold promulgation of the Law, on their exodus from Egypt and after the Babylonian captivity…The Ember Saturday of September, which was in fact formerly the seventh month of the year, recalls a twofold festival of penance and rejoicing which the Jews kept at this season: the solemn feast of Atonement when with the blood of the victims the High Priest went in to the Holy of Holies to obtain the pardon of the sins of the people and the feast of Tabernacles when,for a whole week, at the conclusion of the harvest, the Jews lived in tents to commemorate the wandering life of their fathers in the desert….In the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies St. Paul sees a type of Christ…The feast of Atonement is a figure of the sacrifice of Christ whose redeeming Blood has taken the place of that of the victims of the old Law… The feast of Tabernacles was the great Jewish festival…Every year, on the feast of the Atonement, the High Priest went into the sanctuary of the Temple with the blood of the victims of sacrifice. Christ, as High Priest of the New Law, bearer of His own Blood, enters once for all into the sanctuary of heaven and opens it for us.

Is anyone aware of Yom Kippur or Sukkot references, or overtones in readings on Sunday, weekdays, or for the daily office in any contemporary revisions for around this time – or has all that been lost?

An article: The glow of Ember Days

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