A reader writes:
My calendar I got from church says "Ember Day" on Wednesday, December 19 (and Friday and Saturday of that week, too). What is an Ember Day? Should I be doing anything special?
Thank you for a very interesting question! Older readers may remember that, before the revision of the Church's liturgical calendar in 1969 (coinciding with the adoption of the Mass of Paul VI), Ember Days were celebrated four times each year. They were tied to the changing of the seasons, but also to the liturgical cycles of the Church. As Fr. John Hardon, S.J., writes in his indispensable Modern Catholic Dictionary, "They were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy (December 13), the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, and the feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)."
With the revision of the calendar, the Vatican left the celebration of Ember Days up to the discretion of each national conference of bishops. In the United States, the bishops' conference has decided not to celebrate them, but many traditional Catholics still do, and it's a nice way to focus our minds on the changing of the liturgical seasons and the seasons of the year.
Traditionally, the Ember Days were celebrated with fasting (no food between meals) and half-abstinence, meaning that meat was allowed at one meal per day. (If you're observing the traditional Friday abstinence from meat, then you would observe complete abstinence on an Ember Friday.)
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