Advent & the Ember Fasts
Today the Advent season is not often a season which one associates with penance and fasting. However, when one dives into the Church's traditions, the Ember Days & Fasts were held in esteem as the way to begin the Liturgical Seasons.
"At the beginning of the four seasons of the Ecclesiastical Year, the Ember Days have been instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season. Their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: after the First Sunday of Lent for Spring, after Whitsunday for Summer, after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (14th September) for Autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for Winter. They are intended also to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who are about to be ordained. Ordinations [used to] generally take place on the Ember Days. The faithful ought to pray on these days for good Priests. The Ember Days were once fast days of obligation." (Roman Missal 1962)
In "living the fullness of the Church's liturgical life" (MSSR Charism), our community joyfully lives out these important liturgical days, for the riches of the Church help us enter deeper into the mystery of the Liturgical Seasons.
It is for this exact reason - the recognition of one's sinfulness and need of a Savior - that Holy Mother Church reminds her children of the the need for penance and fasting. Though we can in no way merit our own salvation, it is through prayer, penance, and fasting that we participate in the redemption Christ won for us.
Let us, then, embrace the call of Holy Mother Church to turn to penance and fasting in these days before Christ's Nativity, "that the coming solemnity of our redemption may both confer upon us assistance in this present life and bestow the rewards of everything blessedness." (First Collect for Ember Wednesday)
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