Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Aspect of the Ember Days

Ember Days are fast days, as we have discussed. They are also special days of prayer and supplication, in which an emphasis on classic prayers such are the Litany and the penitential Psalms are appropriate. Now I would like to add a note about yet another dimension to the Ember Days.

In times past the Ember Days would include the Ordination of priests. This was not limited to the spring of the year, as we might expect today, with our modern notions of seminary training, heavily based as it is upon the academic year. In fact, the Ember Saturday in Advent was once a common and very important occasion for Ordinations. The Ordination was conducted at first late on Saturday, as a sort of vigil, almost as a parallel to the Baptisms that took place at the Paschal Vigil late on Holy Saturday. Like the Paschal Vigil, the Ember Saturday Ordinations gradually began to take place earlier in the day, until the Ordination was eventually recognized as an Ember Saturday Mass.

My aim is most definitely not, however, to make a merely historical observation. Rather, I suggest that the Ember Day, especially Ember Saturday, is an excellent occasion for us to pray, whether gathered in public worship, or in our private devotion, for the increase and edification of the Ministry of teaching the Gospel and of administering the Sacraments. Let us pray for our pastors and priests. Let us pray that they will be strengthened in the faith, in their life of prayer, in their handling of the Word of truth, and that even by their life they may show forth the truth of the Word, that is, Christ Himself. Let us pray, as we do in the Litany, that God would put an end to all schisms and causes of offence, as they often manifest themselves among the clergy. Let us pray that God would send faithful laborers into His harvest. Let us pray for the seminarians, that they may learn pure doctrine, and how to preach it, and that they may learn to pray, and to administer the medicine of the Gospel to those for whom they will care.

To these prayers I would also suggest another, related one. I suggest that we pray for an increase in our church of an appreciation and desire for the historic office of Deacon. Further, I suggest we pray for all rightful bishops throughout the world. Let such thoughts form part of your Ember Saturday prayer this year.

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