Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prayer in Embertide

The Mass for this day is called Rorate Caeli, for those are the words with which the Mass properly begins in Latin. These Ember season Masses are among the most beautiful remnants of liturgical antiquity. One of the noteworthy clues to the ancient nature of the liturgy of these days is the number of lessons you will hear. Today's Mass, for example, has two lessons before the Gospel. In the classic Western Rite it is most unusual to have more than one lesson before the Gospel. The Mass on Ember Saturday will actually have five lessons before the Epistle and Gospel, making a full seven different Scripture readings, along with a canticle, but more on that when the time comes.

Of the many things that may be said of the importance of Embertide, one of them is that once upon a time, priestly and diaconal ordinations took place on the Ember Saturday. That may seem to be an especially irrelevant aspect of Ember week for the modern Church, which for the most part doesn't really know this practice. In the spirit of the tradition of the Ember Days, however, I suggest that we take these days as special occasion to pray for the ministry of the Word in the following ways. Let us pray for our seminarians, that God would make them both wise and courageous, and that His holy Word would be manifest in both their doctrine and in their life. Let us pray that God would continually raise up for His Church pastors and priests of His own choosing, for they are needed both in the mission field, which is ripe, and indeed at every altar, where they stand for us, and give us the holy and venerable Eucharist, the life blood of the Church. Let us pray also that the Lord of the Church will raise up once again a new generation of deacons, who will give their lives over to the service of the Church, deacons who will manfully and reverently bear the Gospel, with their hands, voice, and lives. One of the reasons, traditionally, for these days of fasting and prayer in Ember week is to prepare for the ordinations that will take place at the lengthy vigil mass of Ember Saturday. Therefore, even if you know of no such ordinations this year, take these days, likewise, to pray.

Rorate caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. Aperiatur terra, et germinet salvatorem. Let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation. These words from the Prophet are obviously well suited for the broader season of Advent. Yet let them serve also, along with all the liturgies of Embertide, to be our prayer for God to send us salvation in the ministry of His chosen ones, who will fill His office in the Church.