Ember Days of Autumn

Sep 19, 2017 by

Ember Days of Autumn

Since the earliest days of the Church it has been the custom of Christians to practice the Ember days to mark the four seasons of the year. This tradition comes to us from pagan times when even they recognized the importance of thanksgiving with regard to the bounteous gifts provided by a fertile earth. As with many traditions in the Church, we “baptized” this seasonal change, and it has been a staple of Catholic practice since very early on. Even many Protestant churches have continued this practice in their own church calendars. So what are the Ember Days and when do they happen?

I learned the simple phrase, “Lenty, Penty, Lucy, Crucy” to remember the times liturgically of each of these Ember Days. The Ember Days encompass a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Ash Wednesday (Lenty), Pentecost (Penty), St. Lucy’s Day, and Holy Cross Day (Crucy). Last week (September 14), was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorating the finding of the relics of the True Cross by St. Helena. Thus, it falls on this week to be the Ember week for Autumn. So what are the Ember Days?

Traditionally the Church recognized the Ember Days in her Sacred Liturgy and through fasting and partial abstinence. However, after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, discretion over the Ember Days were left to Bishop’s Conferences…who basically never sought to do anything with them. However, their loss is sorely missed in a world that no longer realizes that milk comes from cows and that the Lord is Lord of the Harvest. The Ember Days were roughly equidistant through the year, marking and highlighting the beginning of each of the seasons. Prayers specific to the time of year were said, and fasting was offered, asking for God’s blessings!

The Ford family will be following the Ember Days this week. We will add additional prayers of thanksgiving out of our Rural Life Prayer Book, and we will do some fasting and abstinence as well. We also will do a blessing of our garden and harvest. However, we also will adjust the custom slightly so that it ends Saturday evening with an Autumnal feast featuring food we grew “by the sweat of our brow.” These days set the tone of the rest of the season. For the next three months until the Winter Ember Days, we will retain this mood of thanksgiving. It is a wonderful addition to any family tradition.




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  1. James


    If we could only slow down enough to follow the liturgical calendar, and practice the Ember Days…

    The Church’s wisdom needs to be re-visited. Certainly detaches us from this world – the Industrial world.


  2. Steve

    Where can you find the traditional ember day prayers? Where can you find the blessings? Can the blessings be done by laity?

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