Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Ember Friday

Focus: conversion of the heart; prepare for Christmas with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

Put a bird on it.
Christmas is very near, less than a week is left in Advent. The kids are on their last day of school. The shopping must be finished. Packages must be wrapped and mailed. There is a menu to be planned and a lot of eager hungry relatives to be fed. It is easy to get caught up entirely in the frenzy of preparing that comes with the holidays.

The ember days remind us to orient ourselves to the spiritual first and focus on the joy of Christ's coming. In quiet observation of the natural world, we can see that all of creation is filled with signs from God, from the obvious beauty of a clear bright winter day where the snow sparkles in sunlight, to the hidden beauty of a nut tree gone to sleep for the winter in preparation to bear its fruit next year.

As we continue our work throughout the winter months--because even during vacation, children must be fed and dishes must be washed and laundry must get done (or whatever your daily work might be)--we ask the Lord to bless our labors, and put them in his hands for his own use.

Bless my reading, and thinking, and drawing, and writing, Lord; may these activities lead me to holiness, and if they do not, then direct me to other work.

Chapel window at Glacier National Park
Natural World
Sunrise today was at 7:54 a.m. and sunset will be at 4:17 p.m. Only 8 hrs and 22 minutes of daylight. The moon is just a sliver of light, waning crescent and only 7% visible. The longest night of the year is just two days away. This year there will be a new moon on Dec. 21, so the night will be very dark indeed. According to a little internet research, this happens about every three years.

In folklore, today's weather predicts next February's forecast. The weather today was 45'-50'F with very heavy rain showers before noon, a sunny/partly cloudy midday and back to rain for the evening. A cold and changeable February would be no surprise.

Prayer (contemplation, praise, thanksgiving, petition)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Root of Jesse's stem,
sign of God's love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Apparently, in ancient days, there was a folk belief that the souls in purgatory might appear on ember Fridays to those faithful relatives who prayed for them, to thank them for their prayerful intercession and beg for continued prayers. Some countries have their Halloween-like traditions during this time of year, where children go begging for treats or giving them, and the spirits of those who have passed away are remembered.
Kitchen window icon
I need to pray for my loved ones who have died (or rather, they depend on me to pray for them). As a convert, this is a practice I did not grow up with and am still learning. I appreciate the quarterly reminder of ember days to not forget the poor souls in purgatory. I will light a candle for each of them tonight, and for all those living persons who have asked for prayers recently, and thank God who has "come to save us without delay!"

Fasting (penance)
Keeping in mind that observing ember days at all is optional, there is no requirement to do anything. But if you wish to, you may. On a normal Friday, Catholics are asked to make an act of penance; the traditional way is to abstain from meat. But you can also do something different. Make an examination of conscience and pray the act of contrition, go to confession (if available today or tomorrow). A little bit of fasting before all the Christmas feasting begins makes everything feel balanced, I think. Temperate.

My "Word of the Year" for 2014
Almsgiving (charitable good work)
I am grateful that I always have food enough in the pantry to feed my family. Today would be a good day to make a donation to the church, either from the cupboards or financial, to help those who do not have enough for their families. This is probably something you do already, but the Ember Friday is like a note that says, "Don't forget the poor and needy!"

Our advent wreath in 2009.
Tomorrow is the last of the ember days for Advent. They come four times a year to bring in the seasons with prayer and reflection, so if you missed this one, wait a few months and it will be time for the next embertide.

"Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie."


  1. I agree that fasting before the feast brings temperance. I too love that the cycle of the Church years brings us back around. Blessings, Annie

    1. Exactly, Annie! Thanks for stopping by. :)