"I am the vine; you are the branches." — John 15:5

“Of Water, Born” – Wednesday, February 24, 2021

St. Helen’s Daily Lenten Devotional

Ember Day

Almighty God, by your grace alone we are accepted and called to your service. Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and make us worthy of our calling through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

A Christian tradition about which you may not be familiar is the observance of Ember Days. These days are kept on successive Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, four times a year, to mark the passage of seasons.  In Latin, they are called Quatour Tempora (Four Times). The English name “Ember Days” is attributed to various linguistic corruptions but apparently folk etymology claims that the source of “ember” comes from “may ye remember,” that is, remember the cycle of death and life. February 24, 26, and 27 are the Spring Ember Days (yes, Spring!). They are designed to be times of prayer, abstinence and fasting, just in case you didn’t get the memo about Lent in general.  

The Ember Days have pagan roots, later ‘Christianized’ to be acceptable to those following the Way. Ancient cultures would appeal to their gods for protection over their crops and livestock, particularly as a new season unfolded.  We still offer prayers for farmers and fishermen: “Almighty God…Bless those who work in the fields; give us favourable weather and grant that all may share in the fruits of the earth…”and “Protect our fishermen during this fishing season and give them a bountiful catch…” B.A.S. p. 680

Ember Days have been utilized for various other purposes as well: to thank God for the gifts of Creation and to pray for the will to care for our environment; to assist those in need, perhaps with a monetary offering; as a time for people to pray intentionally for children and to pray for clergy and members of  religious communities. On Ember Days we can choose to engage in intentional prayer for the mission and the ministry of the Church, for Her peace, and unity. 

In these unsettled times, in the world and in the Church, those prayers are essential.  The culture within which we serve is often fearful, critical and disrespectful, and not just of the Church.  We are not simply a business…we are not a crutch for the weak…we are not a social club…we are a Body, the Body of Christ, sinners and saved. And we are called to “seek and serve Christ in all persons”, even the challenging ones, because we are “of water, born”.