Ember Days or Embertides
The word “Ember” actually comes from the Latin phrase, Quatuor Tempora,
meaning four times,"the fasts of the four seasons which are called "imbren'"
The 1969 Calendar reform left the observance of Ember Days
to the discretion of the bishops, and can be adjusted and or expanded.
Days of prayer, instituted by the Church, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest.
You can mark the days by reciting the Litany of the Saints. And, while many modern parishes, especially in the United States, have boundaries that are too extensive to walk, you could learn where those boundaries are and walk a portion of them, getting to know your surroundings, and maybe your neighbors, in the process. Finish it all off by attending daily Mass and praying for good weather and a fruitful harvest.
The term Ember days refers to three days set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer during each of the four seasons of the year. The purpose of their introduction was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.
Before 1969 the Roman Catholic Church mandated fasting (only one full meal per day plus two partial, meatless meals) on all Ember Days (which meant both fasting and abstinence from meat on Ember Fridays).
Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that are set aside for fasting and prayer. These days set apart for special prayer and fasting were considered especially suitable for the ordination of clergy. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor anni tempora (the "four seasons of the year"), or formerly as the jejunia quattuor temporum ("fasts of the four seasons").
So think of these as seasonal reboots of your spiritual life. They are fixed times set aside to pray, thank God for His abundant blessings, identify with Christ’s suffering, help the needy, and renew the spirit of repentance from sin. Emphasis on “should.” Because we are all fallen, we tend to grow lax in doing the things we ought to do every day. That’s why it helps to have special, scheduled times to awaken us from our sloth and boredom.
The four quarterly periods during which the ember days fall are called the Embertides.
The traditional dates for the Ember days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday:
After St. Lucy’s feast day, December 13
After the First Sunday of Lent
After Pentecost (Whitsunday) (this would be during the traditional octave of Pentecost)
After the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14
The specific themes for each Ember Week of the year:
1. In spring, during the first week of Lent, to give thanks for the rebirth of nature and for the gift of light (usually flowers are offered at this time).
2. In summer, within the octave of Pentecost, to give thanks for the wheat crop.
3. In autumn, after the third Sunday of September, near the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), to give thanks for the grape harvest.
4. In winter, within the week following the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), during the third week of Advent, to give thanks for the olive crop.
How to observe Ember Days:
In Thanksgiving for God’s creation. First of all, the Ember Days can remind us that God speaks to us in His creation.
A Mini-Lent: Bringing Our Focus Back to God. Putting aside some time for God through prayer and penance each quarter of the year can help redirect our focus back to God.
A Family Program Brings Us Closer to God. We can look at Ember Days with a family focus.
For Priests and Vocations. Pray for our priests, pray for religious and pray for vocations.