Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants: that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings, may likewise fast from sin within our souls; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Wednesday in September, from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Ember days of the “seventh month,” September (from septem meaning “seven”; September was formerly the seventh month in the calendar, March being the first) have retained more of their original “ember" character (i.e., a time of thanksgiving and spiritual renewal) than the other Ember days, which reflect more or less the spirit of the current liturgical season. Three themes are prominent in the Masses, that of harvest, that of the Jewish feasts of the seventh month, that of spiritual renewal. Originally the autumn Ember days commemorated a “wine-press feast,” and this accounts for the many references to the subject.
Secondly, the Jewish festivities during the seventh month were prognostic of the Christian Ember liturgy. For among the Jews three feasts were kept, the civil new year at the beginning of the month; the Day of Expiation, a day of strict penance on which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with sacrificial blood; and, thirdly, the feast of Tabernacles, the joyful harvest festival which likewise was a memorial of the time Israel dwelt in tents while on the journey through the wilderness. Our present Ember days are not without relation to the Jewish feast of Tabernacles, the time at which the people lived in twig houses.
And lastly, the Ember days mean serious spiritual renewal, an occasion at which we ought to pray and fast and do penance. The character, then, of this week is thanksgiving and penance’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Fr Lee Kenyon