‘Today the Church begins the fast of the Quattuor Tempora, or as we call it, of the Ember Days. As we have seen, this observance is not peculiar to the Advent Liturgy; it is one which has been fixed for each of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year. The intentions which the Church has in the fast of the Ember Days are the same as those of the Synagogue - namely, to consecrate to God by penance the four seasons of the year. The Ember Days in Advent are known in ecclesiastical antiquity as the fast of the tenth month (the ancient meaning of ‘December’); and St Leo, in one of his sermons on this fast, of which the Church has inserted a passage into the Office of the Third Sunday of Advent, tells us that a special fast was fixed for this time of the year, because the fruits of the earth had then all been gathered in, and that it behooved Christians to testify their gratitude to God by a sacrifice of abstinence - thus rendering themselves more worthy to approach God, the more they were detached from the love of created things. “For fasting,” adds the Holy Doctor, “has ever been the nourishment of virtue. Abstinence is the source of chaste thoughts, of wise resolutions, and of salutary counsel. By voluntary mortifications, the flesh dies to its concupiscence, and the spirit is renewed in virtue. But since fasting alone is not sufficient whereby to secure the soul's salvation, let us add to it works of mercy towards the poor. Let us make that which we retrench from indulgence, serve unto the exercise of virtue. Let the abstinence of him that fasts, become the meal of the poor man”.
Let us, the children of the Church, practice what is in our power of these admonitions; and since the actual discipline of Advent is so very mild, let us be so much the more fervent in fulfilling the precept of the fast of the Ember days. By these few exercises which are now required of us, let us keep up within ourselves the zeal of our forefathers for this holy Season of Advent. We must never forget that although the interior preparation is what is absolutely essential for our profiting by the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, yet this preparation could scarcely be real unless it manifested itself by the exterior practices of religion and penance’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that the coming festival of our redemption may obtain for us the comfort of thy succour in this life, and in the life to come the reward of eternal felicity; 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 Advent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon