X Marks the Spot
We call them Ember Days, but they have nothing to do with fire.
Four times a year, roughly around the solstices and equinoxes, Christians in the western churches have celebrated a sort of ‘mini Holy Week’ – a cluster of days that includes Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – as a way of marking and offering thanks for the change of the seasons.
Best we can tell, the name originated in Latin as ‘quatuor tempora’ or ‘four times/seasons.’ Somewhere in our history the English version of that became ‘quad emberes’ and finally just embers. The first of the Ember Days take place between the 3rd and 4th Sundays of Advent (mid to late December). The second set of Ember Days are happening right now, the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday just before the 2nd Sunday in Lent.
Originally, the Ember Days were times for fasting and prayer to celebrate God’s gift of nature and our wise use of it, and later became times for the ordination of priests. These days, aside from ministers writing soul-searching letters to their bishops the Ember Days are largely forgotten by most Christians.
That’s a shame, because the core message of the Ember Days is one that needs to be heard: Be right here right now. The Ember Days encourage us to pause and take stock of our lives right here and right now, because that is all we have any power to affect. God isn’t interested in how well we used to be in ‘the good old days.’ Neither does he want us to wait around to follow him until we have the right job, the right family situation, the right schedule, the right amount of time or energy.
The point of the Ember Days is to remind us that we have all we need right here and right now to be servants of God and agents of God’s loving, peaceful, joy filled kingdom. “If only…” is not in God’s vocabulary. God invites us all to live like Jesus here and now, warts and all. What are you waiting for?