[From a Facebook post by Fr. Christopher Phillips, Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio, Texas]
With our Divine Worship Missal we have a restoration of many of the traditional days in the liturgical calendar which had been lost. The Ember Days are an example of this, and today is one of those ember days. Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — within the circuit of the year, that are set aside for a modified fasting and prayer. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quattuor… anni tempora (the “four seasons of the year”). The word “ember” is from the Old English word “ymbren” which means a “circle” because as the year progresses and returns to its beginning, these days are part of the circle of the year. The ember days originated in Rome, and slowly spread throughout the Church. They were brought to England by St. Augustine in the year 597.
These days are to be used to pray for vocations to Holy Orders – for those men called to be priests or deacons. We pray also for those who are already ordained – for our parish clergy, for our bishop, and for the Holy Father. Another aspect of the Ember Days is for us to give thanks for the earth and for the good things God gives us – for our food, for the rain and the sunshine, for all the blessings of life through nature. And because of that, it’s a time when we remind ourselves to treat creation with respect, and not waste the things God has given us.
Of course, we pray for all this throughout the year, but the Ember Days bring all this to mind in a special way, so that we can concentrate our prayers during the four periods of time throughout the year.