Again, many thanks to Vox and her site FishEaters.com for the information contained here. For a far more detailed article, please visit her site.
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost Sunday are known as “Whit Embertide,” and they come anywhere between mid-May and mid-June, at the beginning of Summer.
Four times a year, the Church sets aside three days to focus on God through His marvelous creation. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons that “like some virgins dancing in a circle, succeed one another with the happiest harmony,” as St. John Chrysostom wrote.
Embertides – or Ember Days – occur on a successive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and are spent fasting and partially abstaining (voluntary since the new Code of Canon Law) in penance and with the intentions of thanking God for the gifts He gives us in nature and beseeching Him for the discipline to use them in moderation. The fasts, known as “Jejunia quatuor temporum,” or “the fast of the four seasons,” are rooted in Old Testament practices of fasting four times a year.
Now, in addition to the penitential fasting and alms-giving of this time, it is good to consider our stewardship of the earth, a responsibility God gave to us in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 1:28-30.
Customs and Traditions
Ember Days are days favored for priestly ordinations, prayer for priests, first Communions, almsgiving and other penitential and charitable acts, and prayer for the souls in Purgatory. It is thus a great opportunity to reflect on your family’s charitable giving, gifts of service and revise prayer intentions as a family.
Since we are talking about the summer season in particular today, when children typically have more free time, this is perhaps a good opportunity to discuss with your children what types of service you can offer to your community. We are planting a community garden and plan to bring portions of our harvest to the local Food Bank. This is a wonderful and very tangible way for the children to see how their hard work can help others in need.
This is also a good time to engage in nature study and truly revel in all the beauty of God’s creation. Could your children study the cycle of the moon this month? How about spending some time star gazing? Or perhaps your family could collect lightning bugs, sketch local birds, or study cloud formations. Whatever you do, pause and reflect on nature and interweave your faith with your studies in simple and beautiful ways.