The Ember Days of December

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The Ember Days of December

The Liturgical Year
Dom Gueranger, O.S.B.

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.”
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Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Celebrated on 18 December by nearly the entire Latin Church. Owing to the ancient law of the Church prohibiting the celebration of feasts during Lent (a law still in vigour at Milan), the Spanish Church transferred the feast of the Annunciation from 25 March to the season of Advent, the Tenth Council of Toledo (656) assigning it definitely to 18 December. It was kept with a solemn octave.  Continue reading

Thoughts for Gaudete Sunday

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Thoughts for Gaudete Sunday
Mary’s Healing Humility

Humility is an unpopular—one might say barely considered, hence untaught—virtue, but it is the key to developing a fully virtuous life and a just society. The practice of humility does not allow one to serve a perception of one’s own power, nor to reduce other people to “things” or objects. Rather, rather it forces one to consider and respect his neighbour; it understands the privilege of knowing and serving the other.

Humility is the gateway virtue that trains us in all of the other heavenly virtues: Kindness, because it remembers receiving kindness; Patience, because it has experienced impatience; Diligence and Charity, because it has seen the rewards of both; Temperance, because a humble soul is one that takes less, rather than more; Chastity, because humility recognizes the beauty of God’s plan, and reverences His image in others. This is the best restraint.

Grave sin will be with us unto ages of ages, but grace can abound, and it can bring light into the dark places; it can heal the festering wounds whether emotional or spiritual. But we have to want it, and ask for it.

It is an open secret: Pursuing humility—asking for the grace of the virtue of humility, and then practising it—is a way to begin. Remember, says St. Bernard, that Mary pleased God by her purity but conceived Him by her humility.