When I was a little school girl, I had a terrible time with math. There is something about even talking about numbers that makes my brain shut off. I'm sure men know this feeling. It's the feeling they get when woman talk about shoes.
It's an oddly painful sort of shut down, the kind that makes you want to cry if that math talk continues. Worse, you are being asked to do something about the math talk, to come up with some sort of answer or conclusion.
At least men only have to nod about the shoes.
I know, for example, that how we figure out when Lent starts and what on what day Easter will fall is not rocket science. It's just that as soon as someone starts in with, "It's the the first blah, blah after the second blah blah in the blah blah blah....." and the word 'equinox' is in there, my brain is outta there. I just look at the calender, the end.
So you can imagine my chagrin when I got this question (and thank you for today's opportunity to suffer):
Since we are now in Lent, could you explain "Ember Days"? I have never heard of them!
Hear that big click? That was my brain.
I was giving a talk a few years ago and someone in the audience asked me, "Sister, what are Rogation Days and Ember Days?"
I answered, "Rogation Days are the days we set aside to pray that our hair grows back."
That's not really the answer.
Ember days were days of fasting that happened four times a year. In the old pagan days, there were three times set aside for some kind of idol worshiping prayers to the gods for a good harvest, a good grape crop and a good seed planting. The early Church grabbed up all the pagan holidays they could to make them relevant to a life in Christ and made these times into days of fasting. They added a four set somewhere in there and voila, there are your ember days.
If figuring out exactly when they are makes you want to cry, like it does me, don't worry about it. Ember days were made optional at the discretion of the bishop after Vatican II. Just another reason I am a fan of many of the changes of Vatican II, which puts me at odds with lots of Catholics.
But just for the sake of knowledge and information and so that we don't go the way of the Oxford Junior Dictionary here is a rundown of when the Ember Days would have landed from the Old Farmer's Almanac:
Definition: The Almanac traditionally marks the four periods formerly observed by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches for prayer, fasting, and the ordination of clergy. These Ember Days are the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays that follow in succession after (1) the First Sunday in Lent; (2) Whitsunday–Pentecost; (3) the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14; and (4) the Feast of St. Lucia, December 13. The word ember is perhaps a corruption of the Latin quatuor tempora, "four times." Folklore has it that the weather on each of the three days foretells the weather for three successive months; that is, for September’s Ember Days, Wednesday forecasts weather for October, Friday for November, and Saturday for December.
So today would have been your Ember Day, if you had known about it. Clearly, your bishop is an Ember Day dropper. At any rate, you would fast, which would mean only one full meal today. It's not too late, if you want to get on the band wagon, if you had a light breakfast and a light lunch or skipped breakfast or had a full lunch....you can still get it in there.
Rogation days are also movable. Hooray for calendars and the people who make them. They were completely dropped after Vatican II, but were completely revived again in 1988. They also have to do with prayers for a good harvest.
The first Rogation, the Greater Litanies, was introduced as a Christian substitute for a Roman pagan celebration , which was a special celebration to pray for crops. This day is observed on April 25. If Easter falls on this day, the latest possible, the Rogations are transferred to Tuesday, April 27.
The second set of Rogation days, the Lesser Litanies or Rogations, introduced about ad 470 by Bishop Mamertus of Vienne and eventually adopted elsewhere, are the three days (Rogation Monday, Rogation Tuesday and Rogation Wednesday) immediately before Ascension Thursday in the liturgical calendar.
The word "Rogation" comes from the Latin verb rogare, meaning "to ask," and was applied to this time of the liturgy because the Gospel reading for the previous Sunday included the passage "Ask and ye shall receive" (Gospel of John 16:24). The Sunday itself was often called Rogation Sunday as a result, and marked the start of a three-week period (ending on Trinity Sunday), when Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy did not solemnize marriages (two other such periods of marital prohibition also formerly existed, one beginning on the first Sunday in Advent and continuing through the Octave of Epiphany, or 13 January, and the other running from Septuagesima until the Octave of Easter, the Sunday after Easter).
Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes.