Ember Days

Fast days on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after St. Lucy's Day (13 December), the first Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday, and Holy Cross Day (14 September), which are peculiar to the Western Church. The origin of these days is obscure, but probably three of the four groups were a Christianization of the pagan religious fasts connected with seedtime, harvest, and autumn vintage. As Christian observances, they were well established at Rome by the pontificate of Leo I (440-61), but not until the eleventh century was the practice finally fixed. During the Middle Ages these fasts became associated with ordination. The Anglican Church retains this association, appoints two special collects for Ember Weeks, and normally ordains ministers on the following Sunday. It is suggested that the name “ember” is a corruption of the Latin quatuor tempora—“four seasons.”