Ember Days

[Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:37-38 (ESV)

The more I read and think about the passage above, the more I feel that I should take Ember Weeks more seriously for a few reasons. But first, a little bit of introduction to what they are.

Ember days are a set of special days of praying, fasting and thanksgiving which happens quarterly in the Anglican liturgical calendar. It happens on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of these weeks of the four seasons – the first Sunday in Lent (spring), Pentecost or Whitsunday (summer), Holy Cross Day on 14th September (autumn) and St Lucy’s Day on 13th December (winter).

The fasting and praying during Ember Days points back to the fasting and praying in the Bible before sending off people who were set apart by the Lord for his work (Acts 13:2-3) and the appointing of elders (priests) in every church by prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).

According to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer’s Ordinal, godly (1 Timothy 3:1-7, 8-13 and Titus 1:5-9) and educated men who are discerning a call to ministry undergo a rigorous process of being “called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite of the same” and are then ordained by public prayer and imposition of hands. Below is an excerpt of the ordination of a deacon in the 1662, in modern English:

At the Making of a Deacon

Then the Bishop laying his hands severally upon the head of every one of them, humbly kneeling before him, shall say, TAKE Authority to execute the Office of a Deacon in the Church of God committed unto you; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

B&C Productions, The Anglican Life of Prayer

As being called and ordained into the ministry of deacon, priest and bishop are rather weighty matters, it is equally important for Anglicans to:

  1. pray to God to guide Bishops and priests that they will lay their hands upon men who are truly godly and able to serve;
  2. pray to God to strengthen and replenish those who are currently serving as clergy.

These collects from the 1662 help us to pray for those who are about to be admitted as clergy and for our current ones:

In the Ember Weeks, to be said every day, for those that are about to be admitted into Holy Orders

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who hast purchased to thyself an universal Church by the precious blood of thy dear Son; Mercifully look upon the same, and at this time so guide and govern the minds of thy servants the Bishops and Pastors of thy flock, that they may lay hands suddenly on no man, but faithfully and wisely make choice of fit persons, to serve in the sacred Ministry of thy Church. And to those which shall be ordained to any holy function, give thy grace and heavenly benediction; that both by their life and doctrine they may show forth thy glory, and set forward the salvation of all men; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or this.

ALMIGHTY God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed divers Orders in thy Church; Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are to be called to any office and administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name, and the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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