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Three days set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer during each of the four seasons of the year. They were the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after St. Lucy (d. 304) (December 13), the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, and the feast of the Holy Cross (September 14). Since the revision of the Roman calendar in 1969, Ember Days are to be observed at the discretion of the National Conferences of Bishops. Moreover, their observance may be extended beyond three days and even repeated during the year. Possibly occasioned by the agricultural feast of ancient Rome, they came to be observed by Christians for the sanctification of the different seasons of the year, and for obtaining God's blessing on the clergy to be ordained during the Embertides. (Etym. Anglo-Saxon o_merge, ashes.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.