Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Catholic Prayer: Brief Meditations on the Church Year: Spring or Lent Ember Days


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Three meditations for each of the Ember Days in the First Week of Lent after Ash Wednesday.

Written by Monsignor Martin Hellriegel, from the journal Orate Fratres: a Review Devoted to the Liturgical Apostolate, Vol. XVIII, February 20, 1944, No. 4, pp. 450-153, later reprinted in Vine and Branches, Pio Decimo Press, 1948.

These meditations are attached to the 1962 Extraordinary Form liturgy. The current lectionary has different readings and prayers not specific to the Ember Days.


Station "With St. Mary Major"

Whosoever shall do the will of My Father...
he is My brother, sister, and mother (gospel)

"In those days the Lord said to Moses: Come up to Me into the mount, and be there; and I will give the...the law and the commandments. And Moses went up...and he was there forty days and forty nights" (lesson). The same divine call was extended to us a week ago today; "come up into the mount, and I will give you the law and the commandments."

First the law, the supreme law of Christ's charity, "upon which dependeth the entire law and the prophets," and without which I would not be a Christian, because charity is the mark "by which mean shall know that you are My disciples." Secondly the commandments, or let us say, the duties we have towards God, towards our superiors, towards our co-equals and towards ourselves. For if we abide in charity, i.e., in holy union with Christ and with one another, we will show it also by our conduct. "Charity is patient, is kind, charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own."

How have I kept the first eight days of Lent? Surely, as "the glory of the Lord dwelt upon Sinai" and upon Moses, so the "right hand of His Majesty" (collect) was extended over us during the past week. We thank our heavenly father, through His beloved Son, for all that He has done for us and in us. We humbly ask His pardon for our infidelities and weaknesses. "Remember, Lord, Thy bowels of compassion and Thy mercies...and deliver us, O God of Israel, from all our necessities" (introit).

Lent is a strenuous journey, from the "Bersabee" of Ash Wednesday to the "Horeb" of Easter. Many a one begins with enthusiasm but after some time becomes discouraged like Elias, saying: "It is enough for me, Lord, take away my soul." But this is not the time for relaxing. "Militia Christiana" is the name the Church gave to the season in which Christ and Christians fight together against darkness and for light and victory. At the end of Lent a Christian is either more vitally incorporated in Christ, or he is less a Christian. Either better or worse. Either the evil spirit and his influences are cast out, or the evil spirit "goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man is made worse than the first" (gospel). Remember, now is the time of salvation! Let us continue the sacred journey with courage and determination. Daily the Church prepares for us the heavenly "hearth-cake," in the strength of which we can begin, continue and complete this journey to the mount of God. "Ecce, panis angelorum, factus cibus viatorum!" Bread of angels is given as energizing food to pilgrims.

We place into the all-pure hands of the Mother of God, the stational protectress on this Ember Wednesday, our good works of the past week, begging her to bless the remainder of our lenten journey. May she, who has brought forth the "Light of light," beseech the eternal Father to "illuminate our minds with His brightness; that we may be able to see what we ought to do, and have strength to do what is right" (prayer over the people).

Station "With the Twelve Apostles"

Save Thy servant, o my Lord (gradual).

Today, thirty-eight days before Easter, the Church reads to us the account of the cure of a man sick for thirty-eight years. This miracle occurred at the pool of Bethsaida. The merciful Jesus healed body and soul of the friendless sufferer. A little later, seeing the man in one of the five porches of the temple, the Savior said to him: "Behold thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee."

Surely, this sick man is a picture of the world, especially of the pagan world, at the time of Christ, a world in a state of utter helplessness, laden with sin, steeped in despair, with no one to help it but Him who is "the expectation of all nations and their Savior."

But is not this poor man also the picture of millions in our own day, who look no longer "for the blessed hope and the coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ"?

In His Church, His other Self, Jesus walks through the five porches, the five continents of the globe, addressing every man: "Wilt thou be made whole?" When will the world hear His voice? When will it realize that Jesus Christ was laid "as chief cornerstone in Sion, elect, precious, and that everyone that believeth in Him shall not be confounded" (1 Pet. 2:6)? When will they turn to Him and cry out: "Deliver me, O Lord, from my necessities; see my abjection and my labor, and forgive me all my sins" (introit)?

In nearly every hamlet of the globe is a divine "Probatica" whose waters are moved by the Holy Spirit. And whosoever descends into it shall find life and be born a new creature "out of water and the Holy Ghost." The face of the earth is dotted with eucharistic altars laden with the "Bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world" (John 6:33). And even though a man, after being made whole, should fall again, even then there is forgiveness. "If the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all My commandments, and do judgment and justice: living he shall live and shall not die" (epistle). God's tribunal in the sacramental of penance is open to every humble and contrite heart.

During this holy season we must learn anew that Christ is the Good Samaritan, our only hope, the chief cornerstone on whom we must build. "Omnia et in onmibus Christus--Christ is all and in all" (Col. 3:11). Such a conviction is apostolic. All the apostles thought and acted in this spirit, except one. This one attempted to build on another foundation, and ended in despair and suicide.

The Church entrusts us today to the holy apostles. In their company we will celebrate the healing mysteries. In their presence we will answer the question of the King of apostles: "Wilt thou be made whole?" I will, Lord, "Save Thy servant, O my God, that trusteth in Thee. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer" (gradual).

Station "With St. Peter

And the Lord hath chosen thee this day
to be His peculiar people (1st lesson)

It is Ember Saturday. Oremus, flectamus genna! Let us pray, and in spirit kneel at the tomb of St. Peter, the great priest and supreme shepherd of Christ's flock, and let us listen with reverence to the words of his successor Pius XI "On the Priesthood," for on this day, in hundreds of cathedrals, apostolic hands will be laid on young levites, levites "who have chosen the Lord, this day, to be their God, and to walk in His ways and keep His ceremonies, and precepts and judgments, and obey His commands" (epistle).

"The human race has always felt the need of a priesthood: of men who have the official charge to be mediators between God and humanity, men who should consecrate themselves entirely to this mediation as to the very purpose of their lives; men who are set aside to offer to God public prayers and sacrifices in the name of human society. For human society as such is bound to offer to God public and social worship. It is bound to acknowledge in Him its supreme Lord and first beginning, and to strive towards Him as to its last end, to give Him thanks and to offer Him propitiation.

"The Apostle of the Gentiles perfectly sums up what may be said of the greatness, the dignity and the duty of the Christian priesthood: 'Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God.' The priest is the minister of Christ--an instrument, that is to say, in the hands of the divine Redeemer. He continues the work of the redemption in all its world-embracing universality and divine efficacy, that work which wrought so marvelous a transformation in the world. Thus the priest, as is said with good reason, is indeed 'another Christ'; for in some way, he is himself a continuation of Christ. 'As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you,' is spoken to the priest; and hence the priest, like Christ, continue to give 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.'" (From the Encyclical Letter of His His Holiness Pope Pius XI.)

Let us pray, then, for all who in these days will be raised to this high and responsible position "that the God of peace may sanctify them in all things; that their whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (epistle); that the Lord may make them worthy laborers in His vineyard; that the Holy Spirit may fill them with pentecostal fire and apostolic fortitude for the great work of "incorporating all things in Christ."

St. Peter, rock of the Church, bearer of the keys of God's kingdom, great priest of Jesus Christ, holy shepherd of His flock, bless those who are about to become fishers of men.

Prayer Source: Orate Fratres/Worship: A Review Devoted to the Liturgical Apostolate , The Liturgical Press