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Catholic Prayer: Brief Meditations on the Church Year: Pentecost Ember Days


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Three meditations on the liturgy from the 1962 Roman Missal for each of the Ember Days after Pentecost.

Written by Monsignor Martin B. Hellriegel, originally published in the journal Orate Fratres Vol. XVIII, May 14, 1944, No. 7, pp. 299-305, later reprinted in Vine and Branches, Pio Decimo Press, 1948.

The current lectionary has different readings and prayers not specific to the Ember Days.


Station "With St. Mary Major"

All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with the brethren (Acts 1:14).

What a splendid group! What a wonderful beginning of the Church! Persevering in prayer, united in mind and heart, gathered about Mary, the Mother of Jesus and their Mother, such were the dispositions in the one hundred and twenty disciples of the Lord on the day when the Holy Ghost began His vivifying and sanctifying works in the Church. Alleluia! A fertile soil for His seed of light and love; a joyous spectacle for the Author of joy to find such precious stones for the building of the Temple of the Church.

Perseverance in prayer, unity of mind and heart and "station" with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, such must be the dispositions in our heart if the mysteries of this ember Wednesday are to bear fruits for eternity. May the pure spouse of the Holy Spirit, the golden lamp on which burnt the brightest pentecostal flame pray for us, that the Spirit of the Lord may fill our hearts, and enkindle them with the fire of His love.

In the first lesson St. Peter shows that the prophet of Joel and the longing of the Old Law are fulfilled: "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh...and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Let not the spirit of perseverance be broken. What God has promised He will keep. "May the Paraclete enlighten our minds and lead us into all truth, as Thy Son has promised" (first collect).

The second lesson speaks of unity of mind and heart, "And they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch." Fellowship with Christ and with one another was the glory of the infant Church. "See how they love each other!" Without this bond of union, Christ the Vine cannot bear fruit; without this Christian fellowship, the Spirit of unity cannot work; without unity of mind and heart, the temple of God cannot be built. "Grant that the coming of the Holy Ghost may, by dwelling in us, make us temple of His glory" (second collect).

"No man can come to Me, except the Father who hath sent Me, draw him." So today's gospel, Who was drawn more by the Father and who had herself drawn more than our blessed Mother? She was "taught of God" (gospel). She is the richest fruit of the blessed Vine, she is the most perfect temple of the Holy Spirit, she is the first and noblest member of the Church. Around this all-holy Mother we gather and keep this ember Wednesday.

Accompany us, O holy Mother, to the eucharistic Table where we shall "eat the living bread that came down from heaven" (gospel). May the power of this life-giving bread perfect in us perseverance in prayer, intensify in us unity of mind and heart, and make us in a fuller measure thy children, O Mother of Jesus and our Mother!

Station "With the Twelve Apostles"

They found them clean vessels and one in love (response).

We are resting upon the blessed Apostles, the twelve pillars of the Church of God. May we never depart from them. The Church prays today for that grace: "We who by the Holy Ghost have been gathered within the (apostolic) fold, may we in no wise be disturbed by any attack of the foe."

Yesterday's response to the first lesson is a beautiful tribute to the apostolic protectors on this ember Friday. "The fire of God," so reads the response, "came not to destroy, but to enlighten; not to consume, but to shine, and found the hearts of the disciples clean vessels. And the Holy Ghost gave them the gifts of His grace. He found them one in love, and the overflowing grace of the Godhead shone through them, alleluia."

He found their hearts clean vessels full of charity and love. No wonder the the Holy Spirit replenished such hearts with the gifts of His grace. Where purity is, there is the vision of God; where charity and love are, there is God Himself. Purity and charity, these are the jewels that adorn the twelve apostolic pillars upon whom we rest. Purity and charity, these are the two channels through which flows freely the transforming life of the Godhead.

"O children of Sion, rejoice and be joyful in the Lord your God, because He hath given you a teacher of justice, and He will make the early and the latter rain to come down to you, as in the beginning" (epistle).

The holy apostles with whom we celebrate this day are indeed our "teachers of justice." If we adhere to them, if we absorb their purity and charity, the dew of the Holy Ghost will descend upon us, as it did in the beginning--on the day when "He found their hearts clean vessels and one in love."

In many ways we resemble the sick man in today's gospel; the palsy of human affections and uncharitableness is responsible for our lameness in the things of God. May these twelve strong apostolic men take hold of us this morning and "let us down into the midst before Jesus" that we may obtain from Him health of mind and heart and a new infusion of His Spirit of purity and charity.

May the eucharistic fire of God make our hearts clean vessels, and fill them with such a degree of love that the Holy Ghost will also give to us His gifts and the overflowing grace of His Godhead.

Station "With St. Peter

The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, alleluia (introit)

"At the end of holy Mass Paschaltide comes to a close," so reads a little rubric after today's post communion. Needless to say, this little note reminds us not only of the fact that this blessed season is over but also of the duty of gratitude for the inexpressibly precious gifts we have received during this most sacred period of the Church's year.

The merciful Father so loved us as to give us His only-begotten Son. The obedient Son died and rose that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. And the charity of God is poured forth into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in us, alleluia! "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name!" (em>introit). We are the Father's adopted children; we are the Son's redeemed members; we are the living temples of the Holy Spirit, bound to Christ our Head, and bound to one another by the charity of God, which is the Paraclete Himself. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro!

The prophecy of Joel (first lesson), quoted by our station saint, Peter, on the day of Pentecost, is fulfilled: God's Spirit is poured out upon us. Aided by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit we call upon the name of the Lord and we shall be saved. "Alleluia, it is the Spirit that quickened, but the flesh profiteth nothing.

The seven weeks, that is to say, the fifty days, have expired. The victorious Lord led us into the land flowing with the milk and honey of His eucharistic sweetness. Let us never forget the loving kindness of our Lord! Gladly shall we offer Him the first-fruits of our love and gratitude and shall leave them int he sight of the Lord, adoring the Lord our God (second and third lessons).

And now that the Lord has set up His tabernacle in the midst of us, we shall faithfully walk in His precepts and keep His commandments, so that He may remain our God and we His people (fourth lesson). May the divine fire which our Lord Jesus Christ sent into our hearts never be extinguished but burn mightily by the power of His Holy Spirit (collect).

Like the three Babylonian youths we were wondrously saved from the fire of the eternal furnace (fifth lesson); we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access through faith into this grace wherein we (now) stand, possessing the hope that we are God's glorious sons...because the charity of God is poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us (epistles).

We celebrate this closing day "in the house of Peter: (station: St. Peter). Jesus will enter this house this morning and will lay His healing hands upon us. May He in His infinite love remove the last traces of our weakness and give us full health. At the same time we will ask Him in all humility: Stay with us, Lord, do not depart form us (gospel), and grant that "Thy holy mysteries which we have celebrated (in this paschal season) may inspire us with divine fervor, that we may delight not only in their celebration but also in their fruits" (postcommunion).

And so we conclude this blessed paschal season, grateful to the most Holy Trinity for all that we have received but determined also to preserve in our souls the divine life of our victoriously reigning Lord to whom be thanksgiving and glory for everlasting ages. Amen. Alleluia.

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