13 September 2009

Another Reminder

Because tomorrow is Holy Cross Day, this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are the fall Ember days. You can read more about Ember days on page 21 in the Treasury. Note that in Lutheran use these fasting days were devoted also to the Catechism, so a great way to observe the Ember days is to review the entirely of the six chief parts from the Small Catechism as you fast*:

Wednesday: Ten Commandments and Creed
Friday: Lord's Prayer and Holy Baptism
Saturday: Confession and Sacrament of the Altar

There are also traditional readings associated with these days, provided by the Brotherhood Prayer Book:

Wednesday: Mark 9:16-28; Ezra 8:1-10
Friday: Luke 7:36-50; Hosea 14:2-10
Saturday: Luke 13:6-17; Hebrews 9:2-12

Also the traditional collects:

Wednesday: Vouchsafe, O Lord, we pray thee, to aid our infirmities with the healing of Thy loving-kindness: that we, which are made weak by the frailty of our nature, may be strengthened by the power of Thy mercy; through Jesus Christ...

Friday: Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who put our trust in Thee, may serve Thee acceptably both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ...

Saturday: Almighty and everlasting God, who dost command bodily discipline and hast attached promises thereto: grant that we may constantly serve Thee in soul and body, that no temptation may cause us to stumble; through Jesus Christ...

[See Brotherhood Prayer Book, pp. 525, 526]

* For a fine article on fasting, see The Lutheran Study Bible on p. 189 "When You Fast." Note especially: "Yet our Lord's words clearly reveal that fasting should be part of a Christian's life. He said, 'When you fast,' not 'if you fast.' The early Christians fasted (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). Why shouldn't a twenty-first century Christian do likewise? As you fast, let the feelings of hunger you experience remind you to pray. Spend the time you would normally spend eating by reading God's Word and meditating on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through His Word the Lord will bless and nourish you."


Paul McCain said...

Wasn't/isn't that a great article in The Lutheran Study Bible.

William Weedon said...

One of many great articles in it...

Past Elder said...

Well, as a veteran of fasts from midnight before Communion, meatless Fridays, Ember Days and all kinds of other full and partial fasts and abstinences, not to mention Yom Kippur etc, changing the motivation from compulsory to voluntary does not change the narishkeit of mistaking some of the effects of glycogenolysis for a spiritual experience, nor does the long history of this pagan practice suggest anything in particular to be gained from it by Christians falling into lock step with it, however long their history of doing so.

The fast God wants is found in IS 58.

Father Robert Lyons said...

While I am not one for making fasting compulsory on a schedule for everyone, I am all for reminding people of the history and heritage of the Church, and reocmmending the discipline to them - so long as it is not done with the idea that 'through fasting I get brownie points with Jesus'.

I preach quite strongly against such notions. I am equally strong in contending that, both from my own personal experience and from the experience of others, fasting can be a very liberating experience. When you come to depend on Christ alone to meet your needs and to sustain you through a particularlly trying fast, the Holy Spirit constantly works to steele one's mettle for the spiritual and moral battles that we will have to face in days to come for ourselves, our families, and the very life of the Church.

In the past decade, my fasting has turned from obligation to opportunity, and it has brought me great joy because my source of triumphing is not myself, but Christ.


Rev. James Leistico said...

those of us that were at Doxology in Naperville this past weekend and then attended Bethany's Divine Service even heard a sermon on fasting by Pr. Rossow

(this was after sitting at the feet of Dr. Kleinig for two days)

Past Elder said...

I'm not against fasting with the caveats you mention, Pastor Lyons.

But as to the recommendation, I find little resemblance between trials of my choosing and trials not of my choosing. The way Christ alone gets you through self-imposed glucose denial is to not self-impose glucose denial.

Father Robert Lyons said...

Past Elder,

I suppose that's one way to look at it, but Christ himself does not say, "if you choose to fast" he says "when you fast". Doesn't sound optional to me.

Fasting should be a part of the Christian arsenal of training for battle, just as much as marksmanship training is required for a Marine in basic.

Further, fasting - sacrifical fasting in particular - is a VERY helpful remedy for the nonsense that is the Prosperity Gospel.

Too many people in our Churches hear messages about how to find eternal life and how to find mercy and peace, but it is my experience that few Churches (again, that I have experienced!) do a remotely good job of preparing people for the fact that a) they are going to have hardships in life, b) they are going to face significant crises and moral decisions, and that c) ultimately they are going to be dead, rotting corpses in a box.

Faithful believers of decades standing are scared to death of death, because many in the Church today don't preach it. Many don't preach hardships, because its felt that such preaching is 'too narrow' or 'too difficult' to accept. You know, kinda like Jesus being present in the Eucharist (but I digress)...

Fasting is one element we can use to prepare people for the spiritual battles to come, and it is one that Jesus assumes we'll all be using. Yes, some people cannot medically fast from food, but we can all fast from TV, secular reading, or other distractions that keep us from God. We can learn to rely on the Spirit to strengthen us more and more completely against the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

I know of no better way than a good, non-legalistic, non-publicised fast.


Past Elder said...

Pastor Lyons, I fully agree about the Prosperity crap and its effects on people even in church. I think rather than have people forgo a double quarter pounder I'd have them look up Donnie Swaggart on YouTube where he nails those fakes to the WALL on just the grounds you mention.

(Good thing I'm not a pastor, or I'd be preaching about like he does, if you can't tell from some of my comments, and playing piano like his old man unless I were doing chant in Latin.)

As to "when you fast", I do not see in that a clear assumption that one will of course fast. In fact, a couple chapters later he's asked why everyone else fasts but his guys don't! The time of the bridegroom being taken away IMHO refers to the coming Crucifixion, not our life in the Risen Christ who is NOT taken away but right here in Word and Sacrament!

Past Elder said...

OK any of you guys want in on Yom Kippur? That's a whole bloody day no work, no food, no drink, no sex, no colognes, no bathing, and no leather shoes either. Now THAT'S fasting, none of this piker stuff. Sunset 27 September, but come over the afternoon before though, there's a big festive meal and a dunk in the mikveh. Maybe catch the game too.

And wear white.

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

Pastor Weedon, I thought the ember days came the first full week after Holy Cross Day. In other words, not till next week? Just checking for clarification, because I don't have any references with me now.

Past Elder said...

You are correct Pastor Grobien. Ember Week begins the Sunday after Holy Cross Day. Problem is, they're also supposed to be in the third week of September liturgically. However, the first Sunday in September isn't always the First Sunday in September liturgically, the Sunday closest to 1 September is, even if it's still August. So 14 September being a Monday this year, the Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week.

Works out great, especially considering the September Ember Days are just the pagan Roman feriae vindimiales warmed over anyway, which is why the EO don't have Ember Days at all.

John XXIII jacked this all up though (among much else) mandating the third Sunday in September BE the Third Sunday in September, which puts the Ember Days damn near the end of the month when 14 September falls on a Sunday, then the next guy, Paul VI, did away with them anyway, and the current rules leave it up to the local bishops to set the times.

It's good to be Lutheran.

Dawn K said...

Past Elder,

Just curious as to why you seem to be so against fasting if it is voluntary ... do you think it is spiritually dangerous in some way?

I spend way more time on the Internet than I do eating, so I'm pondering fasting from Twitter/commenting/blogging. I doubt I'll get some kind of induced spiritual experience from that! But I'm not convinced that the point of fasting is "having a spiritual experience."

Past Elder said...

Hey Dawn (btw thanks for the follow on Twitter!)

I don't think I'm so much against fasting as just -- having done, and been around others doing, it more than any three, four or five others here I'll bet -- I am very wary of it, I think the risks are equal and then some to the supposed benefits, and those risks are no less present because one does it voluntarily rather than obedience to rules.

OTOH, we Lutherans have a not so distinguished history of being so concerned about getting caught up in works that we don't do any works at all, and that's not good either!

I guess you could say it's analogous to the phenomenon you describe re music and media in your post of 19 August on your own (and IMHO excellent) blog.

I think the better advised "fast" is to eat all of our meals in a way that is not wasteful of food and not unhealthy, rather than coming up with skipping this or that or whatever at some of our meals, to always give thanks for, not refuse, the food, even as the old rabbis said "He who eats without giving thanks, it is as if he stole the food", and especially heed IS 58 on the kind of fast the Lord has chosen.

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

Dear Past Elder,

Thank you for clarifying the timing of the Ember Days. So how do I know when the first Sunday in September is in August and when it is in September? Is it simply if Holy Cross Day falls before Wednesday that the Ember Days are observed that week, and that if it falls on Wednesday or later, they are observed the following week?

Many thanks.

William Weedon said...


I'll definitely let Terry answer. I was just going by the instruction in both Brotherhood Prayer Book and the Treasury, which indicate that they are simply the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Holy Cross, St. Lucy, Invocabit and Pentecost.

Past Elder said...

Pastor Grobien -- there's very good information on all this in the "Ember Days" article in Wikipedia.

One thing they don't say: the cardinal rule in all things is, if it is, or is in any way derived from, or even resembles anything coming from, Rome's Vatican II in the 1960s, disregard immediately or as soon after performing such bodily functions as the experience of such contact may require, because to do otherwise will cut you off from the ongoing experience of the church in which we take our place as its reformation.

You'll be quite safe to observe Ember Days on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after Holy Cross Day. You've already got it exactly.

Here's why. The liturgical First Sunday of September is whatever Sunday is closest to 1 September, which could be as early as 29 August. Something like that happened this year, with 1 September on a Tuesday, so the liturgical First Sunday of September was 30 August, and by 14 September we were exactly in the third liturgical week of September. The whole thing takes care of itself!

This is why the monitum above also includes the 1962 Roman Missal of John XXII -- which in this matter includes the mandate that the third week be the Third Week, which can throw the Ember Days to the end of the month -- which is now the so-called Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but in fact is the extraordinarily miserable craft of the Hannibal Lector of the Liturgy, Annibale Bugnini, getting warmed up for his hydrogen bomb on the liturgy the novus ordo, now the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but in either case the curse of the Bug Man. One cannot zealously defend and preserve the mass under its influence.

Sorry for the late reply; had a dinner to go to.

Past Elder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dawn K said...

Thanks for the plug for my blog, Past Elder!

I think worrying about what the "right day" is to do this sort of thing is more questionable than the practice of fasting itself ... if by some chance you don't get it right, and you fast on the wrong day, what difference does it make? It's not like that's a sin. We're not Roman Catholics here!