Today is Friday, the 19th. That makes it the first Friday after September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross and the traditional start of the Winter side of the monastic year. Thus, today is one of the Autumnal Ember Days (along with this past Wednesday and tomorrow). These days are now remembered as the date postulants send letters to their bishops but these were originally dates for ordinations and such. As a result, they became days of fasting and prayer for the Church and its well-being.
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As a Friday and an especially penitential one at that, the Great Litany is entirely appropriate at the conclusion of today’s Morning Prayer (along with a commemoration of Theodore of Tarsus, the Syrian Archbishop of Canterbury who founded a flourishing school of learning in Anglo-Saxon England). Fasting and/or refraining from meat today would be in keeping with the spirit of the day.
That is all.
I always think when I look at history it a healthy thing from time to time that a Christian from outside the geography of a See should occupy that cathedra, and more so in the case of a Metropolitan or Archbishop or–Presiding Bishop?
I also think it healthy that sometimes that occupant to have been a layman or religious not previously ordained. I think of the health of a Pope St. Gregory the Great, or the wise decisions for the elevation to the episcopate of Ss. Ambrose and Augustine of Hippo.
I also think it healthy that sometimes that occupant to have been a layman or religious not previously ordained.
I’d suggest this is far more common in Episcopal circles today than it ever was in the past; I don’t know the number of second-career clergy in the House of Bishops, but knowing the shape of seminary classes overall, I’d imagine it’s pretty high.
There are real trade-offs between first-career and second-career clergy as we have noted before–I imagine the same is true with bishops as well.
Oh, no Derek, I don’t necessarily mean those that necessarily go off to seminary as a second career/vocation. That’s a different ball of wax.
I mean those who displaying a gracious and holy lay life and a gift for contemplation, prayer, and reconciliation across differences are plucked up “off the street” and considered as nominees for the episcopate. When is the last time that happened in our church? Is it even allowed?
There is a difference between such a nominee and those (be they first or second career/vocation) who have been formed into the “move up the ladder” culture that exists in our church even though we like to steadfastly deny it.
Oops, I injected a presumption unnamed–that qualities of character and habit might be primary considerations.
I don’t think it’s allowed and even if it were, our call processes work completely against it.
Though Ambrose and Gregory weren’t necessarily selected because they were of a spirit apart from the competitive culture (in church or society); both were exceptionally able administrators who climbed some tough ladders before their consecrations.
I have always been fascinated by the Ember Days.
According to my research, Pope Callistus (d.c.222) was the first to attach ordinations and prayer for the ordained to Ember Days– which means, of course, that they are a pretty ancient practice.
While their ultimate origin is apparently obscure, these Ember days seem to have been thought of primarily as small “seasonal Lents”, in which each of the four seasons is introduced by a set of three penitential days.
I’ve never been able to figure out the “three days” thing (nor why Thursday gets skipped in each case), although I love the idea of a kind of short penitential “vigil” before the turn of each natural season.
Is anyone out there an expert on this?
Yes, Father, that’s correct… These are seasonal Lent-type days.
On why these days, I believe that the first two are based in the traditional fasting days of Wednesday and Friday (as described in the Didache as well as other sources. I’m not sure on the Saturday…
One great source on them is Leo the Great’s preaching; he has a number of sermons for the Ember/Quarter-tense days (I’ve heard that our term “Ember” is a corruption of the Latin term “Quattortempus” but I’ve never found that compelling.)
As far as English practice is concerned, I believe that they are mentioned in the OE Seasons for Fasting, but it’s been a while since I read through that text.
Fasting is one of the 3 things Christians do in secret. Among Episcopalians, I sometimes think it must be a very big secret. I so seldom hear the subject mentioned, I wonder who does it at all (present company excepted.)