Today is Ember Wednesday, which is the first in a series of days (called Ember Days) which include the following Friday and Saturday (Ember Friday and Ember Saturday). These days mark the beginning of the various seasons, with the current Ember days marking the transition from Summer into Fall. You will see them referenced in some older texts as the, "Sabbaths of the Four Seasons," and were set apart as special times of fasting and abstinence.
The primary purpose of these days is to give special thanks to God Almighty for His provision for us through the natural world and through the passage of time. As the seasons change we are reminded that it is God that set in motion those seasons, and with them, the perpetual motion of time that brings us both seed time and harvest. These days are therefore a reminder that we ultimately give thanks to God for our daily bread, for the passage of time, and for the promises that He has made to us.
We see this in the collect for today, Ember Wednesday:
“We beseech thee, O Lord, let the assistance of thy loving mercy sustain our frailty: that what is wearing away by its own nature may be renewed by thy goodness. Through thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.”
Notice how this prayer focuses our attention on our need for divine assistance and mercy. It is through the power of God and His mercy that the frailty of our own mortal lives is sustained and uplifted. Though the passage of the times and seasons may wear away at us, our spirits are renewed by the grace and goodness of God. It is through Him that we are promised renewal, and restoration, and reconciliation, and our confidence and hope for the future rests in the promises confirmed for us through the resurrection.
My prayer in these Ember Days is that we all continue to grow in our trust and reliance upon the Triune God. The world may feel like it is wearing us down but we know the source of a renewed and restored spirit. The One who restored the weak, gave sight to the blind, caused the lame to walk, and provided sustenance in the wilderness, is the one who controls time and the seasons and is the Sovereign of all Creation. He can restore what the world wears away.
May we rest in Him and may the hope of the resurrection give us comfort and peace.
(as published in St. Luke’s weekly newsletter, 9/19/18)