Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: September 2009 Archives

Lost but not forgotten in Catholic practice are the observances for Autumn Ember Days, the "Four Seasons." Other ember days are prayed in December (3rd week of Advent), Lent (after the 1st Sunday of Lent) and after Pentecost but in its octave. The autumn ember days are observed on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the Triumph of the Holy Cross, September 14. This year the ember days are September 16, 18, & 19. Tradition has also called this period of prayer, procession, fasting and partial abstinence the Michaelmas Ember Days given the proximity to the liturgical memorial of Saint Michael the Archangel on September 29th.

Farmer's Market.jpg

The occasion for Ember Days are the seasons of the year. As you would think, each season we give ought to give thanks to God for graces received and the fruits of the harvest. Ember days are rich in theology and culture going back a very long time in the Catholic Church, one can argue to the very early Church where the first fruits were given to the Lord. One might also recall the Jewish customs of prayer and fasting and purification in the autumn. Those with a strong liturgical bent will recall that before the "reform" of the missal following the Second Vatican Council the Church had a richer and deeper understanding of the nature of ember days: each day had their own Mass, Scripture readings from both Testaments, processions and prayers. Today, ember days are all but forgotten save for a small number of people who bother to read ritual books and liturgical theology and who think these things have import for the contemporary life of the Church.

As we delve more deeply into our Catholic faith and the various liturgical observances of thanksgiving, conversion and supplication, we might consider spending time during these ember days in gratitude to God for what He's given for our earthly sustenance asking Him for the grace of conversion. Additionally, I am reminded with these ember gestures of the recent emphasis on the environment and ecology viz. the faith that Pope Benedict said last week: "Today more than ever people must be helped to see in creation something more than a simple source of wealth or exploitation in man's hands. The truth is that when God, through creation, gave man the keys to the earth, he wanted him to use this great gift responsibly and respectfully, making it fruitful. The human being discovers the intrinsic value of nature if he learns to see it for what it really is, the expression of a plan of love and truth that speaks to us of the Creator and of his love for humanity, which will find its fulfillment in Christ, at the end of time. In this context it is important to reiterate the close relationship between protection of the environment and respect for the ethical requirements of human nature, because when human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits."

Living the ember days more fully would allow for a renewed interest in praising God for creation, the concern of humanity's proper use of creation and our keen stewardship of nature for future generations.

Cf. "Order of Blessing on the Occasion of Thanksgiving for the Harvest" (Book of Blessings, nos 1007-1023) or in the 3rd volume of Fr Weller's Roman Ritual. Two prayers from the Maronite book of blessings read:

May God bless + this fruit, those who bring it, present it, and share in it. May the mercy of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, come down upon those who labored to produce this fruit and those who were in any way associated with them. Praised be to God, now and for ever. Amen.


O Lord, your right hand blessed the few loaves of bread in the desert, and through the hands of the prophet Elijah you blessed the jar of wheat and the jug of oil in the house of the widow. May your blessing now come down, through my right hand bless + this house (granary or this wheat or grain) and all the food that it kept here. As you blessed the homes and the reserves of the just of old --Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, and David--shower your abundant blessings upon the yield of your worshipers. We praise you, now and for ever. Amen. 

O Lord, save your people and bless + your inheritance. Feed them, and carry them for ever.

The cross is no failure

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Cross with Carthusian monk JdeBeaumetz.jpgIn one respect the cross does have a terrible aspect that we ought not to remove. To see that the purest of men, who was more than a man, was executed in such a grisly way can make us frightened of ourselves. But we also need to be frightened of ourselves and out of our self-complacency.

Here, I think, Luther was right when he said that man must first be frightened of himself so that he can then find the right way. However, the cross doesn't stop at being a horror; it is not merely a horror, because the one who looks down at us from the cross is not a failure, a desperate man, not one of the horrible victims of humanity.

For this crucified man says something different from Spartacus and his failed adherents, because, after all, what looks down at us from the cross is a goodness that enables a new beginning in the midst of life's horror. The goodness of God himself looks on us, God who surrenders himself into our hands, delivers himself to us, and bears the whole horror of history with us.

Looked at more deeply this sign, which forces us to look at the dangerousness of man and all his heinous deeds, at the same time makes us look upon God, who is stronger, stronger in his weakness, and upon the fact that we are loved by God.

It is in this sense a sign of forgiveness that also brings hope into the abysses of history. God is crucified and says to us that this God who is apparently so weak is the God who incomprehensibly forgives us and who in his seeming absence is stronger.

Pope Benedict XVI

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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Cross, San Francesco, Arezzo.jpg

God the Father has exalted

Jesus Christ, the Lord of all,

Who has emptied self of glory,

Took our human nature's thrall;

In obedience, He was humbled

Taking even cross and death;

Now creation shouts in wonder

"Christ is Lord" with ev'ry breath!

As the Cross is boldly lifted

And the faithful now embrace

What was once a thing so shameful,

Now the hope of all our race,

Let us, marked with Cross, and baptized,

Shout this news throughout the earth:

Through the Cross, our God has conquered!

Through it, come to His new birth!

87.87. D, no tune suggested

James Michael Thompson, (c) 2009, World Library Publications

JRingly preachin Sept 13 09.jpgThis afternoon the first Mass celebrated by priests associated with the Saint Gregory Society was offered at Saint Stanislaus Church, New Haven, CT. Having attended Mass at the Church since the mid-1970s I am elated that this has transpired, as I mentioned earlier on this blog. The beauty of the architecture coupled with the beauty of the sacred Liturgy is a wonderful convergence.

What a happy day for the SGS and for Saint Stanislaus!
We mark the 8th anniversary of 9/11 today. And so we pray,

Almighty and merciful God, in your forgiving love look upon our sufferings. Lighten your children's burden and strengthen their faith in such a way that they may always trust unhesitatingly in your fatherly providence.

In the week since the obsequies for Edward Kennedy, Senator, not a few self-appointed ministers of God's justice and mercy have rendered their judgement: the Senator should not have been buried using the rites of the Catholic Church. Interesting.

The sacred Liturgy tells us what we who are baptized believe: we are sinners and God's mercy is in abundance. Sinners need and want mercy from God almighty. I want and need His forgiveness and His tender embrace. I am sure Ted Kennedy wanted the same. Since I was not at his bedside when he was sick, nor did I hear the Senator's confession and nor was I present when his priest gave him the Sacrament of the Sick, Viaticum and the Apostolic Pardon. Presumably he received these sacred rites before his death. In short, I don't know the state of his soul. I do know that he wrote to the Holy Father and a kind reply was received.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley has been criticized for being a pastor of souls; he explains as much on his blog this week. The bishop of Madison, WI, Robert Morlino, has a wonderful piece on this subject and I highly recommend your reading it. Use it for you lectio. Bishop Morlino's reflection is found here.

Is a lack of mercy to a sinner the demonstration of Christianity's decay? What virtues are being taught and lived when Christians so violently pontificate that mercy is not possible for the sinner, even such a public sinner? Does Christianity have any real meaning left? If we break mercy from the Christian life then we no longer have a Christian religion that leads one to salvation in Christ. To whom do we witness: Christ or the self?

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments category from September 2009.

Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: August 2009 is the previous archive.

Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: November 2009 is the next archive.

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