14 September 2020

Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

The Ember Days of the old (Tridentine and Divine Worship Missal) liturgies began life as pagan Roman Harvest Festivals, celebrating the gathering-in of the corn, the wine, and the oil. The Church of Rome christianised them; pointed out in her lections that the Torah refers to analogous agricultural festivals; and turned them into fasts so as to eliminate the excesses of pagan celebration.

The September Ember season is, in my view, the most fun, because the down-to-earth agricultural liturgical texts have not been overladen with themes of Advent, Lent, or Pentecost, as those of the other three Embertides have been. So let's wallow in the Harvest Festival joy of this week's liturgies, and let's enjoy it all the more by doing it with the Tudor English texts in the Divine Worship (Ordinariate) Missal ..."Sing we merrily unto God our Strength, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob ... "

And the ancient readings carried the same message: "behold, the days come when the plowman shall overcome the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweet wine ... and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof ... eat the fat and drink the sweet ...

But these Ember Days were fast days! Look at the Collects: "Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants, that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings ...". And the ancient Ember Gospels were concerned with healings, because healing and exorcism were linked with fasting. The Church became supremely potent to heal and to cast out demons, through her sacred ministers, because she had humbled and purified herself before the Lord with fasting. And so, at these times, the Church also besought God to send down the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God by the imposition of the Bishop's hands, having prepared herself by communal fasting (cf Acts 13:1-3). S John Paul II used to prepare himself to administer Holy Orders with fasting and discipline.

I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members and ministers of the modern Church. And ... by the way ... the disappearance of fasting in the Western Church is not an area in which we can heap all the blame on S Paul VI. As so often, it was Pius XII who got there first.


Banshee said...

Re: humanitarian posts the other week, it occurs to me that priests were supposed to be "in the Spirit" like John, just by virtue of celebrating Mass. Hence the greeting.

Anita Moore said...

Fasting is making a comeback, with the discovery of its amazing health benefits. A surprising number of diseases are rooted in the metabolic disorders that flow from our bad eating habits, both in what we eat and when we eat, and fasting turns out to be a powerful remedy. And, it’s absolutely free!

How good is the God Who designed our bodies not only to withstand penances but even to benefit from them!

Stephen said...

Well, if ever a man was groomed to be the successor of another, it was Paul VI to Pius XII. The former worked under the latter in the Vatican Secretariat of State for over 30 years, most of that time as a direct report. Then, his boss makes him head of the largest diocese in Italy (Milan), making him instant pope-potential. A rather consistent trajectory, then, from Pius to Paul (1939-1978), with John XXIII not deviating much if at all. And, regarding tinkering with the Roman Rite, one could consider the trajectory to be fairly consistent from Pius X up to at least Paul VI, and more strongly all the way to PF today. Paul VI gets a lot of attention, as he should, for the promulgation of the Novus Ordo under his watch, but it should come as no surprise that he followed in the footsteps of Pius XII, who did the same.

Irenaeus said...

It is certainly quite possible that the de-emphasis of fasting in our time is why the devil hold such a strong sway. On that note, Father, I hope you have a blessed Ember Week!