As a Nonconformist [that’s theologically, not my general temperament!] I don’t really observe the liturgical calendar. But today is September 14th, which makes it Holy Cross Day [sometimes called ‘Holyrood Day’] In Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches, there are various traditions connected with this day – the wearing of red vestments, the week when priests are ordained, and most importantly, it marks a week of Ember Days. That is, a week of fasting [on Monday, Wednesday and Friday] These Ember Weeks are at four points, equidistant in the year, and called the Quatuor Anni Tempora [the four seasons of the year] The word Ember comes from the Anglo Saxon ymbren meaning circuit, or revolution. An old rhyme reminded people when they were due
Fasting days and Emberings be Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie*
But the thing that intrigued me most as I looked into the history of all this? It is said that in the 16th Century, Portuguese missionaries went to Nagasaki in Japan. There, the Christian monks kept the Ember Days, and fasted from meat and ate just vegetables at the time of the Quatuor Tempora.
How strange that a meal first designed to be ‘simple fare’ and focus people’s thoughts on God has become just another dish on the menu!
* Lucie is St Lucy’s Day in December. In Scandinavian countries particularly, it is celebrated as a Festival of Light in the dark days of winter.