Reckoning the September Ember Days

Louis J. Tofari

 

Often an annual point of confusion about the traditional Roman liturgical calendar concerns the observance of the September Ember Days—or during which week they occur—as their actual dates fluctuate from year to year.

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According to the 1962 liturgical calendar for the Latin Church, the observance of the September Ember Days is based upon the third Sunday of September.

 

The confusion stems from the fact that previously—even under the 1960 New Code of Rubrics—the September Ember Days observance was based upon the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) as seen in this passage from the rubrical section on the calendar, De anno et eius partibus (The Year and Its Parts) in pre-1962 missal editions:

 

Quatuor Tempora

Quatuor Tempora celebrantur quarta et sexta Feria ac Sabbato post tertiam Dominican Adventus, post primam Dominicam Quadragesimæ, post Dominicam Pentecostes, post Festum Exaltationis Crucis.

 

This older rule could cause the Ember Days to be observed even during the week immediately after the Exaltation of the Cross (e.g., September 15, 17 and 18).

 

However, in the 1962 Missale Romanum, the reckoning of the September Ember Days was changed to the third Sunday of September as seen in the revised passage of the De anno et eius partibus section:

 

Quatuor Tempora

Quatuor Tempora celebrantur quarta et sexta Feria ac Sabbato post tertiam dominican Adventus, post primam dominicam Quadragesimæ, post dominicam Pentecostes, post dominicam tertiam septembris.

 

So now the September Ember Days are observed during the week after the third Sunday of September.

 

A second indication of this new reckoning is provided in the Proprium Sanctorum section of the 1962 Missale Romanum, wherein a rubrical note is printed after the collects for the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (September 21):

 

Et, in Quatuor Temporibus, fit commemoratio feriæ.

 

Here, the term feriæ is referring to the Ember Day which is a II class ferial. This note indicates that the September Ember Days might be observed within that time frame—though they could also be observed between September 18 and 27 as the earliest and latest dates.

Related article: How to serve an Ember Day Low Mass (and other info)

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