Topics: The Sacred Liturgy: Mary in the Liturgy?....September: Ember Days
Mary in the Liturgy – But, what is the Liturgy? The liturgy is the composite of words, ceremonies, and acts of public and official worship with which the Church honors and prays to the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Virgin, and the Saints.
The liturgy is the court service of the Church before the Divine King, it is the social worship, regulated by her; it is the most worthy thing that a creature may give to the Most High.
There are three kinds of prayer. The private prayer of the Christian, who, in the privacy of his room, or in the mystical shadow of the temple, elevates himself to God on the wings of faith and love, is beautiful. Jesus Christ and the Church desire this prayer, and recommend it to all the faithful (see St. Matthew, vi, 6).
Collective prayer is more efficacious; it is the one by two or more persons, joined together to praise God, to ask for His mercy, to thank the Divine Goodness. In fact, Jesus Christ said, “if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.” (St. Matthew, xviii, 19). And the reason for it is further presented, “For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (St. Matthew, xviii, 20). It is Jesus who prays with them.
But the most sublime one is the liturgical prayer. Here, it is the Church herself, the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, who prays. The liturgical prayer is the breath of the mystical organism of the Church; it is the vital and sanctifying activity of the Eternal Priesthood and of the Visible Priesthood. The Priest, when he celebrated and when he administers the Sacraments, is, as it were, absorbed in unity of action by Jesus Christ.
Glory to the Most High. The Liturgy is, thus, the great prayer of the Church. She prays to God: each time the Holy Mass is celebrated anywhere on Earth; each time a soul, receiving the Sacraments, acquires supernatural life, either because she rises up from sin, or because she increases in grace; each time the Priest blesses in the name of the Church or in which a Christian makes use of a Sacramental.
Liturgical prayer is unceasing; for the pure Oblation is offered to God continuously from East to West; and for, without interruption, men are sanctified by the sacred rites. How pleasing is to the Lord this most perfumed incense, that rises from the thurible that is the heart of the Church. This heart of the Church is always holy, always thankful to God, because Jesus Christ has created it pure, immaculate.
Liturgical prayer is, thus, holy. And who would dare pray it with blemished heart? It has as its ultimate and highest object the Most Holy Trinity, God, the beginning and end of all things: Universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus, The Lord created all things for Himself (Proverbs xvi, 4).
The Ember Weeks — the weeks in which the Ember Days occur — are the weeks between the third and fourth Sundays of Advent, between the first and second Sundays of Lent, between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, and the week beginning on the Sunday after Holy Cross Day (September 14), the liturgical Third Week of September.
One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November. This change is often noticed in September, because it causes a shift in the occurrence of the Ember Days.
The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read, in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther, in October the books of the Macchabees, in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.) The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of September” was actually August 29th, the closest Sunday to the first day of September, and the third Sunday of September was September 12th.
The Ember Days of autumn are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the third week of September, during which the book of Tobias is read; according to the traditional system of calculation, this year they will occur on the 15th, 17th and 18th. The system is also calculated so that the Ember days will always begin on the Wednesday after the Exaltation of the Cross, and occur on the same three calendar days on which they will later occur in December.
In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of September was the 5th of the month, the third will be the 19th, and the Ember Days will be the 22nd, 24th and 25th.
This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the fourth of the month is a Sunday; according to the newer calculation, November always has four weeks. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary.