17 September 2009

Eat the Fat and Drink the Sweet

Around this time last year I wrote about the history and liturgy of Ember days (days which my older Anglican readers will recall better than my Roman). I've just looked back at what I wrote so as to avoid repeating it now, and it would be nice if readers - especially newer readers - used the archive facility to do likewise: but it would be good to have comments on what I wrote then appended to this year's post.

The September Ember season is, in my view, the most fun, because the liturgical texts have not been overladen with themes of Advent, Lent, or Pentecost, as those of the other three Embertides have been. So wallow in the Harvest Festival joy of the texts in your English Missal: Sing we merrily unto God our Strength, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob ... 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 [sounds like a gastronomic reworking of Fr Zed's motto, doesn't it?] ...

But these Ember Days were (as I explained last year) fast days! Look at the Collects: 'O Lord, who sufferest us to offer unto thee this solemn fast: we beseech thee, that thou wouldest likewise bestow upon us the succour of thy pardon'. And the Gospels are 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 at these times the Church besought God to send down the Holy Spirit for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God by the imposition of the Bishop's hands [I allude to the Prayer Book formulae] having prepared herself by communal fasting (cf Acts 13:1-3).

I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members of the modern Church. I wonder why Fasting is so little part of the agenda of either EF enthusiasts or Reform the Reformists or members of the Prayer Book Society.


Rubricarius said...

Successive indults and dispensations during the twentieth century effectively put and end to the idea of fasting days in the West. OK, perhaps two World Wars and the associated hardship might have been a good reason, perhaps not?

However, Pius XII gave numerous dispensations reducing fasting to only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday e.g. AAS 1941 p.24 for Italy. No doubt Paul VI & V2 will get the blame, they usually do.

Fr. Daniel Squires said...

As with many time tested practices, we seem to be more inclined to talk them up than to actually do them. Some demons can indeed only be driven out with prayer and fasting. As good a spiritual motto as any for our duty of prayer, fasting and almsgiving has been furnished by Nike: "Just do it"

Jorge Sanchez said...

It's easier to be correct (ritually or otherwise) than to discipline oneself. In the former, one is right; in the latter, one is made right.