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  • Justin Haggerty | The Daily Knight

Advent Embertide - Traditional Catholic Preparation for Christmas

Justin Haggerty | The Daily Knight

As practiced in the Church's Rogation Days, Ember Days were developed in the ancient Church as a penitential period in observance of the changing of the four seasons. Winter's observance fell within Advent, also a penitential period within the liturgical calendar, and provided a short period for fasting and prayer before the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia illustrated that the purpose of Ember Days, including "prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." Within two centuries after the Resurrection of Christ, "the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests." Moreover, "the ‘Liber Pontificalis’ ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast" in its penitential form, and "Leo the Great (440-461) consider[ed] it an Apostolic institution.”

Under the pontificate of Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604), Ember Days were observed throughout the Church, and universally ordered by the Roman Synod of 1078 under Pope St. Gregory VII. Advent Embertide was established for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following December 13th, otherwise known as the Feast of St. Lucy.

The Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962, described the period as an opportunity "to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season."

Traditional Fast for Advent (read more)

The penitential fast during Advent, which was practiced since the early centuries of the Church, encompassed the same approach of Lent by the end of the 6th century near the pontificate of Pope St. Gregory the Great. Starting from the Feast of St. Martin, the period of strict fasting and prayer became known as St. Martin's Lent. By the 12th Century, a general abstinence replaced the fast for most practicing Catholics, and only religious orders maintained the custom of fasting during Advent. Most monasteries, convents, and priories, including the Vatican, observed St. Martin's Lent up through the 14th Century. For a more detailed account of the fast, refer to Traditional Fasting for Advent.

Advent Ember Days - Traditional Liturgy

"The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God." ~ Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909

Liturgy and text taken from Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962.


On the Wednesday of Ember week in Advent, the Mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many Churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning. That 1Mass is sometimes called the Golden Mass, Rorate Mass, or Messias Mass. On that occasion the Church is illuminated, as a token that the world was still in darkness when the Light of the world appeared. The Mass is called the Golden Mass possibly because in the Middle Ages the whole of the Mass or at least the initial letters were written in gold, or on account of the Golden magnificence of the Solemnity, or more probably on account of the special, great, "golden" grace which, at the time, is obtained by the numerous prayers. It is called Rorate Mass after the first words of the Introit of the Mass: Rorate Coeli; and Messias Mass because of the Church, like Our Lady, expresses on that day her longing for the arrival of the Messias. INTROIT Isa. 45:8; Ps. 18:2

Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth open and bud forth a Saviour. (Psalm) The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declared the work of His hands. Glory be to the Father. Drop...

After the Kyrie Ellison the Priest says:

Let us pray.

Let us kneel.



Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the coming Solemnity of our redemption may both confer upon us assistance in this present life and bestow the rewards of everlasting blessedness. Through our Lord.

LESSON Isa. 2:2-5

In those days, the Prophet Isaias said:

In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord our God.

GRADUAL Ps. 23:7, 3, 4

Lift up your gates, O ye princes: and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of glory shall enter in. Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and clean of heart.


Hasten, we beseech Thee, O Lord, tarry not: and grant us the help of Thy heavenly power, that they who trust in Thy loving kindness may be relieved by the consolations of Thy coming: Who lives and reignest.

LESSON Isa. 7:10-15

In those days, the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying: "Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above." And Achaz said: "I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord." And he said: "Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son and His name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that He may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good."

GRADUAL Ps. 144:18, 21

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless His holy name.

GOSPEL Luke 1:26-38

At that time the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end." And Mary said to the angel: "How shall this be done, because I know not man?" And the angel answering, said to her: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God." And Mary said: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word."


Take courage, and now fear not: for behold our God will bring judgement: He Himself will come and will save us.


May our fasts, we beseech Thee, O Lord, be acceptable unto Thee, and by expiating our sins, make us worthy of Thy grace, and bring us to Thine everlasting promise. Through our Lord.


Behold a Virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son: and His name shall be called Emmanuel.


O Lord, we humbly beseech Thee, that being filled with the Gift of Thy salvation, we may be effectually renewed by what we taste and enjoy. Through our Lord.



INTROIT Ps. 118:151,152, 1

Thou art near, O Lord, and all Thy ways are truth: I have known from the beginning concerning Thy testimonies, and Thou art for ever. (Psalm) Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord.

Glory be to the Father. Thou art near...


Stir up Thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that they who trust in Thy loving kindness may be the more speedily freed from all adversity: Who livest and reignest...

LESSON Isa. 11:1-5

Thus saith the Lord God: There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord, He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins.

GRADUAL Ps. 84:8, 2

Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy, and grant us Thy salvation. Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.

GOSPEL St. Luke 1:39-47

At that time Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she cried out with a loud voice and said: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." And Mary said: "My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."

OFFERTORY Ps. 84:7, 8

Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life, and Thy people shall rejoice in Thee: show us, O Lord, Thy mercy, and grant us Thy salvation.


O Lord, receive, we beseech Thee, our gifts and prayers: and by these heavenly Mysteries both cleanse us and mercifully hear us. Through our Lord.

COMMUNION Zac. 14:5, 6

Behold the Lord shall come, and all His Saints with Him: and there shall be in that day a great light.


May the holy receiving of Thy Sacrament, O Lord, revive us, and cleansing us from our former life, enable us to pass to the fellowship of Thy saving Mystery. Through our Lord.


INTROIT Ps. 79:4, 2

Come, O Lord, and show us Thy face, Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim: and we shall be saved. (Psalm) Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. Glory be to the Father. Come...

After the Kyrie eleison the Priest says:

Let us pray.

Let us kneel.



O God, Who seest that we are afflicted because of our iniquity, mercifully grant that we may be comforted by Thy visitation: Who livest and reignest.

LESSON Isa. 19:20-22

In those days, they shall cry to the Lord because of the oppressor, and He shall send them a Saviour and a defender to deliver them. And the Lord shall be known by Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall worship him with sacrifices and offerings: and they shall make vows to the Lord, and perform them. And the Lord shall strike Egypt with a scourge, and shall heal it, and they shall return to the Lord, and he shall be pacified towards them, and heal them.

GRADUAL Ps. 18:7, 2

His going out is from the end of heaven: and His circuit even to the end thereof. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the work of His hands.


O God, who didst deaden the flames of fire for the three children: mercifully grant that the flame of vice may not consume us Thy servants. Through our Lord.

EPISTLE II Thess. 2:1-8

Brethren, we beseech you, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and of our gathering together unto Him: That you be not easily moved from your sense nor be terrified, neither by spirit nor by word nor by epistle. as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition Who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. Remember you not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed: whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.

TRACT Ps. 79:2, 3

Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. Thou that sittest upon the Cherubims, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasses. Stir up Thy might, O Lord, and come and save us.

GOSPEL St. Luke 3:1-6

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina: Under the high priests Anna and Caiphas: the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins. As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.


Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King will come to thee, the Holy and Savior.


O Lord, we beseech Thee, look down favorably upon these present Sacrifices: that they may profit us unto both devotion and salvation. Through our Lord.

COMMUNION Ps. 18:6, 7

He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way: His going out is from the end of heaven, and His circuit even to the end thereof.


We beseech Thee, O Lord, our God, that the most holy Mysteries, which Thou hast given us for a safeguard of our renewal, may become our remedy both now and for time to come. Through our Lord.

In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.



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