The Saint Andrew Daily Missal
Dom Gaspar Lefébvre, OSB, Abbey of Saint André
No Copyright 1937
The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus
Ember Days in Advent
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Stational Churches of Rome
“Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say, rejoice.”
This third Sunday of
Advent, called Gaudéte Sunday, from the opening words of the
Introit, and the fourth Sunday of Lent (Lætáre Sunday) are the
only two days of the year when the priest wears rose colored vestments.
This signifies that these two days are less penitential than the other days
of Advent and Lent. Gaudéte and Lætáre can both be translated
The Church is
recognizing that we have been carrying out the penitential practices of the
season—today is a day to take a break from them—and tomorrow we should get
back to them with renewed enthusiasm. Of course, if we have not been doing
any Advent penance, tomorrow would be a good time to start. But today we
rejoice with Holy Mother Church.
observe three Ember days during this coming week— Wednesday, Friday, and
Saturday. In keeping with the spirit of the season, these should be days of
fasting, abstinence, and additional prayer. Fasting means that we eat only
one full meal and two smaller meals—“collations,” they are called, or
“snacks” in the modern tongue. Abstinence means that we eat no meat or
poultry (although butter and eggs are okay). Any sort of prayer is
suitable—Mass and Holy Communion are ideal. Please understand that the
dietary restrictions are not intended to harm anyone’s health—the elderly
and the infirm may take however much food they feel they need.
The Ember days are
observed four times a year. They are always Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
within the same week in Advent and Lent, during the Octave of Pentecost, and
during the week following the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September
14th. In the early church the Ember days were instituted to call on God to
prosper the agricultural needs of the people. At first there were only
three sets of days: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a
rich vintage, and in December for the seeding. This is another example of
the Church appropriating and Christianizing a custom of the Roman pagans.
In the Liber Pontificalis the fasting is attributed to an order by
Pope Callistus (217‑222), but Leo the Great (440‑461) thought it went back
to the time of the Apostles. It is uncertain when the Lenten Ember Days
were added, but they were observed at least as early as the fifth century.
The Ember Saturdays are
the most common days for ordinations. All of their Masses have six Old
Testament readings and an Epistle from the New Testament. Each of the four
minor Orders is conferred after a reading—likewise the major Orders of
subdeacon, deacon, and priest.
If you look at the
church calendar, you will see that the Ember days each have a “stational
church.” What that means is that the people in Rome gather in procession to
attend Holy Mass at the stational church. The Mass is celebrated or
presided over by the reigning Pope.
On the four Ember
Wednesdays, the stational church is on the east side of the city, Saint Mary
Major—also known as Our Lady of the Snows to commemorate a miraculous
snowfall that fell during the hot Roman August summer day to designate the
spot where the basilica was to be built.
On the Ember Fridays the station is the church of the Twelve Apostles—more
or less in the center of the City. The station for Ember Saturdays is Saint
Peter’s Basilica in the north west corner. All of these churches are inside
the walls that were built to keep the Moslems out of Rome.
Visitors to these
churches on the station days may gain a partial indulgence for the visit, or
a plenary indulgence if they take part in the ceremonies offered there.
The usual conditions apply, plus the recitation of one Our Father and the
You have to make the
visits in person to gain the indulgences—but if you have internet access you
can see what each of these three churches look like:
So “Rejoice” and enjoy
this third Sunday of Advent. Get back to a more penitential attitude
tomorrow. Keep the fasting and abstinence of the Ember days if you can—and
come for Holy Mass if at all possible. And if you have Internet access,
have a look at the stational churches.