Today is Ember Friday, one of the lesser-known instances in the liturgical calendar called Ember Days. Ember Days happen four times a year, including this week, between the First and Second Sundays of Lent. The four instances take place near the turning of the seasons; this week's is near the transition from Winter to Spring, while the others are 1) between the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent 2) between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday and 3) the liturgical third week of September, of the week of September 14th.
Ember Days are times set aside for fasting, penance, and contemplation of the glory of God through his creation. We are encouraged to think about the many gifts that God has given us, and to pray for the temperance to use those gifts in moderation and in the spirit they were granted.
The name “Ember Days” might be misleading, in that many people think of embers in a fire. In fact, the origins of the name are disputed, but all seem to revolve around either the Anglo-Saxon “ymbren”, which meant a circuit, or a revolution—referring here to the cyclical seasons, and the Ember Days' place at the transitions between them—or else the folk etymology of “remember” in the spirit of contemplation.
Additionally, it is common for clergy to be ordained on Ember Days. Likely established by Pope Gelasius I in the Fifth Century A.D., the rules for ordination were changed from the previous practice of ordaining clergy whenever it was necessary. This mirrors the spirit of Ember Days, in that clergy are granted stewardship over the Church God created.
As we go further into the Lenten season this year, it is good to remember the great creation given to us by God, and our role as stewards.