I'm a little late getting off the mark with this one. I should have posted this earlier in the week but, well you know how that goes.
Tomorrow, Friday is the second of the three Ember days in December. The Ember days are three days that are set aside by the Church four times a year in order to focus on God through the wonder of His creation. In keeping with the newness of the LIturgical year the first of the Ember days take place right after the feast of Saint Lucy. The Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the feast are the winter Ember days. The second is in the spring following Ash Wednesday, the summer days follow Pentecost and the autumn days follow the Triumph of the Cross. A little rhyme to remember:
Lucy, Ash, Dove and Cross
or in Latin
Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.
Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost,
are when the quarter holidays follow.
(Don't be impressed, I snitched that from www.fisheaters.com)
These days are meant to be a time of abstinence and penance in thanksgiving to God for the gift of his creation. We are also meant to pray for the restraint to use His gifts wisely and with concern. The fasts, known also as "four season fasts" are a continuation of the practice of fasting quarterly in the Old Testament.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Juda, joy, and gladness, and great solemnities: only love ye truth and peace. (Zacharias 8:19)
Since the Ember days give us an opportunity to thank our loving God for the gifts of nature and this is the time of year in which "heaven and nature sing" why not spend some time on Friday or Saturday giving back to nature or celebrating it's gifts. It would be a lovely time of year to bundle up and take an Advent nature walk and perhaps look for bits of nature to decorate your home with in the coming days. Provided you have permission, of course, cutting some evergreen boughs or pepperberries to hang in your tree or along your mantle would be a nice activity. You could also watch for the winter birds in your area. The bright and seasonally dressed cardinal is always exciting for the children to see.My dear friend MacBeth has posted a wonderful article about taking winter hikes with children which I hope you will read.
I like to spend at least part of the Embertide with the children smearing peanut butter or suet on pinecones roling them in birdseed and hanging them out for the birds. Usually it's the squirrels that benefit but they provide their own amusement for the kids as their antics to get at the swinging cones get more acrobatic.
What about some winter star gazing? Those heavens sing even in winter and the sky is always changing. Since most of us only venture out at night in milder temperatures why not try it in winter. I wrote a post for my personal blog a few years ago about winter star gazing that you might find helpful.
What about our furry friends? Certainly they have a place in this Advent season. The most obvious thing to do is to visit a living Nativity scene. Alas, they are being legislated out of existence (and that's all I'm going to say about that) but you can still find them. If you cannot find one why not read about living Nativitys in St. Francis Celebrates Christmas. It's a lovely book telling of St. Francis' reenactment of the Nativity.
More furry friend activities to give thanks to God for creation; make a donation to your local animal shelter, treat your own pet to a long walk or play session, or how about a homemade treat for fido?
Since the Ember days are also days of fasting and penance a visit to confession is a good beginning and then speak with the children about what little sacrifices they can make to let God know they love Him and His creation.
God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. (Genesis 1-28:30)