Fr John Hunwicke blogs : The Ember Days of the old (Tridentine and Divine Worship Missal) liturgies began life as pagan Roman Harvest Festivals, celebrating the gathering-in of the corn, the wine, and the oil. The Church of Rome christianised them; pointed out in her lections that the Torah refers to analogous agricultural festivals; and turned them into fasts so as to eliminate the excesses of pagan celebration.
The September Ember season is, in my view, the most fun, because the down-to-earth agricultural liturgical texts have not been overladen with themes of Advent, Lent, or Pentecost, as those of the other three Embertides have been. So let’s wallow in the Harvest Festival joy of this week’s liturgies, and let’s enjoy it all the more by doing it with the Tudor English texts in the Divine Worship (Ordinariate) Missal …”Sing we merrily unto God our Strength, make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob … ”
And the ancient readings carried the same message: “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 …
But these Ember Days were fast days! Look at the Collects: “Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, to us thy humble servants, that we, who do refrain ourselves from carnal feastings …”. And the ancient Ember Gospels were 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 so, at these times, the Church also besought God to send down the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands, having prepared herself by communal fasting (cf Acts 13:1-3). S John Paul II used to prepare himself to administer Holy Orders with fasting and discipline.
I wonder if the disappearance of Fasting is one of the reasons why the Devil has so much power over members and ministers of the modern Church. And … by the way … the disappearance of fasting in the Western Church is not an area in which we can heap all the blame on S Paul VI. As so often, it was Pius XII who got there first.