Ember Wednesday in Lent
Station at St Mary Major
The spring Ember Week coincides with the first week of Lent. It was instituted for the purpose of consecrating to God the new season, and by fasting and prayer to draw down heavenly graces on those who on Saturday are to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
The Station on the Wednesday in Ember Week was always held at St. Mary Major, the greatest and most illustrious of the Roman churches consecrated to the Blessed Virgin.
Is it not fitting that on this very day when the scrutinies for Ordination used to be made, the liturgical gathering should be made in the basilica consecrated to her, whom Proclus of Constantinople hails as "the temple in which God became priest"?
The Gospel also alludes to our Lady. The two lessons, the second of which is read as Epistle, tell of Moses and Elias, who before seeing the glory of the Lord fasted forty days and forty nights. Called to take the place of the rebellious Jews, let us make ourselves worthy of the fruits of penance as did the men of Ninive, who listened to the voice of Jonas, and the Queen of Saba, who came from her distant country to learn the wisdom of Solomon (Gospel). We shall participate then in the resurrection of the Saviour, symbolised by the Prophet who, after remaining three days in the whale's belly, was vomited out alive.
Let us pray to God that we may be strengthened in mind by the fruit of good works, while we mortify our bodies by abstinence (Collect).
Reminiscere miserationum tuarum, Domine, et misericordiae tuae, quae a saeculo sunt: ne unquam dominentur nobis inimici nostri: libera ex omnibus nos, Deus Israel, angustiis nostris. * Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam: Deus meus, in te confido, non erubescam.
Remember, O Lord, Thy bowels of compassion, and Thy mercies, that are from the beginning of the world: lest at any time our enemies rule over us: deliver us, O God of Israel, from all our necessities. * To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed.
Mercifully hear our prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord: and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty against all our adversaries.
Devotionem populi tui, quaesumus, Domine, benignus intende: ut, qui per abstinentiam macerantur in corpore, per fructum boni operis reficiantur in mente.
Graciously look down, O Lord, we beseech Thee, upon the devotion of Thy people, that they who are mortified in body by abstinence, may be refreshed in mind through the fruit of good works.
Catholic encyclopaedia on the Ember Days: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05399b.htm
Wikipedia on the Basilica of St Mary Major: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_Maggiore