Today is the first Wednesday following Pentecost Sunday. On the Catholic Calendars of old, it would have been a day of fasting and prayer as Ember Days of Pentecost, or Ember Days of Summer. Four times a year, particular Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays were once distinct days of devotion in the early Church.
Ember Days were established to thank God for the gifts of nature, which is why each of these sets of three days are tied to the changing of seasons. We are reminded to make use of these gifts of nature in moderation. In modern terms, we should not squander our planet’s natural resources. For those blessed with God’s gifts, we are also reminded to assist those less fortunate, to care for the weak, the elderly, the poor among us.
Ordinations to the priesthood and diaconate were typically celebrated during Ember Days. Up until Vatican II, Catholics were asked to mark these days of seasoning change with fasting and abstinence similar to that of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It was universal. However; Vatican II gave local bishops the authority to adapt a Liturgical Calendar suited to their region. It was then that USCCB decided to revise the celebration of Ember Days as no longer days of obligation. While the Church itself still celebrates Ember Days, the faithful are no longer required to attend Mass nor fast and abstain. For the un-ordained, Ember Days traditions are a matter of personal choice.
There remains within the Roman Missal specific Masses for Seedtime (spring), for the Sanctification of Human Labor (summer), After the Harvest (fall) and For Fine Weather (winter). Ember Days are a beautiful celebration of God’s providential care over nature. In this age when so many are striving to get back in touch with nature, to return to values of old, it may be worthwhile to revisit the importance of Ember Days. While under no obligation, we are always free to celebrate with gratitude each and every day all that the Creator has done.
On the secular calendar, today is National Blueberry Cheesecake Day. While that seems in indulgent, it is also a celebration of Summer’s Sweetness. Have a blessed day everyone!
Blueberry Cheesecake Squares
2 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 tablespoon Butter, melted
Heat oven to 375-degrees.
In an 8-inch mix crumbs and melted butter until crumbs are well coated. Spread evenly in pan. Bake for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Let crust cool while the cheesecake filling is made.
2 (8 oz) blocks Cream Cheese
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
In large bowl, beat cream cheese and canned milk with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in sour cream, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Pour over crust.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until center is jiggly but sides are set.
Cool 1 hour at room temperature. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until well chilled.
While the cheesecake chills, make the blueberry topping.
1/4 cup Sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Water
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 cups fresh Blueberries
In 1-quart saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water and lemon juice until smooth. Add 1 cup of the blueberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil about 2 minutes or until thickened; remove from heat.
Stir in remaining 1 cup blueberries. Place blueberry topping in small bowl; let stand at room temperature 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
To serve, cut cheesecake into 4 row by 4 row squares. Plate squares, top with blueberries and enjoy.