I hesitated for a moment while the chocolate taste spread across my mouth. My taste buds asked an unusual question of the European chocolate I was enjoying: does this seem too sweet? American chocolate, with added sugar for a populace that cannot get enough of it, had always struck me as too sweet. I didn’t taste Hershey’s until I was almost ten years old, as it’s almost unknown in Asia, where I spent my early years.
I was certainly enjoying the chocolate but the question of why it seemed “sweet” to me lay in the Lent that had just passed. One of the things I gave up this year was adding sugar to my hot drinks and since then my taste buds had become significantly more sensitive. “More dark chocolate, I guess,” I mused as I put a second piece into my mouth. It was Sunday, after all.
Lent, as we approach the Ember Days between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, seems so very far away, and yet, that small lesson of how my tastes have changed reminded me that I had accomplished the tiniest of victories over my corporeal self. That victory allowed me to welcome the Ember Days as a chance to re-initiate that penance – not for 40 days, and not even with full abstinence all three days – to remind me that at the heart of Christianity is not the word “enjoy” but the word “merit” and that word is exemplified by that Cross we must take up every day to follow Him, even in little things.
So, Ember Days are here? Don't sigh, but rather rejoice, for now you can pause the ongoing joy we have felt at the Resurrection, Ascension, and Descent of the Hoy Ghost to grapple with the real work of our salvation: penance and mortification.
If you’re unfamiliar with them, the Church has long observed Ember Days as days of fast and abstinence. Friday, as always, is a day of full abstinence, whereas Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays are days of partial abstinence. For more details on the rules of fast and abstinence, read here.