Wet and muddy, contained within the wooden raised boxes, my garden rests as the December temperatures rise and fall in a downward trajectory.  The tomatoes that fell there, the seeds that never germinated last spring, leaves that fell from the trees, grass clippings that sprang from the lawn mower — all mingle in the dirt, decomposing when the temperatures rise above freezing. 

When the mercury dips, the surface of the garden lies suspended, frozen, longing for the warmth and activity that lies deep, deep down.

I don’t think much about what goes on out there during the dark days of winter. Exiled by the chill in the air, I spend my days in the house, in the office, in the car – in – with little thought for outside. Unless the sun shines especially bright one day, or the air grows warm enough to allow me to walk around without a coat, I am far away from seeds and soil, the sun and sky.

But today is one of the Ember Days, the quarterly sets of three days that originally were set apart to pray for and remember the earth and all of creation. As I consider all of this “in”-ness of winter, especially with the solstice still in front of us, I am beginning to be a bit claustrophobic, longing for what lies just on the other side of the glass from me.
Ironically, the Ember Days have evolved into an emphasis on the church and ordinations of priests. While postulants use the Ember Days as a time to update the bishops on their progress, more broadly this time can be spent praying for those in the ministry and the ministry of the church in general.

Again, the temptation of the Winter or Advent Ember Days might be to stay in, not just away from the cold temperatures and the dark evenings, but also away from the cold, dark hearts of those who are different, who are without hope. But to pray for the church is to understand the necessity of claustrophobia, that we can’t remain comfortable all crowded inside together.

We must look beyond the glass. 
Prayers for the church and her ministries necessarily take us outside the gate, outside the city, there on the garbage heap, there where the Cross casts it shadow.

The Ember Days are mysterious to me. I have observed the winter trinity of days for a couple of years now, trying to capture the spirit of them, but I forget about the Spring, Summer, and Fall Ember Days. They seem to have a different spirit, a different heart about them.

But then, come March and June and September, I have a different spirit and heart about me, too.

Lord, may your Bride be faithful in this dark season of waiting, and even now, may the seed of hope be planted in the cold, hard earth so that joy may rise in the Spring.


For more about Ember Days, read this interesting essay from the Daily Episcopalian.

And a few more Advent posts from the High Calling Advent Project:

And you just shouldn’t miss Jennifer Dukes Lee’s post at The High Calling this week, A Very Mary Christmas