[Station at St. Mary Major’s.]
The spring Ember Week coincides with the first week of Lent. It was instituted for the purpose of consecrating to God the new season (of Spring), 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 this day was always held at St. Mary Major, the greatest and most illustrious of the Roman churches consecrated to the Mother of God. The Gospel also alludes to Our Lady. The two lessons, the second of which is read as an Epistle, tell of Moses and Elias, who before seeing the glory of the Lord fasted forty days and forty nights.
Moses and Elias fast for forty days and forty nights, because God bids them come near to Him. Man must purify himself, he must unburden himself, in some measure at least, of the body which weighs him down, if he would enter into communication with Him who is the Spirit. And yet the vision of God granted to these two holy personages was very imperfect: they felt that God was near them, but they beheld not His glory. But when the fullness of time came (Gal. iv. 4), God manifested Himself in the flesh: and man saw, and heard, and touched Him. (1 St. John i. 1) We, indeed, are not of the number of those favored ones who lived with Jesus, the Word of life; but in the holy Eucharist He allows us to do more than see Him: He enters into our breasts, He is our food. The humblest member of the Church possesses God more fully than either Moses on Sinai, or Elias on Horeb. We cannot, therefore, be surprised that the Church, in order to fit us for this favor at the Easter solemnity, bids us go through a preparation of forty days, though its severity is not to be compared with the rigid fast which Moses and Elias had to observe as the condition of receiving what God promised them.