MOTHERING SUNDAY


Today is a day which, in the Christian Calendar, is known by a number of different names. Today is Refreshment Sunday / Mothering Sunday / Mid-Lent Sunday/ Rose Sunday. It is always held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, however the date will vary due to the movable date of Easter. Rose Sunday refers to the colour of the vestments used. Today is also sometimes known as Refreshment Sunday. Rather like the 3rd Sunday of Advent, it's a day which stands towards the middle of the season of Lent, and traditionally, a certain amount of relaxation of Lent was allowed. Its pre-Reformation Latin title is Laetare Sunday, which comes from the opening words of the introit at the Eucharist: Laetare Jerusalem (O be joyful, Jerusalem) - a call to lift up our eyes and look beyond the present situation to what lies ahead - and specifically to God's promise to save his people.

Laetare Sunday is also known as "Mothering Sunday". The old practice of visiting the cathedral, or "mother church" of the diocese on this day is another reason for the name. In England, natural mothers are honored today, too, in a manner rather like the American "Mother's Day." Spring flowers are given to mothers, and simnel cake is made to celebrate the occasion (this cake has also become an Easter Cake of late, however). The word "simnel" comes from the Latin "simila," a high grade flour.

Although it is often called Mother's Day, its origin is different from the American festival of that name. At the outset Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day were two distinct festivals with entirely different beginnings. Mothering Sunday originated in seventeenth-century British culture; Mother's Day was an American innovation in 1913. The origin of Mothering Sunday can also be traced to the17th century. Children after the age of ten left their homes for jobs as apprentices or domestic servants. It was considered important that these children be allowed to visit their home and mother church once a year.

Accordingly, once in a year, in the middle of the Lent the children were given leave by their employers to visit their "Mother Church", the Cathedral of the area or Cathedral of their hometown. As they walked home along the country lanes on Mothering Sunday, children would pick wild flowers to take to church or give to their mothers. Often they brought a gift with them, a "mothering cake" - known as simnel cake.

A new festival to honour mothers had emerged in the United States of America at the start of the twentieth century. Mother's Day was introduced by Anna Jarvis, a young woman whose mother died in May 1906. A year later, Anna told a friend that she wished the day could be set aside to pay tribute to all mothers. The idea began to spread and gain wide support. The governor of Anna's state, proclaimed the second Sunday in May to be Mother's Day. The festival continued to gain popularity and in 1913, was officially dedicated Mother's Day by Congress.

Here in our Diocese of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands we mark this day with a special service and procession for young persons, to Christ Church Cathedral, the "Mother Church" of the Diocese. So today's Refreshment Sunday/Mothering Sunday/Mid-Lent Sunday is a reminder to take stock, take food for the journey, so that although we remain firmly grounded in the present, we set our sights with courage on our hope for the future.

from
Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes