Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mothering Sunday


This Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent, is called Laetare Sunday or “Refreshment Sunday.” It is from an old prayer that begins the service of Eucharist for that day, “Rejoice, with Jerusalem” (in Latin Laetare cum Hierusalem) pointing in hope to the victory about to be won. 

Historically, Lent was observed very strictly and very severely. A bit of refreshment and laetare was called for midway through the season.

But this Sunday has another feature. It was a custom in England, several hundred years ago, to visit one’s “Mother Church” or cathedral on this Sunday.  This practice naturally led to family reunions and celebrations. Another historical element was that young girls and boys in domestic service were allowed to go home one day each year to visit their mothers, (yes, just one day each year!) and it was traditionally on this Sunday that the leave was granted. This became known as "going a-mothering" and the day was called Mothering Sunday.  Tradition has it that a special cake, called a simnel cake, made with marzipan and dried fruit, was part of the occasion.

In England today this Sunday is simply called Mother’s Day; the historical element largely ignored in favor of flowers and sentimental greeting cards.

Here is something pretty for the day -

I’ll to thee a Simnel bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’ 
Robert Herrick 1648

*This cemetery has particular significance to me as my mother and I used to walk in it in the evening gathering violets that grew wild there.

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