It may seem an odd call when the church is in Lent – in the middle of our season of fasting and saying sorry to God for all the wrong things we have done. We are in that sombre season as we approach the cross on Good Friday. But before we stand once more at the foot of the cross and wonder at Jesus’ sacrifice, we remember Mothering Sunday.
For the Church of England it falls on the fourth Sunday of lent. But you won’t find it in the bible, or even the deeper parts of church tradition. Because Mothering Sunday is a tradition which only started about 450 years ago, in the 16th Century.
However, it falls on a celebration which stretches further back – Laetare Sunday. Laetare is from the Latin, which means To Rejoice! Laetare Sunday is a celebration which breaks up the fast of lent. On Laetare Sunday flowers are allowed on the alter and we take a break from fasting. If you fancy it, you are allowed to get married in church on Laetare Sunday too – unlike the rest of Lent.
In the 16th Century it became a custom for children as young as 10 who had been sent away for service or an education to return to their home parish to partake in the celebrations. This was a return to their ‘Mother’ church, and Mothering Sunday was born.
On their way home children would often pick the first wild flowers of spring for their church. As time went on, they would also pick some for their mothers. By the early 20th Century the practice of Mothers Day was born. This gathered pace with the arrival of American and Canadian soldiers in World War 2.
For many it must be acknowledged that Mothers Day, with all the cards and trappings of commercialism, can be quite tough. You may not have had the greatest mother, or your mother may have died. My grandmother died on Mothering Sunday, and for us the day is tinged with sadness.
But perhaps we are called back to the origins of Laetare Sunday. As we continue our Lenten journey towards the cross of Good Friday we should look beyond the commercialism, and return to that simple truth, that Mothering Sunday is a day to rejoice. Not necessarily for our earthly mothers, important though they are, but for the gift which Jesus left us. He left us an eternal salvation and a place in heaven, given by the Grace of God.