St. Helen’s Daily Lenten Devotional
Lent 4, Mid-Lent Sunday, Mothering Sunday, Laetare Sunday, Refreshment Sunday…
If your family of origin hailed from the British Isles it is likely that the fourth Sunday of Lent was marked as Mothering Sunday. Medieval in origin, the religious observance was to visit ‘the mother Church’, either the church where one was baptized, the local parish church, or the nearest cathedral, considered the mother church of all the parish churches in a diocese. (You could visit Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa today, virtually!) It also became a day to honour human mothers, perhaps with gifts of flowers, and with time off for the ‘downstairs staff’ and their families to visit their mothers and attend worship. A traditional treat, now often saved for Easter celebrations, is the Simnel cake, a light fruitcake decorated with 11 marzipan balls, representing the 11 disciples (leaving out Judas, remembering the Holy Week story).
Mid-Lent Sunday is also known as Laetare Sunday, or Refreshment Sunday. It is offered as a day of respite from strict fasting, halfway through the penitential season. This Sunday gets its name from the first few words of the traditional Latin entrance (Introit) for the Mass of the day. “Laetare Jerusalem” (“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”) is Latin from Isaiah 66:10. The name ‘Refreshment Sunday’ is not so much about having a slice of cake and a cup of tea, but rather about resolving to renew your Lenten disciplines and devotions…in other words, getting back on track, when one has wandered off the trail. It could be that today is a day to make a new pledge, between you and God, for the rest of the season, in obedience to ‘observe a holy Lent’.
The journey to Easter is homeward bound, but not yet over. Time to catch your breath and do a little soul-searching…
God of love, passionate and strong, tender and careful:
watch over us and hold us all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Collect for Mothering Sunday, The Church of England