...from the Rector about the 4th Sunday in Lent: Refreshment Sunday, Rose Sunday, Mothering Sunday
Today, the 4th Sunday in Lent, marks a break in an otherwise penitential season. In English churches, and indeed in many Episcopal Churches in the United States, whatever austerity may have marked the earlier part of Lent gives way to “refreshment.” For Anglicans the tradition of “Laetare Sunday” extends as far back as the 15th century when the opening introit “O be joyful Jerusalem” was always sung on this Sunday. The Latin word laetare is the singular imperative of to rejoice.
The vestments for this day are often rose-colored, and in many churches, including ours, flowers adorn the Altar. In the Diocese of Southwark (in London) the Bishop, as recently as a few years ago, encouraged parishes to serve chocolate wafers and sherry for the coffee hour. Even if we had a coffee hour I think we’d stop short of that indulgence, but the point is to remind us again that every Sunday is an anniversary of the resurrection.
Another historical thread for this Sunday was the old (as in medieval) practice of visiting the cathedral, or the “mother church,” and eventually that practice morphed into the contemporary custom known throughout England of honoring mothers with spring flowers and a special tea cake known as Simnel Cake. Within the Anglican tradition we see this emphasized in two different Prayer Books, Canada’s and Ireland’s, both of which describe today as “Mothering Sunday.”
All of these customs and traditions are ways for the church to remind us that Lent isn’t a season for penitence alone, but also a time “to prepare with joy for the paschal feast.” And so our liturgy--our music, the prayers, and the environment itself--expresses a foretaste of the joy that’s coming, the joy of Christ’s resurrection, and ours.
Source material The Commentary on the American Prayer Book by Marion Hatchett (1979); 2004 Book of Common Prayer for the Church of Ireland (2005).