Dear People of St. David’s,
I hope this finds you well in the middle of the season of Lent. There are some lovely old traditions that surround the fourth Sunday of Lent, which we approach this week. In former times, when Lent was a time of great self-deprivation, the fourth Sunday was called Laetare, which is Latin for “Rejoice!” It might seem a bit odd in Lent, when we have put aside our Alleluias. But this was intentional; it was a break in Lenten disciplines, a relaxation for one Sabbath day. People needed a break to make it through the long, restrictive Lent. The traditional introit of the Latin Mass began with the scripture written above. Many churches changed their liturgical colors from purple to pink, in recognition that everything was relaxing a bit. Some churches still use these colors on the fourth Sunday!
In England, this Sunday came to be known as “Mothering Sunday.” In times when great landowners had massive estates and households full of servants (think early Downton Abbey episodes!), Lent was a hard time. It was particularly hard on those living a life in service, whose duties often required substantial physical labor, while subsisting on a very restricted Lenten diet. So on the fourth Sunday of this penitential season, people in service were given the Sunday off. They went home to their families for the day, to join in the relaxed dietary restrictions, and enjoy a richer family meal with their loved ones. Over time, these people returning from service starting bringing bouquets of flowers to their mothers, perhaps the very first spring flowers! And that is how it came to be called “Mothering Sunday,” a tradition which is still observed.
Times certainly have changed! This year has been so difficult on so many fronts that the usual self-deprivations have not felt appropriate. As our rector has pointed out many times: we have already given up so much! Instead, we were encouraged to take something on. So how might we observe Laetare Sunday? Perhaps by coming to worship in person, if you feel safe. It is certainly a joy to have people worshipping here once again. Perhaps by taking a little extra time to cherish and honor your family, in the spirit of Mothering Sunday. Make some phone calls to those family members who don’t live nearby, or send flowers!
My mother was fond of an old New England proverb: “You can do anything with the Grace of God and a long-handled spoon.” Our parish community, like so many other Christian communities around the world, has held itself together in these strange times by the sheer Grace of God and the modern equivalent of a long-handled spoon: practical adaptations. But even our amazing ability to adapt is based in the Grace of God. So allow yourself a little rejoicing this coming Sunday, be filled with gratitude for the ways in which we have managed to “keep it together,” cherish your family, and be humbled by the magnificent Grace of God.