Well, we are now back where we began last year at the eve of Mothering Sunday the day in the Church calendar when we traditionally remember Mothers in all their glorious and sometimes not so glorious image. The time when groups should be meeting up to prepare bunches of glorious spring flowers and yellow trumpet daffodils to give out in Church and to those women unable to attend. A touch of festiveness in the middle of Lent, taken from us, almost one could say depriving us, separating us, creating a loneliness, bereft maybe of the touch or hug of loved ones, if we had been told as we entered the first lockdown that we would still be here in a year, how I wonder would that have affected us differently, as for sure it would have done. A long journey of faith and fear, joy and sadness, loneliness and new friendships. Rev Katharine was still here with us celebrating alongside Rev Ann, it seems such a long time ago. Mothering Sunday the day when we identify with Mother God as well as Father God
Introduction Over 100 years of Mothering Sunday
In 1913 Constance Penswick-Smith (1878-1938), the daughter of the vicar of Coddington, Nottinghamshire, caught the vision to celebrate Mothering Sunday. Later in 1921 Constance wrote a booklet asking for a full revival of Mothering Sunday, eventually founding The Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday and spending more than 25 years promoting the celebration of the festival. Thanks mainly to Constance’s efforts, Mothering Sunday – which has its roots in the pre- Reformation Church – has been widely observed and re-established across the Church of England, and celebrated in wider society. There are traditions associated with Mothering Sunday in England which date back as long ago as the 16th century. It is told that this was the day when people were encouraged to return to worship in their ‘mother church where they had been baptised. People who usually attended the local parish church, would make a longer journey to the ‘mother church’ or cathedral of the Diocese. Girls in domestic service would bake to show their mothers their new skills in the form of a gift, traditionally a simnel cake. On this day many girls who were in service were allowed time off from domestic chores to visit their mothers and their family.
Today Mothering Sunday is a popular day when Christians choose to use the occasion to think about all things which concern motherhood, in all it’s different forms and ways. We give thanks for the Church as Mother, the Virgin Mary as the mother of Jesus, we remember that God cares for us like a mother and last but not least we give thanks for our own mothers or those who loved us and brought us up as our mother. Mothering Sunday is is a time of special thanksgiving. It is the one day of joy in Lent, when flowers abound in all churches and when people are allowed a time off from the penitential season. It is also known as Mid-Lent Sunday, Refreshment Sunday or Laetare Sunday. The Latin name of Laetare, means rejoice.
In the fourteenth century Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write in modern English, experienced and understood the motherhood of God in her visions. Mothering Sunday is a good day to share her vision and recognise that although we are distinguished by our gender, God is not. Instead God is both mother and father to us.
‘As truly as God is Father, so just as truly is he our mother.’ Julian of Norwich. Adapted from “this is Church”
For me Mothering Sunday this year strangely enables me to identify more closely with those who have lost or never had a good mother experience, or the ability and desire to be a mother. I believe that is the case for many of us. I don’t own those experiences I have my own mother who I love, but have not seen for over a year now, but the lose of seeing and being has created a vacuum which is going to continue for this year. It will be extremely hard this year I believe to give, or be, how we would otherwise be, there will I am sure be a rawness about this year’s Day. There will be the lamentation of loss, which is mirrored so deeply in our Gospel reading for us.
That moment in time when Mother Mary, her sister and the two other Mary’s were gathered at the Cross. The fact that they were even there should not be lost on us alongside the lamentation of loss for Jesus as he gave his loving mother Mary over into the care of his beloved Disciple John. Mary is not just a mother, she is a Jewish one mother, she knows that her role is not only to be a loving mother for her children, but also their teacher. In the Gospel John the evangelist places the disciple standing by the mother, his testimony accompanies Mary’s testimony. She is also a disciple that follows her Son to the cross. She is giving her spiritual sons and daughters the example of a firm witness who follows the Master’s footsteps, even as in her heart surely she remembered the words of Simeon, “and a sword shall pierce your heart”.
Let’s hold the joy and sorrow, lamentation and vision of the new earth and new heaven together in a bobbly ball in our hands and hearts, living in the knowledge that despite what emotions and thoughts rise within us we are held by Mother God through the Spirit.
Revd Georgina Vye