The Fourth Sunday of Lent, Mid-Lent Sunday, Laetare Sunday, in the Anglican tradition is also called Mothering Sunday. The Introit for the day, from Isaiah, is “”REJOICE [Laetare] ye with Jerusalem: and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations.  I was glad when the said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.”  The traditional Epistle from Galatians incudes the passage “But Jerusalem which is above is free; which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” The traditional Gospel tells of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand.

From these passages of Scripture arose the custom of visiting the mother church, that is, the church in which one was baptized. Young people who had left their home village to work as domestic servants were given the day off to see their mothers and to bring a gift of food.

During the Lent fast, people did not eat from sweet, rich foods or meat. However, the fast was lifted slightly on Mothering Sunday and many people prepared a Simnel cake to eat with their family on this day. A Simnel cake is covered with marzipan and twelve balls of   marzipan to represent Jesus and the eleven faithful apostles.

A modern carol by George Hare Leonard refers to these customs:

It is the day of all the year, of all the year the one day,
When I shall see my mother dear and bring her cheer, a-mothering on Sunday.
It is the day of all the year, of all the year the one day,
And here come I my mother dear, to bring you cheer, a-mothering on Sunday.

So I’ll put on my Sunday coat,
And in my hat a feather,
And get the lines I writ by rote,
With many a note,
That I’ve a-strung together.

And now to fetch my wheaten cake,
To fetch it from the baker,
He promised me, for Mother’s cake,
The best he’d bake
For me to fetch and take her.

Well have I known, as I went by
One hollow lane, that none day
I’d fail to find – for all they’re shy –
Where violets lie,
As I went home on Sunday.

My sister Jane is waiting-maid
Along with Squire’s lady;
And year by year her part she’s played
And home she stayed
To get the dinner ready.

For Mother’ll come to Church, you’ll see-
Of all the year it’s the day-
‘The one,’ she’ll say, ‘that’s made for me
And so it be:
It’s every Mother’s free day.

The boys will all come home from town,
Not one will miss that one day;
And every maid will bustle down
To show her gown,
A-mothering on Sunday.

It is the day of all the year,
Of all the year the one day;
And here come I, my Mother dear,
To bring you cheer,
A-mothering on Sunday.

Here it is sung by Jane Peppler of Pratie Heads.

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