For us here in the United States, Mothering Sunday might sound a little strange; after all, Mother’s Day is in May. Mothering Sunday was the inspiration for Mother’s Day, but the tradition goes back as far as the middle ages and has a profoundly spiritual significance to it.
As with most things spiritual, it isn’t easy to place an exact date for Mothering Sunday’s origin. It has been tied to the 4th Sunday of Lent since the Medieval Times as sort of a respite from Lent’s rigors.
The original Scripture readings for this day are filled with references to mothers and metaphors for mothers. The introit for the day comes from the Prophet Isiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1
“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem; and be ye glad for her, all ye that delight in her: exult and sing for joy with her, all ye that in sadness mourn for her; that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations. Psalm: I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.”
In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (4:21-31), Paul uses the story of Sarah and Hagar as an allegory of Jerusalem, “which is the mother of us all” Paul understands this story as an allegory and advocates for an understanding of motherhood that transcends the material world.
The Gospel lesson for the day is the story of the Feeding of the five thousand (John 2:1–14) and is a reminder of mother earth gifts.
During this time, the tradition began of visiting one’s “Mother Church,” the church of one’s baptism, or of visiting the closest Cathedral or Mother Church of the Diocese.
The practice of celebrating Mothering Sunday was revived in reaction to Mother’s Day’s creation in 1913 by Anna Jarvis in the United States. Constance Penswick Smith published a play in 1913 called In Praise of Mother: A Story of Mothering Sunday and a book A Short History of Mothering Sunday in 1915. But her most influential work in the revival of Mothering Sunday came with the 1921 publication of The Revival of Mothering Sunday, a book in four chapters pointing that Mothering Sunday should transcend biological motherhood and include:
‘The Church – Our Mother’
‘Mothers of Earthly Homes’
‘The Mother of Jesus’
‘Gifts of Mother Earth’
On this Mothering Sunday, let us call to mind all those who have helped mother us in our lives.Let us Pray:
Thank you for mums and children and for all the joy of family life. Be with those who are grieving because they have no mother; Be close to those who are struggling because they have no children; Be near to those who are sad because they are far apart from those they love. Let your love be present in every home and help your church to have eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of all who come. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.