NAME 1: REFRESHMENT SUNDAY. The Early and the Medieval Church helped ordinary people to remember the great festivals with popular names like, Refreshment Sunday, Thomas Sunday, Michaelmas and Candlemas, which indicated key times of the year. Refreshment Sunday marked the midway point of the Lenten season, when Lent meant no milk, eggs, cheese, fish or meat – it was quite an ordeal. Added to this, in the Northern Hemisphere, it was the beginning of Spring and people were lightening up after the dark grim winter, so mid-Lent became an occasion to relax a little. This little bit of indulgence allowed flowers in Church, and the eating of the Simnel Cake (simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour, which actually is an Easter cake), as a sign that fasting was coming to an end as the Great Easter Festival was drawing ever closer. So, for this reason this day was called Refreshment Sunday.
NAME 2: MOTHERING SUNDAY. Added to this, in the liturgy, the opening verse of scripture for this day is, “Rejoice Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her, rejoice with her”. Saint Paul called the heavenly Jerusalem “our Mother.” So, another name was coined for this day “Mothering Sunday”, it is now occasion when we give thanks for our own mums. It also a memorial of our Mother Church and it reminds us that this Parish community belongs to a Diocese, a Province and a National Church and in turn, that belongs to the world-wide Anglican Communion of 80 million people. Last of all, we remember Mary, the Mother of the Lord.
NAME 3: LAETARE SUNDAY. The Latin word for ‘rejoice’, in “Rejoice Jerusalem…” is Laetare – so yet another nickname was added to this Sunday. With all this remembering, rejoicing and relaxing of the Lenten rules, the sombre dark violet colour of the priest’s vestments is changed to a rose colour. In the 1960s that custom was dropped, however the Church of England’s new prayer book has restored the tradition.
All these elements show how worship and liturgy evolves and changes over the centuries – all so we can “Rejoice in the Lord”.