I wonder whether, like me, you ever get confused between “Mother’s Day” and “Mothering Sunday”? I often have to remind myself as to the difference between them and their respective significances. As you may recall “Mother’s Day” is a celebration honouring the mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.
On the other hand “Mothering Sunday” is a day honouring mothers and mother churches celebrated annually during Lent. On Mothering Sunday, ChrisCans have historically visited their mother church – the church in which they received the sacrament of baptism. It coincides with “Laetare Sunday”, (otherwise called “Refreshment Sunday”) being a day of respite from fasting halfway through the season of Lent. We are encouraged to rejoice that day. Symbolically the altar frontals and vestments are rose coloured rather than penitenial purple.
I doubt that many of us here will actually have been baptised at the Church of the Good Shepherd. I was baptised many years ago at the parish church where my grandmother was a member, where my parents were married and where my mother remains. I pass it every time I go home. There is something special about that family connection even if some family are no longer with us. Looking back, it clearly had an important part in my life. Can you recall where you were baptised? What connections are still there?
In choosing an image to illustrate Mothering Sunday I was reminded of a “Matryoshka doll”. You may recall these comprise a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. You may still have one. They are often seen as a symbol or traditional representation of the mother carrying a child with her. It can also be seen as a representation of a chain of mothers carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb. They illustrate the unity of body, soul, mind, heart and spirit.
In his 2021 Lenten book “Thy will be done”, Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College, Cambridge makes reference to the concept of “motherly father”. It is not one which I have really come across before. Not only does it challenge how we think of God but it offers us a fresh insight into our understanding too. One of the images he refers to is the well-known fifteenth century icon by Andrei Rublev based upon the hospitality of Abraham. He comments that “for many who meditate on it they will be struck by the feminine nature of the forms and the androgyny”. What do you think?
He then goes on to comment that “part of the power of that icon is that it communicates something integrating and healthy and complete about our understanding of God’s nature and relationship with us. However there are many people for whom that health and fullness is no longer conveyed by the word “father” alone. Whatever we say, however, when we use the word “father” here we are implying “mother” and referring to the loving kindness of God. What do you think?
The story of Moses in the basket made of bullrushes symbolises so much of motherhood, tenderness, compassion, love and much more. As does the prayer which I wish to conclude with:-
We give you thanks for all who care for us, Who have encouraged us and helped us grow, Who have forgiven us,
And cared for us when we are unwell,
Who have supported us when times were hard, Who have challenged us
Who have told us about you.
Thank you, Amen.