Just a few random thoughts on Mothering Sunday – which this year is bathed in glorious sunshine. I have been in my little back courtyard marvelling at the signs of new life springing up. Some plants have indeed succumbed to the frost and are unlikely to recover but others have managed to hide far enough down in the earth.
I guess there’s quite a lot of symbolism one could draw with Mother Earth, the Spring, the onset of new life and Mothering Sunday. The definite origins of the British tradition of celebrating mothers on this day is a little lost in the mists of time. But the general consensus seems to be that this was the day upon which young people in domestic service would return to their mother church (or cathedral) for a celebration. It was therefore an opportunity to see their families whom they might not have seen for months and flowers were a traditional gift for their mothers. And the church can also be seen in the role of a nuturing mother – providing guidance and sustenance and a degree of family life.
As a child, I remember making mother’s day cards and posies…I can’t remember if I made them in school or possibly Sunday school (or maybe both). These wonky, squashed and inept offerings would be presented and exclaimed over with joy and no doubt a wry smile.
When older, I found it touching to see young children present their mothers with similar items and how delighted their mothers would be. But Mothering Sunday is not always a day of joy – as some on the Wibsite have already noted. It can of course be associated with bereavement – perhaps for a mother who has passed on, or the reminder that a mother for whatever reason gave up her child for adoption, or for those who have not been able to conceive much wanted children, or for a child who has passed on before the parents.
Some of you will know that Jack the Lass and I both attended madchurch. Despite its madness, this was one area where there was acknowledgment of the potential pain of Mothering Sunday so to be more inclusive all the ladies in the congregation were given a small posy of flowers. It’s a tricky situation though, because although the intentions are honourable, the emotions of the “bereaved” are nonetheless evoked. Those tears in the corner of a woman’s eye may not be tears of joy but of deep grief.
But can it be right to ignore the festival for fear of the pain? It would be tempting for some. I have a friend whose mother died on Mothering Sunday – so the day is doubly painful… and today I have heard that Jade Goody* passed away at the age of 27. Her two young sons will have similar pain to bear as each year the anniversary rolls round. Somehow, we, the Church, must learn to be “mother” and supportive to those for whom this day is one of difficult emotions.
Whilst in my little garden, I was also thinking about the Lenten series I have been sharing with you. It struck me that we are half way through – and the theme has become somewhat repetitive. I almost felt like apologising to you for inflicting the series on you – but realised that these little summaries of life as a Christian in other countries are merely a tiny reminder – of two things:
1. that life is tough for Christians in countries where their religion is not welcome… not just on the day I write about it but every day.
2. that I need to be reminded more often of the immense privileges that are mine from living in a democratic affluent country (in spite of the financial crisis this is still one of the most affluent countries in the world), where free speech is taken for granted as is freedom of worship.
And so how does that fit in with Mothering Sunday? Well, in a way you could argue that we must nurture and “mother” (not smother) our fellow Christians in other parts of the world. How can we do this? It’s a big question and there are no doubt many different answers (financial donations.. sponsoring a child…diplomatic intervention…) – but continuing to pray for them wouldn’t go amiss.
So I shall continue to post the daily country bulletins (unless I am required to return to the Land of No Internet Connection to look after the Ma-rent). And rather than view the exercise as repetitive, I shall be glad that I still have as much time again to do something, however small, to support people in far-off lands.
*Note for non-British readers. This is a young woman who became well known following her appearance on the Big Brother reality TV show. She then courted the media and became a celebrity for being a celebrity. She was loved and despised by the public in equal measure. Whatever one thought of her, everyone must surely agree that to die of cervical cancer at the age of 27 is a cruel blow that no one should have to face.