10th March 2024 Homily for Evensong

Texts: Ephesians 2: 1-10,  John 6: 1-14

How, I wonder, do you refer to this day? Is it as the majority of people in this country would tell you Mothers’ Day or would you, like me, be what most people would consider being horribly pedantic and insist on calling it Mothering Sunday?  But of course, there are several more options than just these two names the first of which relates almost exclusively to the secular world and the latter to the sacred world. We could simply call it the fourth Sunday of Lent or perhaps even more prosaically mid-Lent Sunday but then there are more interesting names starting with the Latin Laetere Sunday. This takes its name from the Introit for today which begins with the words’ Laetere Jerusalem’ which translated mean Rejoice O Jerusalem.

Then there is Rose Sunday arising from the tradition that this is the Sunday when the Golden Roses sent by the Pope to godly (please note the ‘godly’!) Catholic sovereigns were blessed. Although this tradition ceased in the seventeenth century and the roses went instead to queens and princesses while the godly rulers were given swords and hats instead considered more suitable than the roses unless the godly ruler just happened to be in Rome on this particular Sunday when he was presented with that golden rose and missed out on the sword and hat.  And if we had one, we could have a rose coloured altar cloth and I could have pretty rose vestments instead of Lenten purple. Next, we have Refreshment Sunday where Lenten fasting could be relaxed before tackling the last testing weeks of Lent as we continue our penitential journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. So have no qualms about going home after this service and having a bit of a feast. And should none of these names appeal you can always simply refer to it as the Sunday of the five loaves as before the introduction of the new lectionary this was always the gospel reading for today.

And just to broaden your knowledge further it would have been quite acceptable to have flowers on the altar today and we could have had a wedding or two as well which certainly were forbidden at any other time in Lent and of course you should have allowed any servants you employ to go to their mother church where they were baptised and do all the chores yourselves. And I wonder if our organist who is I know a fount of often quite remarkable knowledge is aware that this is the only Lenten Sunday at which the solo playing of the organ was permitted at Mass. On all the other Sundays of Lent organ or instrument playing was only permitted to accompany the singing and certainly no magnificently played preludes or postludes. This was apparently to ensure an atmosphere of penitence and reflection. So now you know.

Thinking about all this it seems to me that this Sunday whatever we may choose to call it is one for rejoicing, for allowing ourselves to forget for one day at least the need to don the ashes and sackcloth which symbolize repentance and find joy in not just the solo organ playing but in our singing and  most of all in the recognition of just how bountiful God it towards us his children. Rejoice in God who delights in blessing his children with an abundance of gifts. Rejoice in God whose Son fed those five thousand hungry people with a mere five loaves and two fish. Rejoice in God who can turn the smallest seed into the most magnificent tree. Rejoice in God who has created such a wealth of beautiful flowers be they roses or daisies. Rejoice in God who has blessed people with the ability to make joyous music and superbly crafted objects. Rejoice in God who mothers us under the shelter of his wings and is always present as our guardian and our guide to uphold us in times when we stumble, and the world seems a dark and dangerous place. Rejoice in God whose Son is the true Light of our world. Rejoice most of all in the God who loved us so much that he sent his own Son to feed and sustain us not just with loaves and fish but with his very own body and blood sacrificed for us that we might have the remission of our sins and the joy of life everlasting.


I pray that as you go home this evening you may have a sense of refreshment, a sense of being  warmly and securely mothered within God’s love for all his children, a sense of being blessed not with the gift of a golden rose but with the gifts freely given by the infinite beauty of God’s creation and above all a sense of joy  garnered from  all the beauty of the words and music of  our worship together so that you can in truth echo the last words of this evening’s psalm: ‘But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Rev’d Virginia Smith / 10th March 2024

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