Mothering Sunday

This coming Sunday, the 11th March, is Mother's Day (also known as Mothering Sunday) in the UK and Ireland.

There seem to be different definitions of when Mother's Day occurs around the world. In the UK and Ireland (and also Nigeria) it always happens on the Fourth Sunday of Lent – also known as Laetare Sunday.

Laetare Sunday (or Refreshment Sunday) is traditionally the one Sunday in Lent when you're meant to relax your Lenten austerity – and also your Lenten fast – so stock up on that chocolate and booze now! And in church it's one of the two Sundays in the year when the priests wear rose (or pink) coloured vestments.

The reason it's called Mothering Sunday seems to date back to a 16th-century tradition of Christians visiting their mother church annually on Laetare Sunday. Children would return to their home towns, and as such to their families, so there would be some focus on returning to their mothers.

However it wasn't until World War II that US soldiers brought the entirely secular celebration of mothers on Mother's Day to the UK – and as such the two traditions merged.

One of the traditions I'm personally very fond of is the making of simnal cake on Laetare Sunday, a light fruit cake with lots and lots of marzipan in it, and then decorated on top with 11 marzipan balls – to symbolise the 12 apostles (minus Judas).

How many days are in Lent?

Lent is the penitential season of fasting and prayer that runs from Ash Wednesday until just before Easter.

The problem is that the length of Lent doesn't quite add up. It's often described as being 40 days long, but if you count the number of days between Ash Wednesday and the day before Easter Sunday, it's 46 days.

The church says "Ah, but you don't count Sundays, because you don't need to fast on Sundays". And by removing the 6 Sundays from the 46 days, you do indeed get 40 days. But then how is that meant to correlate with the time that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness? Did he have a day off on Sundays?

And what about the fact that Jesus was meant to return to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a full week before Easter? That's 40 days (including Sundays), but that's not what any Christian denomination teaches as Lent. The Catholic church says that Lent runs until Holy Thursday or Good Friday, and the Protestants says it runs until Holy Saturday!

An Ex Lay Vicar Choral

Yesterday saw me hang up my choir robes for the last time, as I “retired” from the choir of Christ Church Cathedral.

I first joined the choir in 2007, and in the intervening 8 years I’ve had the privilege to be involved in very exciting things: TV and radio broadcasts, tours, ordinations, consecrations, enthronements, presidential visits, ecumenical services, concerts, and carol services.  I’ve sung in more services than I can count, with some amazing singers and talented musicians.

It’s been a great experience which will leave me with treasured memories and lifelong friendships.

However, all good things must come to an end. A while ago I came to the decision that I wanted to lessen my commitments. The choir takes up Thursday evening, and all day on Sunday – which is quite a lot of time, on top of a full-time job. I’m also concious that being in the choir restricts what we can plan to do as a couple on weekends and special occasions such as Christmas.

So, I’m taking a break from singing. It might be for a short time. It might be for a long time.  I don’t know how I’ll feel in 6 or 12 months time, but for now I’m looking forward to enjoying the extra free time.

12th Day of Christmas

The Christmas decorations are meant to come down on Twelfth Night, which is on the evening of the 5th January. But when was the Twelfth DAY of Christmas?

From doing numerous searches in Google and on Wikipedia, there seems to be disagreement about when the 12 days of Christmas start and end.

My understanding was always that Christmas Day was the first day of the Christmas season in the church calendar and, by counting forward, the 12th day of Christmas would fall on 5th January. The twelfth night would be on the evening following the 12th day – on 5th January.

However, some other sources suggest that the First Day of Christmas isn’t Christmas Day itself – they say the First Day is on Boxing Day (or St Stephen’s Day) on 26th December – and thus the 12th Day of Christmas is actually the 6th January (the feast of the Epiphany). However those sources (including the Oxford English Dictionary) place the Twelfth Night as the evening before the Twelfth Day – on the 5th January.

But how can you have the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany overlapping like that? Surely that can’t happen. The seasons of Lent and Easter don’t overlap. The seasons of Advent and Christmas don’t overlap. So how can the 6th January be the last day of Christmas and the first day of Epiphany?

Lay Vicar and Choral Scholar roles at Christ Church

There’s a job advert in this week’s Church Times for roles in the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.

The choir are expanding their numbers to 18 Lay Vicars and 4 Choral Scholars, and offer the unique opportunity of professional singing roles for adult Sopranos, Altos (both male and female), Tenors and Basses.  The choir currently sing three services a week on a Thursday evening and on Sunday – and the role can easily be combined with a full-time job.