- Published: Saturday, 21 March 2020 19:46
A reflection for Mothering Sunday
There is a certain irony in the alternative name for Mothering Sunday. This mid-Lent Sunday is also 'Refreshment Sunday'. For those for whom the Lenten fast was taken seriously, eating very little in the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday, it brought relief and relaxation. In times past, apprentices, and those living 'in service', were permitted to go home on this Sunday; perhaps stopping on the way home to pick some hedgerow flowers for their mothers.
This Sunday offers little respite from our stress and anxiety. If anything, this Sunday is less refreshing than any Sunday in recent memory. In an unprecedented directive brought about to help contain the Coronavirus, the Archbishops have suspended public worship, and there will be no opportunity for us to do what we do Sunday by Sunday: gather together, share the Good News, encourage and support each other.
It's a painful, fractured time for us as christians, as a community, as a country. 'Mummy, kiss it, make it better'. If only.... Some of us may be in self-isolating – including Father Michael who contracted the virus early on; and who, after several rough and delirious days, thankfully is much better. Couples have been in touch, anxious about the arrangements for their forthcoming marriages. At present, these services, as well as funerals and baptisms, can take place, but only a minimum of people may attend.
Recently, I was walking 'Wesley' on the heath. He spotted two dogs in the distance and bolted....palling up with a Ridegback-Labrador cross and a Cocker Spaniel! Their owner was an NHS worker, and as we walked together and chatted - at an acceptable distance of course - I was filled with admiration for her and nursing colleagues as, stoically, they rise to the present challenges. And there have been countless act of kindness: including several people who have offered to cook meals for isolated residents.
'Brexit' has disappeared from conversation, and in these strange times we are witnesses the best in people, as well as that which infuriates us. We're having to reassess what's important to us, rather than passing fancies. Mothering Sunday – Refreshment Sunday – will be different this year. I was preparing some food recently, when an image of my mother suddenly flashed across my mind: peeler in her hand, fingers glidly deftly over a large potato, removing the complete skin in one take. She's gone now, and a card is no longer required. But on this special Sunday I shall remember her, and sense her presence as if she were physically present.
All sorts of emotions come to the surface on this Sunday. Although we cannot come together in our consecrated buildings this weekend, nevertheless we remain the church. Unexpectedly scattered, isolated, separated, but indelibly marked by the sign of the cross; and as surely the church as if we were sitting beside each other. At this time we are having to engage with other, even exciting ways, of sharing the Gospel and being church; and that includes engaging with modern means of communication, and the latest technology.
A Eucharistic Prayer written specially for Mothering Sunday describes God as a 'cradling God', and as a 'mother hen'. As we celebrate this Sunday may we draw comfort and strength from those wonderful image of God: who, despite of our distance, fracturing and weariness, longs to draw us close to himself, sheltering us under the covering of his wings, enfolding us in his divine love and compassion.
'God of love, by your Holy Spirit you are always present. Your presence is invisible but you live in the midst of our souls, even when we do not realise it.' (Brother Roger of the Taize Community.)