The fourth Sunday of Lent is rather unique; like the third
Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday"),
the fourth Sunday of Lent is a
break in an otherwise penitential season. The vestments for this day
will be rose, as they are on Gaudete Sunday in Advent, and flowers may
adorn the Altar. This day is called "Laetare Sunday" (also "Rose
Sunday" ), and takes its name from the opening words of the Mass, the
Introit's "Laetare, Jerusalem":
Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum
laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab
uberibus consolationis vestrae. (Psalm) Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta
sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Gloria Patri.
Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy,
you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from
the breasts of your consolation. (Psalm) I rejoiced at the things that
were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to
The Gospel reading will be John 6:1-15, on the multiplication
of the loaves and the fishes -- symbols of the Eucharist to come in 18
days (on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week). Note the language used in St.
Matthew's account -- and in the consecration of the Mass:
And taking the seven loaves and the fishes, and giving
thanks, he brake, and gave to his disciples, and
the disciples to the people.
And from the
Who, the day
before He suffered, took bread into His Holy and venerable
hands, and having lifted up His eyes to heaven, to Thee, God, His
Almighty Father, giving thanks to Thee, blessed it, broke
it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and eat ye all
And after the
miracle of the loaves and fishes, this is what happens, according to
And when they were filled, he said to his disciples: Gather up the
fragments that remain, lest they be lost. They gathered up therefore,
and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves,
which remained over and above to them that had eaten.
"Gather up the
fragments lest they be lost," He said to them. And the Twelve did,
symbolizing their future ordinations, their being given to power to
feed His sheep with His Body and Blood as foreshadowed in the miracle
of the loaves and fishes.
is also known as "Mothering Sunday" because of the Epistle reading that
speaks of how not the Jews because of their DNA, but all those who come
to Christ -- Jewish or not, regardless of
their ancestry --are the inheritors of Abraham's promise:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman,
and the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman, was
born according to the flesh: but he of the free woman, was by promise.
Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments.
The one from mount Sina, engendering unto bondage; which is Agar: For
Sina is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem
which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem,
which is above, is free: which is our mother. For it is written:
Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that
travailest not: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of
her that hath a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the
children of promise. But as then he, that was born according to the
flesh, persecuted him that was after the spirit; so also it is now. But
what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the
son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.
So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the
free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.
The old practice
of visiting the parish in which one was baptized (or the cathedral of
one's diocese) on this
day is another reason for the name, since it is by baptism that we
become children of the Church. In England, natural mothers are
honored today, too, in a manner rather like the American Mother's
Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Violets and
spring bulb flowers (daffodils, for ex.) are given to mothers,
and simnel cake is made to celebrate the occasion -- a very rich way to
break the Lenten fast. The word "simnel" comes from
the Latin "simila," a high grade flour:
9 ounces white sugar
9 ounces ground almonds
2 pieces large eggs, at room temperature
Combine all ingredients in a mixer. Once you’ve got a rough dough,
knead it by hand for a minute to smooth it into a silky paste. Divide
this in to three, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
6 ounces golden caster sugar (or 3oz white sugar and 3oz light brown
3 pieces large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
12 ounces dried fruit (such as sultanas, golden raisins, and currants)
2 ounces glace cherries
2 to 3 tablespoons orange zest
18 ounces marzipan, divided into 3, for the topping
3 ounces apricot preserves
Preheat the oven to 300F. Grease and line the sides and bottom of an
8-inch cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs
and the flour alternately, scraping down the mixer to combine. Stir in
the cinnamon, dried fruit, glace cherries, and orange zest.
Take a third of the almond paste and roll it into an 8-inch disk and
Spoon half the cake mixture into the pan. Top with the marzipan disk.
Spoon rest of cake batter over disk and smooth the top. Make a double
layer of parchment paper, place on top of cake pan and tie in place
with twine. Then make a
quarter-sized hole in the middle of the parchment to allow steam to
escape. Bake for 2
1/2 hours or so until the top is browned and springs back when touched.
Take another third of your almond paste and roll into another 8-inch
disk. Spread some apricot jam over the top of the cake and top with the
disk. Take the final third of the almond paste and make 11 equal sized
balls to represent each of the 12 Apostles minus Judas. Place the balls
evenly around the perimeter of the cake, keeping them in place with
more apricot preserves. Broil the cake very briefly to make the balls
golden (or use a blow torch).
The Golden Rose
The rose vestments on Laetare Sunday is a custom originating in the
fact that, as a symbol of joy and hope in the middle of this somber
season, popes used to carry a golden rose in their right hand when
returning from the celebration of Mass on this day (way back in 1051,
Pope Leo IX called this custom an "ancient institution.")
Originally it was natural rose, then a single golden rose of natural
size, but since the fifteenth century it has consisted of a cluster or
branch of roses wrought of pure gold in brilliant workmanship by famous
artists. The popes bless at least one every year, and often confer it
upon churches, shrines, cities, or distinguished persons as a token of
esteem and paternal affection.
The golden rose represents Christ in the shining splendor of His
majesty, the "flower sprung from the root of Jesse," and it is blessed
with these words:
O God! by Whose
word and power all things have been created, by Whose will all things
are directed, we humbly beseech Thy Majesty, Who art the joy and
gladness of all the faithful, that Thou wouldst deign in Thy fatherly
love to bless and sanctify this rose, most delightful in odor and
appearance, which we this day carry in sign of spiritual joy, in order
that the people consecrated by Thee and delivered from the yoke of
Babylonian slavery through the favor of Thine only-begotten Son, Who is
the glory and exultation of the people of Israel and of that Jerusalem
which is our Heavenly mother, may with sincere hearts show forth their
joy. Wherefore, O Lord, on this day, when the Church exults in Thy name
and manifests her joy by this sign, confer upon us through her true and
perfect joy and accepting her devotion of today; do Thou remit sin,
strengthen faith, increase piety, protect her in Thy mercy, drive away
all things adverse to her and make her ways safe and prosperous, so
that Thy Church, as the fruit of good works, may unite in giving forth
the perfume of the ointment of that flower sprung from the root of
Jesse and which is the mystical flower of the field and lily of the
valleys, and remain happy without end in eternal glory together with
all the saints.
After the rose
is blessed, the Pope incenses musk and balsam and then places them
inside the cup of the largest rose. Then the entire rose is incensed
and sprinkled with holy water.
Note: you can remember to differentiate between Advent's Gaudete Sunday
and Lent's Laetare Sunday -- the two "rose vestment" Sundays -- by
remembering that Laetare Sunday comes in Lent, both of
which begin with the letter "L."