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Laetare Sunday

The fourth Sunday in Lent, coming up this Sunday, March 11, is known as Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “rejoice” in Latin, and the name is taken from the day’s Introit. (An introit is a psalm or antiphon sung or said during the opening of Holy Eucharist.) Sunday’s introit starts with the words "Laetare Jerusalem" from Isaiah 66:10.

Laetare Sunday, also sometimes called “Refreshment Sunday,” serves as a break, about midway through the penitential Lenten season, an opportunity for one day to "rejoice" and look forward, with hope, to Easter. The readings often include uplifting stories—in the Catholic church the parable of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with loaves and fishes served also as a kind of literal refreshment.

Flowers are used on the altar, and priests may wear rose-colored vestments, though Trinity’s clergy will not. The tradition of rose vestments may stem from an ancient Catholic tradition in which the pope sent golden roses to heads of state on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

In the United Kingdom, Laetare Sunday is also known as Mothering Sunday, a name taken from the practice of returning to the “mother church” (the church of one’s baptism, or the cathedral) on this day. Today, it’s celebrated as Mother’s Day.

Simnel cake is the traditional food of Laetare Sunday. It’s a type of toasted fruitcake with marzipan, appropriate for a day without the restrictions of the Lenten fast.