The Fourth Sunday in Lent

commonly called

Mothering Sunday

also known as Refreshment Sunday

The Fourth Sunday in Lent marks the middle of the Lenten fast and has traditionally been marked with special activities. It has various names, including Mothering Sunday and Refreshment Sunday. The former title is a reference to the fact that this was the traditional day for apprentices and young people "in service" (i.e., working as servants) to have a holiday to go home and visit their mothers, bringing with them presents. Mothering Sunday is the original "mother's day" and reminds us of our natural mothers and also of our spiritual mother, the Church.  A fuller explanation of the history of the observance and its customs may be found by following this link provided by Project Canterbury.  As the linked article notes, the occasion is marked with a special holiday confection called simnel cake, baked with fine flour, sugar, and fruit. Two recipes are provided below.  These modern recipes are considerably simpler than the original boiled and baked cakes described in the article.  In many churches today it is the custom to bring the simnel cake to church to be blessed and distributed.  It is appropriate to present the cake at the Altar, together with the alms and oblations, at the time of the Offertory.  It may be blessed either before the Great Thanksgiving or at the end of the service after the Post Communion Prayer.  A prayer of blessing is also given below.

 

A Recipe for Simnel Cake
from St. Paul's Church, Salem, New York

¾ cup butter               ½ tsp. salt
2 cups sugar               ¾ cup raisins
4 eggs                        1 cup diced candied fruit
2 cups flour                1 cup almond paste
                   sugar icing glaze
 

Grease a large round deep cake pan (10") and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Blend in flour and salt, adding candied fruit and raisins last. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Roll out almond paste and place on top of the batter. Cover almond paste with remaining batter. Bake at 300º for one hour. Frost with confectioner’s sugar glaze.

 

Another Recipe for Simnel Cake
from St. Paul's Cathedral, Burlington, Vermont

Combine the following ingredients and bake in a greased loaf pan at 300º for one hour.
 

½ cup butter
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
2 ounces candied citron peel
1½ cups currants (or raisins)
2 eggs
 

Cool the cake on a rack, then slice and wrap individual slices in foil or plastic wrap.
 

Blessing of Simnel Cake

Almighty God, giver of all joy: Receive at our hands this cake, that it may be to us a symbol of our communion with thee and with one another; as its flour was once scattered over our land as wheat and now is one, so let us be one in anticipation of thy gift of the new Jerusalem which, as thy redeemed people, is our joy, our hope, our destiny, and our home. Hear us, O Lord, through Jesus Christ thy Son, to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

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