Laetare Sunday (// or //), so called from the incipit of the Introit at Mass, "Laetare Jerusalem" ("O be joyful, Jerusalem") (from Isaiah 66:10, masoretic text), is a name often used to denote the fourth Sunday of the season of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar.
The term "Laetare Sunday" is used by most western rite liturgical traditions (including the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches), and by some Protestant denominations with western-rite origins. The word translates from the Latin laetare, singular imperative of laetari to rejoice; a word that opens the traditional mass introit of the day.
The full Introit reads:
«Laetare 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.»
«Rejoice, O 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 when they said to me: "we shall go into God's House!"
This Sunday is currently also known as Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday (in French mi-carême), and Rose Sunday (either because the golden rose sent by the popes to Catholic sovereigns used to be blessed at this time or because the use of rose-colored vestments instead of violet ones was permitted).
Historically it was also once known as "the Sunday of the Five Loaves," from the traditional Gospel reading for the day, the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which was, before the adoption of the modern "common" lectionaries, the Gospel reading for this Sunday in the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Old Catholic churches.
In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Old Catholic, and some Protestant traditions, there may be flowers on the high altar, the organ may be played as a solo instrument, and priests are given the option to wear rose-coloured vestments at Mass held on this day, in place of the violet vestments normally worn during Lent. In the western liturgical system, purple is the colour of Lenten penance, and white is the colour of feast days. Rose-pink is the colour of Laetare as the colour obtained naturally by mixing purple and white.
The day is a day of relaxation from normal Lenten rigours; a day of hope with Easter being at last within sight. Traditionally, even weddings (otherwise banned during Lent) could be performed on this day, and servants were released from service for the day to visit their mothers (hence 'Mothering Sunday').
Date of Laetare
Laetare Sunday can fall on any date between March 1 and April 4. The following are the dates on which Laetare Sunday falls in recent years:
- "Laetare". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- The traditional use of rose-pink vestments on this day by Anglican clergy is suggested in the liturgical colour sequence notes of Common Worship of which an on-line version may be found here (see near bottom of page).
- The traditional use of rose-pink vestments on this day by Roman Catholic clergy is recorded in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) which may be viewed on-line here.
- See for example, Laetare Sunday extract
- Catholic Encyclopedia: "Laetare Sunday"