Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence; from the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. Lent begins on the sixth Sunday before Easter. The forty days of Lent reflect the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness resisting temptation after his Baptism. During Lent Christians are encouraged to devote time to study and repentance and this is often shown by giving up something normally enjoyed. Churches are usually kept clear of flowers and decoration and the Gloria in Excelsis is not used nor the word Alleluia. The Fourth Sunday of Lent has always been a day of relief from the rigours of Lent; these breaks are the background to the modern observance of Mothering Sunday – this year falling on 14th March.