Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means "fiftieth day" and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.
Pentecost – So What Exactly is the Big Deal?
To begin, Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit. The word Pentecost actually means, ‘fiftieth day’ and so is celebrated fifty days after Easter. And if this were not enough, it is one of the few days in the church year that we use the colour red in our celebrations, which I suppose is just an added bonus!
To briefly recap the story of Pentecost, just ten days earlier Jesus had said goodbye to his followers returning to heaven, but not before promising to send a helper, the Holy Spirit. So as the apostles, Mary, and many of Jesus’ disciples gathered these ten days later for the Jewish harvest festival that celebrated on the fiftieth day after harvest ‘a sound like that of a rushing wind filled the house and tongues of fire descended and rested over each of their heads. Filled with the Spirit, this group would burst out onto the streets and speaking in a whole variety of languages, they would proclaim the Gospel, preaching boldly and welcoming 3,000 souls into their gathering that day. The Church was born!
Interestingly enough the Day of Pentecost is followed by first Trinity Sunday and then the season of Pentecost, the longest of the liturgical season (this year running from June 23rd to November 24), a season centered on the work of the Holy Spirit in the day-to-day lives of Christians with an emphasis on evangelism, mission, stewardship and other acts of love and mercy empowered by God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
So while we marvel at Christmas in God’s gift to us of His Son, and at Easter in that same Son’s triumph over the power of sin and death, without the gift of God’s Spirit at Pentecost, empowering, guiding and directed the growth of the Church, where would we be today? So yes, Pentecost, it’s a big deal! As we focus on this season on the work that God strives to do in our hearts and in our lives, we call upon this Spirit to be the force of change in us, through us, and all around us. Happy Birthday!
Why is Pentecost sometimes called "WhitSunday"?
A tradition of some churches in ancient times was to baptize adult converts to the faith on Pentecost. The newly baptized catechumens would wear white robes on that day, so Pentecost was often called "Whitsunday" or "White Sunday" after these white baptismal garments. Many Christian calendars, liturgies, and hymnals (particularly those from the Episcopal/Anglican tradition) still use this term. An appropriate day for First Communion and Confirmation in the life of the church.
What is the liturgical colour for Pentecost?
Red is the liturgical colour for this day. Red recalls the tongues of flame in which the Holy Spirit descended on the first Pentecost. The colour red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who by the power of the Holy Spirit hold firm to the true faith even at the cost of their lives.