Pentecost – The Birthday Of The Church
The date of Pentecost changes each year, along with Easter. It is 50 days after Easter which is also seven weeks.
Pentecost is also called Whit Sunday and is celebrated by Christians in the UK. (Pentecost comes from the Greek pentecostē, “50th day”)
This is a major festival in the Christian church, celebrated on the Sunday that falls on the 50th day after Easter. It is also 10 days after the ascension of Jesus to heaven, which is 40 days after Easter. Ascension Day is a public holiday in some countries but not in the UK. In 2021 Ascension Day was on Thursday 13 May.
“Whitsun” is variously believed to be a shortening of “White Sunday” or to have its origins in the Anglo-Saxon word “wit”, which means “understanding”. Often Whitsun is a time for baptisms when worshippers wear white.
Churches are often decorated in red at Pentecost and clergy wear red vestments to symbolise the joy and fire of the Holy Spirit.
Whit Sunday comes before ‘Whit Monday’ the traditional holiday in the UK , but this was replaced in 1971 by a bank holiday on the final Monday in May. However this is still a public holiday in some European countries.
The first Pentecost
Pentecost started off as a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot (Feast of Harvest or Feast of Wheats) a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest, which was 50 days after the agricultural festival of Passover. The day celebrated the beginning of the early weeks of the wheat harvest.
The apostles were celebrating this festival when the Holy Spirit descended on them. This event has since become the birth of the Christian Church. About 3,000 people were baptized that day after hearing Peter preach.
According to the Christian Bible it was the 50th day after Easter when the apostles were praying and the Holy Spirit descended on them. It also marks the beginning of the mission of the Christian church to the world and is the birth of the Christian church.
In 2021 Pentecost or Whitsun falls on Sunday 23 May and is not a public holiday. It is celebrated seven weeks after Easter Sunday which was on Sunday 4 April.
The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The symbols of Pentecost are those of the Holy Spirit and include flames, wind, the breath of God and a dove.
The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Acts 2, verse 2
Peter addresses the crowd
Hymns sung at Pentecost take the Holy Spirit as their theme, and include:
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2, verse 41
Come down O Love Divine
Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire
Breathe on me breath of God
O Breath of Life, come sweeping through us
There's a spirit in the air
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
Next year in 2022 Pentecost will fall on Sunday 5 June, following Easter Sunday on 17 April and Ascension Day on Thursday 26 May.