Pentecost/ Whit Sunday

The Christian holiday of Pentecost, is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Church. The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday”, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Easter through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion”. The date of Pentecost depends upon the date of Easter—it is, therefore, called a moveable feast. In Germany Pentecost is denominated “Pfingsten” and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.

The Christian feast of Pentecost falls on the fiftieth day after Easter. Because Easter itself has no fixed date, this makes Pentecost a moveable feast. The date for the “Feast of Weeks” came the day after seven full weeks following the first harvest of grain.” Thus, it is also known as the “fiftieth day” or Pentecost. It is called fifty days in Scripture, because the Hebrew way of calculating counts the beginning and ending days. In early Judaism, the Festival of Weeks (Hebrew: שבועות‎‎, Shavuot) was a harvest festival that was celebrated seven weeks after the beginning of the harvest or seven weeks after the Sabbath. Counting both the first and last days, it is “fifty days” from the day after Passover Sabbath to the day after the Pentecost Sabbath.The fiftieth day was known as the Festival of Weeks. This feast eventually received the name Pentecost, from the Koine Greek word Pentekoste, meaning “fiftieth day.” The actual mention of “fifty days” comes from Leviticus 23:16. The Festival of Weeks was also called the feast of Harvest in Exodus 23:16 and the day of first fruits in Numbers 28:26. In Exodus 34:22 it is called the “firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

The biblical narrative of Pentecost is given in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Present were about one hundred and twenty followers of Christ (Acts 1:15), including the Twelve Apostles (i.e. the Eleven faithful disciples and Matthias who was Judas’ replacement). While those on whom the Spirit had descended were speaking in many languages, the Apostle Peter proclaimed to the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy (“I will pour out my spirit). Those who gladly received his word were baptized.

The Cenacle on Mount Zion, is claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost and Traditional interpretation holds that the Descent of the Holy Spirit took place in the Upper Room, or Cenacle, while celebrating the day of Pentecost (Shavuot). The Upper Room was first mentioned in Luke 22:12–13. This Upper Room was to be the location of the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion. Here the disciples and women prayed And then went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

Priests or ministers, and choirs wear red vestments, as do many members of the congregation. Red banners are often hung from walls or ceilings to symbolize the blowing of the “mighty wind” and the free movement of the Spirt. The celebrations often include other symbols of the Holy Spirit, such as the dove or flames, symbols of the church such as Noah’s Ark and the Pomegranate, or , red flowering plants such as geraniums and poinsettias around the church are also typical decorations for Pentecost masses/services. These symbolize the renewal of life, the coming of the warmth of summer, In the southern hemisphere, In Australia, Pentecost comes during Autumn, and the red leaves of the poinsettia have often been used to decorate churches. In German speaking lands, in Central Europe, green branches are also used to decorate churches for Pentecost.

Pentecost hymns such as Martin Luther’s “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord), Charles Wesley’s “Spirit of Faith Come Down”and “Come Holy Ghost Our Hearts Inspire”or Hildegard von Bingen’s “O Holy Spirit Root of Life” and “Oh that I had a Thousand Voices” (“O daß ich tausend Zungen hätte”) by Johann Mentzer. Trumpeters or brass ensembles are used to recall the sound of the mighty wind. Another custom is reading the appointed Scripture lessons in multiple foreign languages recounting the speaking in tongues recorded in Acts 2:4–12.

In the Middle Ages, cathedrals and great churches throughout Western Europe were fitted with a peculiar architectural feature known as a Holy Ghost hole: a small circular opening in the roof that symbolized the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the midst of the congregation. At Pentecost, these Holy Ghost holes would be decorated with flowers, and sometimes a dove figure lowered through into the church while the narrative of Pentecost was read. A large two dimensional dove figure is sometimes lowered over the congregation, during the singing of the sequence hymn, or Veni Creator Spiritus. rose petals may also be thrown from the galleries over the congregation, recalling the tongues of fire. Red fans,or red handkerchiefs or red balloons may be distributed to the congregation to be waved during the procession signifying the “Birthday of the Church”. The nine days between Ascension Day, and Pentecost are often set aside as a time of fasting and universal prayer in honor of the disciples’ time of prayer and unity awaiting the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholics, pray special Pentecost novenas derived from those original nine days of prayer observed by the disciples of Christ. The Eve of Pentecost was traditionally a day of fasting for Catholics, and both Catholics and Protestants may hold spiritual retreats, prayer vigils, and litanies in the days leading up to Pentecost.During early days of Western Christianity, Pentecost became one of the days set aside to celebrate Baptism.

the term Whit Sunday derives from the custom of the newly baptized wearing white clothing, and from the white vestments worn by the clergy in English liturgical uses. The holiday was also one of the three days each year (along with Christmas and Easter) Roman Catholics were required to confess and receive Holy Communion which also features in Protestant celebrations of Pentecost. some Reformed denominations may offer the communion meal, and is one of the days of the year specially appointed among Moravians for the celebration of their Love Feasts.

Pentecost is also a day for the Confirmation celebrations of youths. Flowers, the wearing of white robes, or white dresses recalling Baptism, rites such as the laying on of hands with the blossoming of Spring forming an equal analogy with the blossoming of youth. The typical image of Pentecost is that of the Virgin Mary seated centrally and prominently among the disciples with flames resting on the crowns of their heads, rays of light and the Dove are also depicted. Many Famous painters like Titian, Giotto, and el Greco have painted Pentecost themed art.

Pentecost Monday remains an official festival in many Protestant churches, such as the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and others. In the Byzantine Catholic Rite Pentecost Monday is a Holy Day across many Western denominations, Pentecost is celebrated with an octave culminating on Trinity Sunday. However,in the modern Roman Rite Pentecost ends after Evening Prayer on the feast day itself. in Roman Catholic beliefs Pentecost is the third of the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, as well as being one of the Stations of the Resurrection or Via Lucis. Pentecost is an opportunity for many Christians to honor the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and celebrate the birth of the Church in an ecumenical context.

Some composers have also written sacred cantatas to be performed in the church services of these days. Johann Sebastian Bach composed several cantatas for days of Pentecost, including Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel wrote cantatas such as Werdet voll Geistes in 1737 and Mozart composed an antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus in 1768.Olivier Messiaen composed an organ mass Messe de la Pentecôte in 1949/50. In 1964 Fritz Werner wrote an oratorio for Pentecost Veni, sancte spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) and Jani Christou wrote Tongues of Fire, a Pentecost oratorio. Richard Hillert wrote a Motet for the Day of Pentecost for choir, andVioleta Dinescu composed Pfingstoratorium, an oratorio for Pentecost for five soloists, mixed chorus and small orchestra in 1993.

Customs and traditions for Pentecost vary. In Italy it was customary to scatter rose petals from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues. In Sicily and Italy Whitsunday is called Pasqua rosatum which refers to the red colours used on Whitsunday. In France it was customary to blow trumpets to recall the sound of the mighty wind which accompanied the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In England, church and chapel parades called Whit Walks take place at Whitsun (sometimes on Whit Friday, the Friday after Whitsun). These contain brass bands and choirs; girls attending are dressed in white. Traditionally, Whit Fairs (sometimes called Whitsun Ales)took place. Other customs such as morris dancing and cheese rolling are also associated with Whitsun. ” Whitsunday” has been the name of the day in the Church of England. (The Book of Common Prayer only once uses the word “Pentecost” for the festival.

In Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, people originating from Pentecost Island usually celebrate their island’s name-day with a special church service followed by cultural events such as dancing. Since Pentecost itself is on a Sunday, it is automatically considered to be a public holiday in countries with large Christian denominatio. Pentecost Monday is also a public holiday in many European countries including Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania (since 2008), (most parts of) Switzerland, Ukraine and also in the African nations Senegal, Benin and Togo.

In Sweden Pentecost Monday (Annandag Pingst) was replaced by Swedish National Day on June 6, on December 15, 2004. In Italy and Malta, it is no longer a public holiday. It was a public holiday in Ireland until 1973, when it was replaced by Early Summer Holiday on the first Monday in June. In the United Kingdom the day is known as Whit Monday, and was a bank holiday until 1967 when it was replaced by the Spring Bank Holiday. In France, following reactions to the implementation of the Journée de solidarité envers les personnes âgées, Pentecost Monday tales place on May 3, 2005.


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