By Ross Guthrie
The celebration of Pentecost marks the completion of the Easter Season, which began on Easter Day, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. This is the “Sunday of all Sundays,” the highest and holiest day of the year. The Easter Season is celebrated for seven weeks or fifty days. Within the Easter Season, forty days after Easter to be exact, the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus on Ascension Day. Pentecost simply means “the fiftieth day,” and this celebration marks the end of the Easter Season.
In the Church, all of our celebrations and seasons are centered in the life of Jesus. Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus was on the earth for forty days after his resurrection teaching his disciples and showing himself to many as a verification that he was raised in a glorified body from the dead. He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11) and then ten days later, at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in power. Their preaching of Jesus Christ being raised from the dead was blessed greatly and many, both of the Jews and the Gentiles, were added to the Church (Acts 2).
Pentecost celebrates two things in particular: the coming of the Holy Spirit, and it is considered the birthday of the Church due to the overwhelming response of repentance and belief in the Gospel preached by Peter.
Pentecost is a festival or celebration that God commanded to Moses in Leviticus 23. It’s usually surprising for people to discover that when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles at Pentecost, this was a celebration that had been occurring for hundreds of years. Luke writes in Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come...” Every year the Jewish people had celebrated Pentecost at this time of the year. The difference in Acts 2 was that this was the “Pentecost of Pentecosts!” The Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of this feast given to Moses and he is the reason the Church celebrates Pentecost to this day. The feast of Pentecost is also known as Whitsunday (or White Sunday for the white garments baptismal candidates typically wear).
For Pentecost Sunday
At Pentecost, when fire fell, when men bore tongues of love,
God flew to men, to live with them, the Incorporeal Dove.
Fire fell, I say, in angel-swarm, and men were changed for good,
To feast with God, to feast on God, to savor holy food.
Bread and wine, body and blood, were shed and tucked in a tomb.
But, out He strolled, and breathed His breath, and the world became a womb,
Where male and female are born once more in the image of our God,
To sow their seed, to spread their joy, where despairing people plod.
The Lover seeks His beloved; the Bridegroom seeks His bride,
To every tongue, to every clan, He wanders far and wide.
In the body of His beloved, “I in you, you in Me,”
To enjoy one, holy, catholic Church, in peace and unity.