The Festival of Easter inaugurates a period of fifty days of special rejoicing. At the end of this period, the Christian Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost. On this day the risen Lord Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the apostles and the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” came into being:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:1-4)

On this day the Apostles baptized about three thousand souls into the faith.

In the Jewish community of apostolic times, the term “Pentecost” referred to the fifty days between the Feast of the Unleaven Bread and the Feast of Weeks. In the Christian Church the word “Pentecost” refers to the fifty days of rejoicing after Easter. The early church often observed Pentecost as a time of Baptism, commemorating the baptism of the three thousand by the Apostles. In England, Pentecost is often called “Whitsunday”, possibly referring to the white robes by candidates for Baptism. The key thought for the Feast is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Christian Church.

The liturgical color for the Festival of Pentecost is red, symbolic of the tongues of fire mentioned in Acts 2:3. At Pilgrim, the parament draped over the altar contains the tongues of fire from the Acts account. The red color is often mentioned in connection with the commemoration of the early martyrs and in remembrance of “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In modern custom, the paschal candle is extinguished and moved on Pentecost (an older custom extinguishes this candle at the Ascension)

Pentecost begins the non-festival half of the Church year or the “Time of the Church”, which lasts until the Sunday of the Fulfillment, also still referred to as Christ the King Sunday in some areas. All of the Sundays after Pentecost are referred to as “The __ Sunday after Pentecost”.

Pentecost is celebrated this year on May 24th. 

Gary Beard/Historian