Pentecost

 


 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHURCH!

The name "Pentecost" comes from the Greek pentekoste, meaning 'fiftieth' and nowadays marks the end of the fifty days of Easter celebrations that began on Easter Day. Early Christians gave the name Pentecost to this whole fifty-day span of rejoicing, but in later centuries in the medieval West, it became a new festival season of its own.

Pentecost has its roots in the Jewish Feast of Weeks, a spring harvest festival, which was completed on the fiftieth day after Passover. For Christians, Pentecost was when God sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and gave them the power to carry out the mission that Christ had given them, to preach the Good News and make new disciples. You can read the story in Acts chapter 2. This was the start of the Church, and so Pentecost celebrates both the Holy Spirit and the Christian Church.

Ten days before Pentecost comes ASCENSION DAY, when Christians remember how Jesus "returned to his Father", leaving the disciples behind to continue his work. Ascension and Pentecost are still very closely linked. They teach us that the risen Lord is no longer present in his earthly body, so the Church (i.e. the people who follow Jesus) is now to be the new body of Christ, filled with his life through the gift of the Spirit.

The liturgical colour for Pentecost is red, to symbolise the flames that hovered over the disciples as the Holy Spirit filled them with new courage and strength. Pentecost has traditionally been the second most popular time for Baptisms (after Easter) and the white clothes worn by those being baptised gave rise to the name "White" or "Whit" Sunday.

TRINITY AND ORDINARY TIME

The Sunday after Pentecost came to be kept in the West as Trinity Sunday, although it was not prescribed as a universal feast until 1334. Trinity Sunday reminds us that God is "three-in-one" = God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday marks the start of Ordinary Time in the church calendar.

"Ordinary Time" is the name given to the weeks and months of the Christian year outside the main seasons and festivals.

Apart from a few weeks before Lent, most of Ordinary Time consists of the weeks in the summer and early autumn when we count the "Sundays after Trinity". It is a time for growing in our faith as the lectionary readings encourage us to explore the Scriptures, and especially the ministry of Jesus, in more detail.

The colour for Ordinary Time is green, the colour of growth. There are special prayers or Collects for each Sunday after Trinity, just as there are for other Sundays in the year.

Apart from occasional special days to celebrate particular saints or events, when the colour and liturgy may change briefly, Ordinary Time continues pretty much unbroken from the day after Pentecost, through the summer and autumn until the Christian new year begins again on Advent Sunday.

 

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