What is Pentecost

Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.

Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the twelve apostles, Jesus’ mother and family, and many other of His disciples gathered together in Jerusalem for the Jewish harvest festival that was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. You can read the Biblical account of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-41. Red is the liturgical color for this day.

Why is Pentecost sometimes called “WHITSUNDAY“?

A tradition of some churches in ancient times was to baptize adult converts to the faith on Pentecost.  The newly baptized catechumens would wear white robes on that day, so Pentecost was often called “Whitsunday” or “White Sunday” after these white baptismal garments.  Many Christian calendars, liturgies, and hymnals (particularly those from the Episcopal/Anglican tradition) still use this term.

There are three “mega-festivals” commemorated in the Christian calendar.  The first two, Christmas and Easter, are well known to both believers and non-believers.  But it’s possible that even liturgical Christians may not be as familiar with the third, the festival of Pentecost.  God the Father’s wonderful Christmas gift of His one and only Son, and Christ’s Easter triumph over the power of sin, death, and the devil would be of no benefit to us if the Holy Spirit did not give us the gift of saving faith.  Through the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to believe and trust in Christ as our Savior.  This precious gift of faith in the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ is the reason Pentecost is the third “mega-festival” of the church and why we celebrate it with such joy and thanksgiving.