What is Pentecost?
Pentecost is the annual Christian festival commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his ascension from earth to heaven on Ascension Day. It always falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost means “fiftieth day”, as it is celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day of the Easter season (including Easter Sunday, the first day, in the counting). Some Christian denominations consider it to be the birthday of the Christian church and celebrate it as such. It can fall as early as May 10th and as late as June 13th.
Especially in the United Kingdom, Pentecost is also known as Whit Sunday, Whitsun, or Whit, meaning “White Sunday”, a name derived from the white garments that were worn by those newly baptized on this day.
Pentecost is followed by Pentecost Monday (also known as Whit Monday), a public holiday in many countries with Christian traditions.
Reading Acts 2:1-11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
The Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord;there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
As a body is one though it has many parts,and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus – Holy Spirit Prayer
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Gospel Jn 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Christian holiday of Pentecost
The Christian holiday of Pentecost, celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter, 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, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31). 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 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) (Acts 1:13, 26), his mother Mary, various other women disciples and his brothers (Acts 1:14).
Their reception of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room is recounted in Acts 2:1–6:
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 Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
While those on whom the Spirit had descended were speaking in many languages, the Apostle Peter stood up with the eleven and proclaimed to the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy (“I will pour out my spirit”). In Acts 2:17, it reads: “‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” He also mentions (2:15) that it was the third hour of the day (about 9:00 am). Acts 2:41 then reports: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Peter stated that this event was the beginning of a continual outpouring that would be available to all believers from that point on, Jews and Gentiles alike.
Location of the first Pentecost
The Cenacle on Mount Zion, claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost.
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 ( “And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.”). This Upper Room was to be the location of the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion. The next mention of an Upper Room is in Acts 1:13–14, the continuation of the Luke narrative by the same writer.
Here the disciples and women wait and they gave themselves up to constant prayer: “And when they were come in, they 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. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”
Then, in Acts 2:1–2, “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.” “They” refers to the aforementioned disciples, and it includes the women. The “place” refers to the same Upper Room where these persons had “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication“.