Last Sunday marked the feast of Pentecost - the day of Pentecost. The feast we remember and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as wind, fire, and enabling the Apostles to carry out Jesus' mission, fifty days after Easter. You might remember it more fondly as Whitsun.
It is the time in Church where the altar is dressed in red and the priest wears red vestments to represent the fire the tongues of fire which came down on the Apostles. In some places the congregations wear red to reflect the liturgical season and colour. Also the church and homes were decorated with brightly coloured flowers.
In Poland, for example, and among the Ukrainians, Pentecost is sometimes called the “Green Holiday,” and in Germany the “Flower Feast.” In some Latin countries there is the term “Pascha Rosatum,” Latin words that mean “Feast of Roses.” And in Italy there is the name “Pascua Rossa,” meaning “Red Pasch,” inspired by the red vestments worn on Pentecost."
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. "
Whit Sunday meant White Sunday, a reference to all the baptismal candidates who wore white as a sign of purity and would be baptised on this day. This wearing of white comes from very early days of Christianity. I am sure many of you remember even today, the priest tying white ribbon on a baptism candidates hand to represent this purity and Christening robes being made of white fabric.
Whitsun was a holiday - alas Pentecost isn't these days in the UK, but it always used to be and Whitsun was a holiday, a time for a day away from everyday duties and a time to relax and enjoy the travelling fairs. It was a also a time when travellers performing the mystery plays used to travel the country to tell their stories and religious stories as well. Now we have Spring Bank Holiday but we still have travelling fairs and we still enjoy a day off with th Bank Holiday as on Monday.
Pentecost is a joyful feast with merriment, dancing, singing and perhaps more visible abroad than it is in the UK in this day and age. I remember the Whit Sunday walks where children dresses in white would walk beneath church banners, perhaps trying to share, stamp a very Protestant image, especially in the Free Churches, something which the Roman Catholics enjoyed at Corpus Christi walks. Equally, it might be argued that these walks were an expression of witness following the remembering of the coming of the Spirit for all.
The Collect for Pentecost
who at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit:
grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen