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The Day of Pentecost commonly called Whitsunday
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 3: Easter to Pentecost (p. 85-86)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Just as the Feast of the Passover was a holy day for the Jews long before Christians began commemorating the resurrection of their Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ, so the Feast of Pentecost was a Jewish festival before it was kept by Christians.  The “Feast of Weeks”, as it was officially called, fell on the fiftieth day after Passover, hence the name “Pentecost”, from the Greek word for fifty.  On this day Jews presented the first-fruits of the harvest (Deut. 16.9), and commemorated the giving of the Law by Moses.

On the first Christian Pentecost, the disciples waited, according to their Master’s instructions, for him to complete his Father’s scheme of Redemption, to perfect the work appointed him.  Having died for the sins of the whole world, and risen again for their justification, and ascended into heaven as their intercessor, he sent down the Spirit of Sanctification, to be with his Church.  “A new commandment I give unto you,” Jesus had said, “that you love one another” (John 13.34).  Now was given Love itself, to be the Law written on their hearts, the first-fruits of Jesus’ Ascension, for “God is Love, and he that abides in love abides in God and God in him” (I John 4.16).

Come down, O Love divine,
Seek thou this soul of mine,
And visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
Within my heart appear,
And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
                           (Hymn 487, The Book of Common Praise, Canada, 1938)

“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 rested upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2.2-4)   Jesus’ promise had been fulfilled; every fear was dispelled, every doubt removed, Jesus was declared the divine Son of God: “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”. (Acts 2.36)

The circumstances surrounding this miraculous outpouring of the Spirit had a certain likeness to those which in former days accompanied the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Exod. 19.18). When the Law was given, the gift was accompanied with thunder, lightning, and the sound of a trumpet.  The gift of the Holy Ghost was accompanied by light, a rushing noise, and the utterance of every language.  But this time the light and the noise were not terrifying, but comforting, “with healing in its wing”.

Whitsunday is sometimes called the “birthday of the Church”, for it was from that upper room where the disciples were assembled that the Good News went forth into all the world.  They had been equipped with wisdom beyond their natural ability to fulfil our Lord’s last instruction to “go into all the world and make disciples”.  This gift of wisdom is one that we should also earnestly desire “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8.14).

The love we have for God and man, the wisdom to make it known, these are the gifts of Pentecost. May they be ours today and always, 

“Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire; And lighten with celestial fire.”