Pentecost

The Christian Year – June 4 is Pentecost, the fiftieth and final day of the Easter season, and the last of the four major festivals of the Christian Year (the others being Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter).  Pentecost celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and followers of Jesus, seven weeks after his resurrection (and ten days after his ascension), as narrated in Acts 2.1-41.  The Holy Spirit was given to the community of Jesus’ followers to take his place as their teacher and leader, and to empower them to continue his ministry.  The Holy Spirit continues to be given today to everyone who believes in Jesus.

Pentecost was originally a Jewish festival (called the “Festival of Weeks” in the Old Testament), which took place seven weeks after the Passover festival.  On that day, offerings of the “first fruits” of the wheat harvest were presented to God in gratitude for the harvest.  Thousands of Jews from all over the Roman Empire traveled to Jerusalem for Pentecost each year.  When the disciples started speaking in all kinds of languages, these “Jews from every nation under heaven” were all able to understand what the disciples were telling them about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Acts 2.5-11).

The symbolic color for Pentecost is red, recalling the “tongues of fire” that appeared to Jesus’ disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 2.3).  The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word pentekostos (“fiftieth”), since the Jewish Pentecost festival was the fiftieth day after Passover.