Pentecost Sunday

Note: This is the second installation of a series of posts concerning the major feast days of the Christian year. The first part can be found here.

The high feast of Pentecost Sunday is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter. The focus of the remembrance is the giving of the Holy Spirit to the early disciples as recorded in Acts chapter two. This outpouring of the Spirit occurred during the commemoration of the Hebrew festival the Feast of Weeks.

For the Church, Pentecost Sunday, or Whitsunday, honors the movement of God in the first century following the ascension of Christ, where three thousand people were quickened and baptized. The primary focus of Pentecost Sunday is displaying the power of God to reconcile sinners unto Himself by means of the Holy Spirit and the relational nature of God seen in the giving of the Holy Spirit to believers as a comfort and guide through the journey of life. Pentecost Sunday is the final major feast day in the liturgical year and is followed by ordinary time until the new year commences with Advent.

One of the most prominent hymns for Pentecost is the medieval poem written by Stephen Langton Veni Sancte Spiritus, translated in the 19th century by E. Caswall.

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine;
come, thou Father of the poor,
come, thou source of all our store,
come, within our bosoms shine;

Thou of comforters the best,
thou the soul’s most welcome guest,
sweet refreshment here below;
in our labour rest most sweet,
grateful coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill;
where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilty way;
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 thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gifts descend:
give them virtue’s sure reward,
give them thy salvation, Lord,
give them joys that never end.

For this post I will suggest two choral works that remind the listener of the joys of Pentecost: a contemporary macaronic setting of the Veni Sancte Spiritus text by the Canadian composer, Mark Sirett (the subtitle on the video is incorrect), and a standard in Whitsun choral literature is from the master of church music, J. S. Bach, BWV 172 Er schallet ihr Lieder.

The liturgical color for Pentecost is red.

I pray that the power of Him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will guard our hearts as we celebrate the empowering and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

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