HISTORY, ORIGIN AND OBSERVANCE OF WHITSUNDAY OR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Pentecost is listed on page 15 of our Book of Common Prayer as one of the seven principal feasts of the church year. Anglicans have traditionally labeled Pentecost as, “Whitsunday”, a shortened version of “White Sunday”. The term reflects the custom by which those who were baptized at the Vigil of Pentecost (i.e., the Saturday evening before the Sunday service on Pentecost) would wear their white baptismal garments to church the next day. Our Book of Common Prayer provides directions for a Vigil of Pentecost on page 227. On page 312, Pentecost is listed as one of the five Sundays of the church year that are “especially appropriate” for Holy Baptism. In spite of the traditional association with the color white, the liturgical color for Pentecost is red. The term, pentecost, means “the fiftieth day”. Its celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit occurs on the fiftieth day after Easter. Pentecost in the old testament refers to the wave, peace, burnt, and sin offerings offered to God on the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:9-23) fifty days after Passover in late May/early June. This feast originally celebrated the grain harvest but later commemorated the giving of the law on Sinai.
~ Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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