Pentecost

A dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit


Pentecost is celebrated on the Sunday fifty days after Easter. The name Pentecost comes from a Greek word, pentekoste, which means fiftieth. It is also called Whitsun, but does not necessarily coincide with the Whitsun Bank Holiday in the UK. Whitsunday (or 'White Sunday') was a favourite day for baptism. Young children are often baptised dressed in white, hence the name. The church colour for Pentecost is red, the colour of fire, and therefore of the Holy Spirit so is used at services which concentrate on the Holy Spirit like baptism, confirmation and ordination.

Baptism Pentecost is regarded as the birthday of the Christian church, and the start of the church's mission to the world. A dove was seen at the baptism of Jesus. It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (shown below left). A dove with a halo, or a sevenfold flame, are symbols of the Holy Spirit's power (see Acts 2, v. 1-4).

A doveBackground

After seeing Jesus for the last time on the Mount of Olives, before he ascended into heaven, the disciples did as Jesus told them and returned to Jerusalem. On the day of the Jewish festival of Pentecost, friends of Jesus, his mother Mary and the disciples were together in a house in Jerusalem. Suddenly they all heard a noise like a strong wind blowing through the house but the air in the house was still.

Flames rested on the heads of the disciples but didn't burn them (shown in the stole, below right). These were signs that the Holy Spirit was being given to them so that they could spread the message of Christianity and so flames became another symbol of the Holy Spirit.

The flames at PentecostThe disciples went out and told people that they had seen Jesus and described all the wonderful things he had done. When the disciples spoke, they spoke in many different languages so people of all nationalities could understand them. So Pentecost celebrates the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus Christ's followers and the birthday of the Church. The Apostle Peter preached a sermon which resulted in 3,000 people becoming believers. The experience of the power of the Holy Spirit emboldened the disciples to live and preach the Gospel with a dynamism and a joy that had seemed impossible only a few weeks before at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Because Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven to all Christians, Pentecost is a season of evangelism and outreach, as Christians look for the presence of the Holy Spirit in everyone on earth. Jesus told the disciples that he would always be with them, and at Pentecost promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven to all Christians.