Sunday, May 31, 2009
When I was a child we celebrated Whitsunday in the Anglican church. It was traditional to wear white on that Sunday, which fell fifty days after Easter and commemorated the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. I have a picture of my sister and myself all in white, - was it taken on Whitsunday??
The Anglican Church of Canada was, in those days, very much influenced by the Church of England. Well, it WAS the Church of England, and many of the priests who served the church were young curates from 'the old country'.
Over the years, while I wasn't looking, Whitsunday disappeared from the Church, and the Feast of Pentecost took its place....
Here is what Wikipedia says about Pentecost (in part)
There are many Pentecost traditions. In some churches, baptisms are performed throughout the day. Pentecost is also known as Whitsunday, because of the white garments worn by those who are baptized. In most Pentecost services, priests or church officials wear red vestments. Sanctuaries are decorated with banners depicting flames, wind, and doves. Churches in Italy disperse rose petals from the ceiling to symbolize the tongues of fire described in the book of Acts. French churches blow trumpets throughout the service to suggest the Holy Spirit coming with a violent rushing wind. Both Catholic and Protestant services have scripture readings from the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, or Acts.
Nothing so glamorous happened at our church this morning.. there were no trumpets, no rose petals falling from the ceiling, no banners, no winds, no doves.
But the Spirit was there. And we read the scripture from Acts for Pentecost.
We sang Christopher Wordsworth's "Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost".
(Two weeks ago in this blog I praised his hymn "O Day of Rest and Gladness". Christopher Wordsworth was a Bishop of London, and the nephew of William Wordsworth)
We had red banners wishing Happy Birthday to the Church....and red flowers on the pews.
And we sang a couple of new United Church hymns acknowledging the Holy Spirit which I played to old familiar tunes so that the singing would be robust and cheerful!!!!
From the Reflection...the words of Peter Davison.
The beauty of Pentecost, the second most important feast of the church’s year after Easter, has its biblical counterpart in the story of Babel, in which God counters human arrogance by causing ‘confusion of tongues’ – the destruction of common language, and the creation of misunderstanding, alienation and fear. At Pentecost, we are told, the Spirit of God moves among the people, the ancient barriers come down, and all are enabled to hear the Good News of God’s healing power. That same Spirit, says Paul in his Letter to the Romans, overcomes our own pain and confusion, giving us the words we need to pray and find new life. In John’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples it is good that he is going to leave them, for only then can the Spirit come and guide them into the truth which will be their vindication in a hostile world. All this underlines the basic theme of Easter and Pentecost as a new creation. Just as, in the beginning, the Spirit of God had moved over the oceans of chaos and brought peace and harmony into being, so now that same Spirit breathes new life into humankind.
At one time we were more celebratory about Pentecost. For a few years we had Red Balloons attached to the pews, making an aisle depicting the flames of Pentecost.
On the altar were seven candles, representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Paschal candle was lit for the last time, and then moved to the font, where it would come into its own again for Baptisms.
But we are a combined Anglican and United Church congregation and the old Anglican traditions are somewhat neglected when we have an eager United Church minister, - laid aside until we are once again served by an Anglican priest.
I miss the ritual.....(sigh)
When the Day of Pentecost was fully come'
At sound as of rushing wind, and sight as of fire,
Lo flesh and blood made spirit and fiery flame,
Ambassadors in Christ's and the Father's Name,
To woo back a world's desire.
These men chose death for their life and shame for their boast,
For fear courage, for doubt intuition of faith,
Chose love that is strong as death and stronger than death
In the power of the Holy Ghost.