The Catholic Encyclopedia describes it as,
"A feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the 'feast of weeks' or Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). Whitsunday is so called from the white garments which were worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost ('Pfingsten' in German), is the Greek for 'the fiftieth' (day after Easter).Maybe if somebody could come up with the Pentecost version of Santa Claus or the Easter bunny then church attendance might enjoy a pre-summer boost. How about a bonfire? That has a nice pagan touch and might bring in the unchurched...
Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide.
That Whitsunday belongs to the Apostolic times is stated in the seventh of the (interpolated) fragments attributed to St. Irenæus. In Tertullian (On Baptism 19) the festival appears as already well established. The Gallic pilgrim gives a detailed account of the solemn manner in which it was observed at Jerusalem ('Peregrin. Silviæ', ed. Geyer, iv). The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V, Part 20) say that Pentecost lasts one week, but in the West it was not kept with an octave until at quite a late date. It appears from Berno of Reichenau (d. 1048) that it was a debatable point in his time whether Whitsunday ought to have an octave. At present it is of equal rank with Easter Sunday. During the vigil formerly the catechumens who remained from Easter were baptized, consequently the ceremonies on Saturday are similar to those on Holy Saturday."
Okay, maybe that was a dumb idea.
How about a nice church service with lots of hymns about the Holy Spirit, and a good long sermon?
Maybe not if the kid's Sunday school is out for summer, but hey, we tried.
Today's service strayed somewhat from the lectionary which I believe suggested the following:
Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9; Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, (25-27).
Instead, we heard Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104:25-23, 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, and John 20:19-23 which I believe are from the BCP lectionary.
I am not quite sure how we got off the RCL, but given the problems with the RCL that we have been tracking, this might not be a bad thing.
Still, we did not get to hear Peter's logical explanation for why the apostles were not drunk on the morning of Pentecost:
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:It is a good thing the flaming tongues of fire did not appear during happy hour!
For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day."
Unforunately we also missed the O.T. tie-in,
"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;At least our guest preacher today was able to confess that something really remarkable happened that day that transformed the eleven from a small group hiding in an upper room into the missionaries, martyrs, and saints who spread the great news, something a bit more news worthy than being able to speak in foreign tongues, the Gospel message itself.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
I could not help myself, but when our preacher painted a picture of the eleven hiding behind closed doors anxious about whether or not the next knock on the door might herald their arrest, I wound up thinking,
"The IRS who?"
"The IRS who wants to know the content of your prayers."
"We were expecting an Advocate!"
I guess people these days aren't terribly interested in the Pentecost. After all, that Holy Spirit thing could really hamper one's lifestyle.
One thing you can count on: If a Pentecost were to happen to you today, it would be a very taxing thing indeed, but it would be the one tax increase that is really worth voting for.