Pentecost

There are two saints' days in May - St Philip and St James on the first, and St. Matthias on the fourteenth. St Philip and St James - p768 ASB (this St James is James the Less, son of Alphaeus, not brother of John - our St James!) are celebrated together because tradition has it that relics of the two apostles are buried in the Basilica of the Apostles in Rome. This church was dedicated by Pope John III sometime between 561 and 574 and it was from the dedication festival onwards that the Church began to keep a feast day for these two apostles. It may have been that the original dedication of the Basilica was to Philip and James.

St Matthias p771 ASB was the apostle chosen by the eleven to replace Judas. The feast dates from the 11th century.

Rogation Days p884 ASB. These are kept on the three days before Ascension Day. They have an unusual origin. In the 5th century Bishop Memertus of Vienne ordered there to be processions of prayer on these days because his diocese was being troubled by earthquakes and eruptions (c.470AD). The custom spread and reached England in the 8th century. Processions were held in prayer and thanksgiving for the gifts of the earth and also to counter pagan festivals of the earth. In 1662 they were made into days of fasting and abstinence but no special services of prayers were provided for them. In 1928 three prayers - one for agriculture, one for fisheries and one for industry were provided. The ASB added a complete set of readings for the Eucharist on each of the three days focussing on - the gift of God's grace, the fruit of our prayers; the fair distribution of world resources and our labours; and finally the fruits of the earth and those who work on the land.

Ascension Day (Thursday May 8th) p627 ASB. This is a Principal Holy Day in the Church's calendar. It is a day of great significance which urges our participation in the Eucharist held on that day. We celebrate Christ's ascension into heaven, making manifest the promise that with Christ we too will ascend to the Father. The Ascension also inaugurates the first day of new direction for the Christian faith. Christ ascended to the Father leaves the Church to grow in faith. Vestments and hangings are white or gold, emphasising the importance and joy of the day. At St Peter's we continue the celebration after the service with drinks and nibbles. It is a day of thanksgiving, promise and hope.

Pentecost p634 ASB. The day of Pentecost, the gift to the disciples of the Holy Spirit, is celebrated fifty days after Easter. It ends the Easter Season and begins the last season of the church's year, the Season of Pentecost. The Sundays of the season are numbered as "The Xth Sunday after Pentecost" etc. The ASB reverted to this practice to be in line not only with other churches but also early tradition. Trinity is a late feast dating from the 14th century and it was only in 1662 that Sundays were named after that feast ("The Xth Sunday after Trinity" etc). Hangings and vestments on this day are red, reflecting the idea of the Spirit as fire, the fire of Christ's love burning within us to sustain us and inspire us in our everyday lives.

The controlling reading at the Eucharist during the Pentecost season is the New Testament Reading (Epistle). Throughout the season the reading is concerned with showing the various aspects of the life of the people of God as they move forward in the power of the Spirit on their pilgrimage between Pentecost and Parousia (the ends of time, the gathering up of all things). In Year One (i.e. this year) the gospel readings are from John and are what are known as the Farewell Discourses - the final words of Christ to his disciples in the time leading up to his arrest. Although the length of the Pentecost season varies, the readings for the Last Sunday after Pentecost always follow the theme of "Citizens in Heaven". This makes a suitable end to the Church's Year, looking towards our own final pilgrimage.

Trinity Sunday p 640 ASB. This is a unique day in the church's calendar in that it is the only day that celebrates a doctrine rather than an event or a person. It was incorporated into the calendar in 1334. The first collect provided in the ASB is a translation of a collect from before that time, and is also the collect used by Cranmer. The second collect sums up the essence of the doctrine - "Almighty and eternal God, you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and live and reign in the perfect unity of love". This is a unity, or we could say community of which we are part. This has been beautifully captured in the Icon of the Trinity by Rublev, often seen at the front of St Peter's. It shows that flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three yet one, and there is room for us to join the table and become part of that loving, sharing community.

Again vestments and hangings are white or gold because of the significance of this day which proclaims the nature of the Godhead and thus encapsulates a central doctrine of Christianity. The colour changes to green from the Monday following Trinity Sunday as Pentecost is known as a season of ordinary time, a season which is neither penitential in nature nor focused on aspects of the life of Christ.

Helen Walker, April 1997


http://www.stpetersnottingham.org/seasons/pentecost.htm
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 5th July 1997