What means Whitsuntide and what do we celebrate on Whitsunday?

Question:

Please give me an answer to the question: What means Whitsuntide, what’s its meaning in general cause I wonder about it and I still don’t understand! I beg you. Thank you very much in advance!

Whitsuntide is known as a Christian holiday, celebrated at 50 days after Easter and it is also called the celebration of Pentecost. On this day the whole Christian community celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

We find this event mentioned in the book Acts, chapter 2. For a better understanding of what happened on that day we must see what the Lord Jesus Christ says about this event before His Ascension to heaven.

The announcement of the Descent of the Holy Spirit

After 40 days from his Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ being with His disciples, told them about the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

 `On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.` (Acts 1:4-5)

Then He explains to them how it will be manifested the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:8-9)

 

The Descent of the Holy Spirit on Whitsuntide

In chapter 2 from the Acts is described the event of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. This happened at 10 days after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to heaven.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)

We see that the Descent of the Holy Spirit coincided with the holiday of the Pentecost, a Jewish celebration set by God after the exit of the Israelis from their slavery in Egypt. I want to specify that according to the Law given by God to Moses all the men from the people of Israel had to celebrate this holiday in Jerusalem. In Acts 2:5 is written that in Jerusalem there were at that time pious Jews (fearing God) arrived from all the countries below the skies (where God had spread them because of their parents ‘disobedience)

They were amazed because no matter of the place where they had been born they heard the Apostles speaking in their native tongues about the wonderful workd of God (Acts 2:11)

Saint Apostle Paul explains what happened on Pentecost

(Acts 2:14-36)

  1. Those speaking in tongues received the promise made by the Father and heard from the Lord Jesus Christ. (and we find it written in the Acts 1:4-5, in the Gospel after John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-14 and in many other texts)

`And afterward,    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,    your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,    blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness  and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls  on the name of the Lord will be saved`
(Acts 2:16-21,Joel 2:28-32)

Then apostle Paul brings proof  from the Scriptures that Jesus from Nazareth is the Savior expected to come in the world and the receiving of the Holy Spirit was possible only after His Ascension to heaven:

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.` (Acts 2:32-33)

We see this as well in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ said long before His Crucifixion :

`Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.` (John 7:38-39)

On the night when our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, after He had said to His disciples that one of them was going to betray Him, tells them how important it was that He was to go to the Father:

 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:6-7)

The Birth of the Church

At the verses from the Acts 2:37-47 we see the effect of the words said by Apostle Paul upon the people. All those who were present felt a piercing in their hearts and asked what to do to find their salvation. In the texts from above we saw that The Holy Spirit is for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ but you realize that many of those who were present at the celebration cried out loud : Crucify Him. What did they have to do then? Here is what Apostle Paul tells them:

`Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.`

 (Acts 2:38-41)

The Celebration of the Pentecost at the Jews

As we said the Descent of the Holy Spirit concided with the celebration of the Pentecost. The Pentecost ended the cycle of the springtime feasts. (The Jews had a series of feasts in spring and another one in autumn, coinciding with the spring and the autumn harvest.

All the feasts of the Jewish people foreshadowed the work which was to be done by the Lord Jesus Christ. The catching and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ coincided with the Jewish Passover, when the Jews celebrated their exit from their (Luke 22: 1-23) slavery in Egypt and by His death we were freed from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:6) The Resurrection of the Lord coincided with the celebration of the feast of firstfruits , celebrated in the first day of the week coming after the harvest. The Lord is the firstfruits of the reposed ones, meaning of those who were revived in a new immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

The Descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church coincided with the feast of the Pentecost when it was celebrated the spring harvest. You can read about the way of celebration in Leviticus 23:15-22.

The source of the word Whitsuntide

In the Bible is not used this word, Whitsuntide. I tried to find out what is the source of this word and here is what I found in an article from the internet:

Whitsuntide is an ancient celebration took by the Geto-Dacians from the Roman mythology. At the Romans Rosalia the feast of the roses was a day dedicated to the cult of the dead, when were brought offerings for them: victuals and roses for pleasing them.

At the Romanians, Rosalia was transformed suffering the influences of the solar cult and of the indigenous myths and the 9 days of Whitsuntide were personified as some young, beautiful, frivolous revengeful demonic beings.

It appears that the Whitsuntide was celebrated at the beginning of summer in the same period when the Christians celebrated the Descent of the Holy Spirit. We assume that when most of our ancestors converted to Christianity they started to celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit but in time these two feasts mingled keeping both their names. It is possible that some pagan customs which are popular on this occasion derive from this fact.