FREE Catholic Classes
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 ).
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 I 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 (De bapt., xix) 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 (V, xx, 17) 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 .
The office of Pentecost has only one Nocturn during the entire week. At Terce the "Veni Creator" is sung instead of the usual hymn, because at the third hour the Holy Ghost descended. The Mass has a Sequence, "Veni Sancte Spiritus" the authorship of which by some is ascribed to King Robert of France. The colour of the vestments is red, symbolic of the love of the Holy Ghost or of the tongues of fire. Formerly the law courts did not sit during the entire week, and servile work was forbidden. A Council of Constance (1094) limited this prohibition to the first three days of the week. The Sabbath rest of Tuesday was abolished in 1771, and in many missionary territories also that of Monday; the latter was abrogated for the entire Church by Pius X in 1911. Still, as at Easter, the liturgical rank of Monday and Tuesday of Pentecost week is a Double of the First Class.
In Italy it was customary to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues; hence in Sicily and elsewhere in Italy Whitsunday is called Pascha rosatum . The Italian name Pascha rossa comes from the red colours of the vestments used on Whitsunday. In France it was customary to blow trumpets during Divine service, to recall the sound of the mighty wind which accompanied the Descent of the Holy Ghost. In England the gentry amused themselves with horse races. The Whitsun Ales or merrymakings are almost wholly obsolete in England. At these ales the Whitsun plays were performed. At Vespers of Pentecost in the Oriental Churches the extraordinary service of genuflexion, accompanied by long poetical prayers and psalms, takes place. (Cf. Maltzew, "Fasten-und Blumen Triodion", p. 898 where the entire Greco-Russian service is given; cf. also Baumstark, "Jacobit. Fest brevier", p. 255.) On Pentecost the Russians carry flowers and green branches in their hands.
Help Now >
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for Monday, Nov 28th, 2022
St. Catherine Laboure
Mysteries of the Rosary
The Apostles' Creed
Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
Prayer of the Day for Monday, Nov 28
Litany of the Saints
Saints & Angels
Daily Readings Archive
- Daily Readings for Monday, November 28, 2022
- St. Catherine Laboure: Saint of the Day for Monday, November 28, 2022
- The Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen): Prayer of the Day for Monday, November 28, 2022
- Daily Readings for Sunday, November 27, 2022
- St. James Intercisus: Saint of the Day for Sunday, November 27, 2022
- Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua: Prayer of the Day for Sunday, November 27, 2022
Help Now >
Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.