What is Pentecost?

The Christian celebration of Pentecost has its origin in the Hebrew festival of Shavuot, often called the "Feast of Weeks." Shavuot was a twofold celebration. First, it celebrated the wheat harvest in Israel; Jews traditionally read the Book of Ruth at Shavuot, because the story fits the harvest theme of the festival. Second, Shavuot also celebrates the anniversary of the day God gave the law at Mount Sinai. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the Passover celebration, Greek-speaking Jews gave it the name "Pentekoste Hemera," which means "fiftieth day." From this Greek name we get our English word "Pentecost."

Pentecost is significant in Christianity, because it was at Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came and the church was born: "When the day of Pentecost came, [the disciples] 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 (Acts 2:1-4)."

Since then, Pentecost has been an important time in churches around the world. German-speaking congregations traditionally decorated their churches with greenery, and in Italy rose petals were dropped from the ceiling to symbolize the tongues of fire. In England, Pentecost was celebrated as "Whitsunday" with fairs and parades. In Eastern Orthodox churches, Pentecost was considered so important that an all-night vigil was held from Saturday night to Sunday morning! 

This year, Forest Hills will celebrate Pentecost in two ways. First, we'll have a church-wide Pentecost Serve Blitz Day on Saturday, May 14; sign up to serve our community, and join the church in serving together! Then on Pentecost Sunday, we'll have one worship service at 11:00 AM in the sanctuary; this service will include all the churches that meet on the Forest Hills campus, and all are encouraged to wear red (the color of Pentecost).

--Andrew Garnett

Rose petals float from the ceiling of Santa Maria ad Martyres in Rome, in celebration of Pentecost.

Rose petals float from the ceiling of Santa Maria ad Martyres in Rome, in celebration of Pentecost.