Pentecost (literally, “the fiftieth day”) is a Christian holiday commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. It is observed on the 49th day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Pentecost 2018 will fall on Sunday, May 20.
When Do We Celebrate Pentecost?
In Christianity, Pentecost is known as a moveable feast because the date on the calendar upon which it falls changes from year to year. What doesn’t change is that it observed exactly seven weeks after Easter Sunday – which is also a moveable feast.
According to the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the vernal equinox. As a result, it was determined that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.
Why Do We Celebrate Pentecost?
The risen Christ had appeared to the apostles many times during a period of forty days. On the fortieth day he ascended to heaven, what Catholics call Ascension. His disciples spent the days after Ascension in prayer looking forward to the arrival of the helper or comforter that Jesus had told them would come. The event was foretold by Jesus before he departed from them and ascended into heaven at least in part reassure them that despite his ascension, he’d always be there for them.
Pentecost is recounted in Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The Holy Spirit appeared before the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire to denote their sacred role and divine authority to spread the word of God. Overwhelmed by this miraculous event, the apostles were compelled to write the gospels of Jesus.