So today is (in old language) Whitsunday. ‘Whit’ from the white baptismal robes worn on this Sunday, traditionally associated with baptism. If you want the modern name, it’s Pentecost. Pentecost – fifty days after Passover – was the Jewish feast when the first-fruits of the corn harvest were offered: a day of thankfulness. For the Christian church, Pentecost became the feast of the Holy Spirit, since the coming of the Spirit occurred on that day in Jerusalem, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2.
The events described by St Luke in Acts 2 are extraordinary. The followers of Jesus were ‘all together in one place’, when the ‘wind and fire’ of the Spirit came upon them, giving them the ability to communicate the Gospel to the widest of audiences, so that all were able to understand; it was as if there was only one language. The Hebrew scriptures had spoken of the Spirit. At creation, the Spirit had ‘moved on the face of the waters’; for Spirit (or wind, or breath – the word can mean all three in Hebrew and Greek) is God’s creative energy; the divine power which animates – gives life – to all.
The disciples were transformed at Pentecost by this divine energy. No longer fearful men and women, uncertain of their purpose, they became the new community of the Church: a body of believers who wanted to share the good news of God’s love across the world.