Pentecost

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When was the first Pentecost?

"Pentecost" is from the Greek word for "fiftieth [day]."

It was a festival in honor of God's giving of Torah (the Law) on Mt. Sinai, fifty days after Passover night in Egypt.

In Hebrew, the name of the feast is "Shavuoth," meaning "weeks." Fifty days is essentially a "week of weeks." Seven weeks times seven days per week is forty-nine; but they add one day to that total, arriving at fifty, because the count includes the starting day.

Notice that the same phenomenon of adding one for the starting day turns up in the French phrase for a week: "huit jours" (eight days!). That, in turn, led to a Beatle's song called "Eight days a week."

The gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the 120 disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 2) on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth).

In the Jewish calendar, the count of the week-of-weeks begins the day after Passover. If Passover falls on a Tuesday in a particular year, Pentecost will fall on a Wednesday.

Christian Liturgical Calendar

There are a few fixed points in the Scriptures:

  • Death on Friday.
  • Resurrection on Sunday (the first day of the week; the Old Testament's "Day of the Lord" is Saturday, the seventh day).
  • Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth).

Christians changed the starting point for counting fifty days from Passover to Easter Sunday. Our feast of the Fiftieth Day (Pentecost) always falls on a Sunday. It is a week of weeks after Easter, not a week of weeks after Passover.

This change in the way we calculate the Fiftieth Day introduces a discrepancy between the original Scriptural account (50 days after Passover, with day 1 being the day after Passover) and the liturgical system (50 days after Easter, with day 1 being Easter itself).

Those who call the days after Jesus' Ascension the "Church's first novena" (nine days of prayer while waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit) counted the days from the Ascension to the Jewish festival of Pentecost (fifty days after Passover). Liturgically, there are now nine days "between" Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday.

Let's count to Fifty!

DOW Jewish count Christian liturgy Luke John
Wed -1 Preparation Day?
Thu   0 -- Passover Last Supper = Passover Last Supper NOT Passover!
Fri   1 Good Friday = day after Passover Preparation Day before sundown
Sat   2 Passover on Saturday
Sun   3   1 Easter Sunday   1 Resurrection on Sunday Resurrection, Ascension, Gift of Spirit
Mon   4   2   2
Tue   5   3   3
Wed   6   4   4
Thu   7 -- End Passover week   5   5
Fri   8   6   6
Sat   9   7   7
Sun 10   8   8
Mon 11   9   9
Tue 12 10 10
Wed 13 11 11
Thu 14 12 12
Fri 15 13 13
Sat 16 14 14
Sun 17 15 15
Mon 18 16 16
Tue 19 17 17
Wed 20 18 18
Thu 21 19 19
Fri 22 20 20
Sat 23 21 21
Sun 24 22 22
Mon 25 23 23
Tue 26 24 24
Wed 27 25 25
Thu 28 26 26
Fri 29 27 27
Sat 30 28 28
Sun 31 29 29
Mon 32 30 30
Tue 33 31 31
Wed 34 32 32
Thu 35 33 33
Fri 36 34 34
Sat 37 35 35
Sun 38 36 36
Mon 39 37 37
Tue 40 38 38
Wed 41 39 39
Thu 42 40 -- Ascension Thursday 40 (1) Ascension (on a Thursday)
Fri 43 41 (1) 41 (2)
Sat 44 42 (2) 42 (3)
Sun 45 43 (3) 43 (4)
Mon 46 44 (4) 44 (5)
Tue 47 45 (5) 45 (6)
Wed 48 46 (6) 46 (7)
Thu 49 47 (7) 47 (8)
Fri 50 -- Pentecost 48 (8) 48 (9) Gift of the Spirit
Sat +1 49 (9)
Sun +2 50 -- Pentecost