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Bible Dictionaries

The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia

Whitsun Day

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A high Festival observed in the Church on the fiftieth day after Easter, in commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost as "they were all with one accord in one place" in Jerusalem. Whitsun Day is the Birthday of the Christian Church, and as such it has been commemorated for nearly two thousand years by Christian people and observed by them with holy joy and deep thanksgiving for the fulfilment of our Lord's promise to send the Comforter to His comfortless people.

By the devotions of Whitsun Day we have brought to our remembrance, in the most beautiful and striking manner, the operations of God by the Spirit's power. By Proper Psalms, Proper Lessons and Eucharistic Scriptures, and by Proper Preface in the Communion Service, we learn how that in the Holy Ghost and His Presence in the Church we have the great power and renewing grace of God made availing to us. The ecclesiastical color is red as symbolical of the "cloven tongues like as of fire," in which form the Holy Ghost lighted on the head of each of the Apostles. (See HOLY GHOST.)

As to the derivation of the word "Whitsun" there seems to be great uncertainty and difference of opinion. Some derive it from the word white, shortened to "whit," in reference to the diffusions of light and knowledge which on this day were shed upon the Apostles, in order to the enlightening of the world; also in reference to this being the time of Baptism in the ancient Church, each candidate being clothed with white garments. Others derive it from the old Saxon word wit, meaning wisdom which is the special gift of the Holy Ghost. Again others derive it from the word Pentecost, the original name of the Festival, through the German Pfingsten, hence Pingsten, changed in the Saxon to Wingsten, and this being corrupted into Whitsun, meaning, therefore the same as Pentecost, that is, the fiftieth day. (This last seems to be the most probable derivation as is seen in the use of the terms Whitsun Monday, Whitsun Tide, etc.)

This Festival is of especial interest to Churchmen as it was on Whitsun Day, June 9th, 1549, that the Book of Common Prayer, in English, was first used. "That day was doubtless chosen," says a beautiful writer, "as a devout acknowledgment that the Holy Ghost was with the Church of England in the important work then taken. May He ever preserve these devotional offices from the attacks of enmity or unwisdom, and continue them in that line of Catholic unity wherein He has guided the Church hitherto to keep them."


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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Whitsun Day'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/acd/w/whitsun-day.html. 1901.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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