A high Festival observed in the Church on the fiftiethday after Easter, in commemoration of the outpouring of the HolySpirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost as "they were allwith one accord in one place" in Jerusalem. Whitsun Day isthe Birthday of the Christian Church, and as such it has beencommemorated for nearly two thousand years by Christian people andobserved by them with holy joy and deep thanksgiving for thefulfilment of our Lord's promise to send the Comforter to Hiscomfortless people.
By the devotions of Whitsun Day we have brought to our remembrance,in the most beautiful and striking manner, the operations of God bythe Spirit's power. By Proper Psalms, Proper Lessons and EucharisticScriptures, and by Proper Preface in the Communion Service, we learnhow that in the Holy Ghost and His Presence in the Church we havethe great power and renewing grace of God made availing to us. Theecclesiastical color is red as symbolical of the "cloven tongueslike as of fire," in which form the Holy Ghost lighted on the headof each of the Apostles. (See HOLY GHOST.)
As to the derivation of the word "Whitsun" there seems to be greatuncertainty and difference of opinion. Some derive it from theword white, shortened to "whit," in reference to the diffusionsof light and knowledge which on this day were shed upon the Apostles,in order to the enlightening of the world; also in reference tothis being the time of Baptism in the ancient Church, each candidatebeing clothed with white garments. Others derive it from the oldSaxon word wit, meaning wisdom which is the special gift of theHoly Ghost. Again others derive it from the word Pentecost, theoriginal name of the Festival, through the German Pfingsten, hencePingsten, changed in the Saxon to Wingsten, and this being corruptedinto Whitsun, meaning, therefore the same as Pentecost, that is,the fiftieth day. (This last seems to be the most probable derivationas is seen in the use of the terms Whitsun Monday, WhitsunTide, etc.)
This Festival is of especial interest to Churchmen as it wason Whitsun Day, June 9th, 1549, that the Book of Common Prayer, inEnglish, was first used. "That day was doubtless chosen," says abeautiful writer, "as a devout acknowledgment that the Holy Ghostwas with the Church of England in the important work then taken.May He ever preserve these devotional offices from the attacks ofenmity or unwisdom, and continue them in that line of Catholicunity wherein He has guided the Church hitherto to keep them."