What is WhitSunday and How is it related to Pentecost Sunday? Whitsunday” (another name for Pentecost Sunday) is derived from the Middle English which literally means ‘White Sunday’; this derived from the custom of wearing white robes by those newly baptized on this day.
Why is Pentecost also called ‘White Sunday’?
Pentecost as the celebration of the coming and the out pouring of Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Thus, celebrated in Eastertide, it’s celebration emphasizes the close connection the Sacrament of Baptism. Although vestments of the Priest is red (the Liturgical colour for the Holy Spirit), traditionally people wear white on this day. After the celebration of Baptism at the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized would be vested in a white alb, symbolizing their new birth in the life of grace. On Pentecost Sunday, the newly Baptised and all the Baptised usually don-on ‘white’ to recall this Baptismal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of communion in the Body of Christ, the community of believers, from which the Holy Spirit flows and unites.
These are they which come out of the great tribulation and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. – Rev 7:!4
When did this custom of WhitSunday start? Whitsunday dates back to the first centuries of the church, found in the writings of both St. Irenaeus (second century) and Tertullian (third century). Whitsunday is principally derived from a practice in the early Church that made the celebration of Pentecost similar to the Easter Vigil. There was a service called “Whitsun Eve” where the catechumens who had not been baptized at Easter received the sacrament on the eve of Pentecost. The Roman Missal’s celebration of the ‘Vigil of Pentecost’ mirror’s the Easter Vigil, it is celebrated as a “night watch” liturgy that included the reading of six prophecies and a solemn blessing of the baptismal font. Another sign of the close connection of Pentecost to the Easter Vigil is the ‘Double Alleluia’ which is sung at the end of all the Liturgies of this day.
What are the Traditional Practices of the day? In parts of Europe many parishes suggest that people wear white and have young children processed in and recited Bible verses from memory. The young adults and some senior members of the community performed hymns and faith sharing at gatherings.
What about us in the Community of Saint Anthony? One good way for us to celebrate this day is to participate in our Parish Triduum for Pentecost so that we could all be worthy to receive this out pouring of the Holy Spirit and made ‘white again’ through the precious Body, Blood and Spirit of Christ our Risen conquering saviour.
Written by Fr Ignatius Yeo, Parish Priest