With the Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit, our celebration of the 50 days of Easter comes to an end. The Church’s attention now turns to the season known as the Sundays after Pentecost (Pentecosttide) - a time used for spiritual growth, renewal and continuing witness to the living Lord who makes all things new.
The Sundays after Pentecost, (sometimes called "Ordinary Time" or the "green season" because of its green vestments representing growth) marks the period from the First Sunday after Pentecost through Michaelmas Sunday (the Sunday on or immediately before September 29), which ushers in the final season of the Church Year, Michaelmastide. The season of Pentecost does not center on one major event or theme, rather it is a time used to celebrate the good news of Christ's birth, death and resurrection and presents us with many opportunities for spiritual growth, renewal and witness to the resurrected Jesus who makes all things new.
During the Sundays after Pentecost we celebrate a number of festivals: The Holy Trinity, the Visitation, and a number of Saints' Days, chiefly the Nativity of St John the Baptist. We also commemorate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.
The First Sunday after Pentecost: Holy Trinity
Begun by Bishop Stephen of
Liege in the early tenth century, the Festival of the Holy Trinity is the only one which centers on a teaching rather than an event. It is a celebration of the richness of the being of God and the occasion of a thankful review of the now completed mystery of salvation, which is entirely the work of the three persons of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Visitation (May 31)
When the angel told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, would bear a son, Mary hurried to Elizabeth's home to be with her until the birth of John the Baptist. When
Elizabeth heard the news, she said to Mary: "Blessed are you among women." Mary responded with: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1).
St Barnabas, Apostle (June 11)
Dating from the fifth century, this date remembers Barnabas, traditionally the first bishop of Cyprus, “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit."
Nativity of St John the Baptist (June 24)
The story of John the Baptist greatly influenced the literature, worship and art of both the early and medieval Church. The Nativity of St John the Baptist and the Nativity of Our Lord are the two feasts in the liturgical calendar that celebrate the person’s birth rather than commemorating their martyrdom. Already in the fourth century AD St Augustine refers to this festival of John’s birth and cites agreement between the words of the Baptizer in John 3:30 (“He must increase, but I must decrease”) and the astronomical fact that after this midsummer feast the days become shorter in the Northern Hemisphere until Christmas.
Presentation of the
Augsburg Confession (June 25)
June 25, 1530, marked the official birth of the Lutheran Reformation when a group of Lutheran princes and theologians presented the Augsburg Confession to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in
Augsburg, Germany. The Augsburg Confession was composed and presented to show that our Lutheran faith is no different than the faith taught the prophets and the apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone. This became the first official confession adopted by the
Church, later to be followed by the Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession (1531), Luther’s Large and Small Catechisms, Luther’s Smalcald Articles (1536), and the Formula of Concord (1577). These six confessions of the Lutheran faith are all found in the Book of Concord (1580).
St Peter and St Paul, Apostles (June 29)
Observed since the early third century, it is the tradition of the Church that both St Peter and St Paul were martyred on this date in Rome, probably in 67 A.D.
St Mary Magdalene, Penitent (July 22)
Mary Magdalene, sometimes called "the apostle to the Apostles," observed the death of Jesus, his burial and his first resurrection appearance. Church tradition has long held that she was the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet, as recorded in Luke 7:36-50, but this is difficult to determine from the Scriptures themselves.
St James the Elder, Apostle (July 25)
James the son of Zebedee, a fisherman, was the brother of John and the first of the apostles to die a martyrs death. His is only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:2).
St Mary, Mother of Our Lord (August 15)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, represents the finest ideals of discipleship, especially faith and obedience to the will of God. Mary paid careful attention to the upbringing of her son. Though she did not always fully understand him or his divine mission, she was faithful to the last.
St Bartholomew, Apostle (August 24)
Having preached in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia and India, and in his last years, in Armenia, St Bartholomew is believed to have been beheaded on the Caspian Coast, on August 24.
St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (September 21)
Little is known of Matthew beyond the story of his calling, recounted in the Gospel for the day (Matthew 9:9-13), when at the word of Jesus he left all and devoted himself to discipleship. He is supposed to have preached in Palestine and later in Ethopia, where is said to have suffered martyrdom.