Don’t you love the seven Principal Feast Days? I sure do, partly because of the special distinctive acts we perform to set them apart and make them special, but also because of their significance, the lessons they impart. That significance is crystallized in the Collects, and Pentecost is no exception. In the same spirit of reading the holy scriptures in different translations in order to more deeply discern their meaning, I offer here for your study the collect for Pentecost as set forth in various prayer books.
But first, a couple of other things about Pentecost that you might not have known.
First, if you’ve wondered what the word Pentecost has to do with the events that we celebrate on Pentecost, it hasn’t any, not like Christmas as a term has something to do with Christmas. It is almost obvious, but you can run right past it, in the opening words of the lesson: “When the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close” That is,It was already “Pentecost” when the special things we celebrate occurred. Wikipedia says that it is “a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai …[and] …is still celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says this: “The Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which falls on the 50th day after Passover. As the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on this day (Acts 2:1) , the name is applied to the Christian feast celebrating the event, popularly called “Whitsunday.” To which I add that Pentecost is also thought of as the birthday of the Church.
Second, the mitre that a bishop wears is symbolic of the the tongues of fire that descended on the disciples at Pentecost.
I once heard it said that the Pentecost Collect was the favorite prayer of the Pope. I think it was said in reference to Pope John XXIII.
Here are a few various collects.
God, whiche as upon this daye haste taughte the heartes of thy faithful people by the sending to them the lyght of thy holy spirite; grante us by the same spirite to hauve a right judgment in al thinges, and euermore to reioyce in hys holy coumforte;…[“The First Prayer Book of Edward VI”]
O God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort….[“The Anglican Breviary” and “The People’s Anglican Missal”]
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations….[Prayer before Meditation, set forth in the “Pilgrim’s Guide” of the Episcopal Cursillo Movement]
On this day, Lord, You have instructed the hearts of your Faithful by the brilliant light of the Holy Spirit. Give us the grace, under His divine inspiration, to have a sense of the time and a taste for the good and always to find our consolation and our joy in Him. …[Pre-Vatican II “Divine Office” (a Monastic Breviary]
O God, who on this day didst teach the hearts of Thy faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit: grant unto us, by the same spirit, to be wise in what is right, and ever to rejoice in his consolation. [“The Marian Missal”]
O God, who at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of the Holy Spirit: grant us, by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. …[“A Manual of Catholic Devotion for Members of the Church of England”]
O God, Who on this day by the light of the Holy Spirit taught the hearts of the faithful, grant us by the same Spirit to relish what is right and always to rejoice in His comfort.. [“St. Joseph Daily Missal”]
God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe,…[“Christian Prayer,” a one volume post Vatican II Roman Breviary]
Almighty God, who at this time taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort…[“Celebrating Common Prayer” a breviary of the Anglican Society of St. Francis]
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort,…[American “Book of Common Prayer” 1979]
And here, lest the pageantry of Pentecost Sunday have overtaken what it’s all about, I offer this reflection from the Maryknoll Missal. “On Pentecost, Jesus crowned His life and teaching by sending the Holy Spirit into the hearts of Mary and the Apostles and three thousand converts. In them and through them, began a new generation of men [and women!], a new supernatural family, a new Mystical Christ embracing members of every race. Jesus gave his Holy Spirit to be the soul of His new Mystical Body. That body, the Church …came into its full, active maturity on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came in visible form to begin His invisible activity.”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 26-May-2015.