THIS WEEKEND is being kept as a bank holiday in Britain. Who divorced it from Whitsun, and why, is not a bit clear, but one interesting by-product seems to be a rediscovery of Pentecost. There are signs that the Feast of the Holy Spirit has been celebrated with a variety of events last weekend, many of which harked back to the genuine feelings which marked the visit of Pope Paul to us twelve months ago.
This is easy to understand since Whitsun '82 marked a spiritual turning point not only in the religious history of this land but also deeply affected many thousands of hearts. The Pope's personality made a vivid and lasting impression on Catholics and others alike — perhaps most of all on the young people whose horizons were so memorably stretched as they pieced together the media's coverage of the glorous week.
Behind the pageantry and personalities there was a reality which swept many of all ages beyond home and parish, and even the everyday things of this land by a wind altogether out of the ordinary.
The link between the feast and the visitor was fused in different ways for different people. For some it was something which affected them as individuals, others a crowd experience. Some look back to the gradual unfolding of the seven sacraments against a variety of backgrounds, which provided an unrivalled catechetical lesson. Others again will have been struck by the meeting of two church leaders at Canterbury which Dr Runcie recalled so graciously this week.
He rightly stressed that things will never be quite the same again as a result of that day and he added, practically "If only we can remember that God is calling us to make a better world, and forget a bit about old arguments then there is really a hope."
The young have an advantage over their elders in this field for not only do they naturally look forward to the future but they also have less of the past to put aside. It is their share which leads us to ask if we are not already rediscovering new ways of keeping Whitsun, as a festival of Christians in our locality. This was certainly the case in many a parish when the anniversary of the Canterbury service was celebrated by associating several churches in a joint service. Whit Sunday also saw an ecumenical service in Worcester Cathedral to commemorate the Pope's visit. Archbishop Couve de Murville was the preacher. Elsewhere a gathering was held in the open at Peckham Rye in Southwark under the leadership of Bishop Henderson. The service was followed by picnics and barbecues among which at least one Orthodox Bishop and several members of other churches mingled in the sunshine. Similar events took place in Birmingham.
It is such signs of a new spirit at work which led us to suggest that the anniversary of the visit could become not so much a new feast but a new way of celebrating an old. It is surely not beyond the ingenuity of our young people to work out fresh ways of expressing the growing together with their contemporaries which has got going in a few months so that a big network of events may be listed in another year's time.
If any stimulus were needed it should be noted that Trinity Sunday, which occurs this Sunday, was not always in the calendar of the Church. It began first to be kept locally, and was extended to the universal calendar, and later all the other Sundays hinged on it until only a few years ago. So there is plenty of scope for unity and renewal.