Mid-Feast of Pentecost: A Historical Note

As the name implies, the Mid-Feast of Pentecost occurs on a Wednesday half way between Pascha and Pentecost.   The Gospel Lesson is John 7:14-30 which begins with the words:

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.

This Feast is a reminder to us that we are still celebrating Pascha, the Resurrection of Christ, and are already preparing for the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.  In our minds already Pascha may be so yesterday – an afterglow in the rear view mirror of our memories.  However, in our life in the Church it is central to our daily being as Christians: it should not be so readily or easily consigned to the past.   Our salvation, our experience of God, our opportunity for eternal life is found in the events of Pascha and Pentecost and their being a part of our spiritual memory – something we live today in expectation of that day which will never end.

Archbishop Job Getcha gives us a little historical background information about the Mid-Feast of Pentecost:

“The origin of this feast is Constantinopolitan. The first indication is found in a homily of Peter Chrysologos, Bishop of Ravenna during the second quarter of the fifth century. Severus of Antioch witnesses to the existence of this feast in Antioch in the sixth century. The first properly Constantinopolitan reference to this feast also goes back to the sixth century, in the homily of Leontius of Constantinople. In his day, the gospel passage of Jn. 9.1-14 was read, but this passage was, before the tenth century, replaced with Jn. 7.14-30, the passage we use today, because of the words, ‘About the middle of the feast.’ The gospel text obviously refers to the Feast of Tabernacles, which the Church transferred to the fifty-day paschal period.

We could suppose the solemnization of the middle of the fifty-day paschal  period did not come before the development of the feasts on the fiftieth and fortieth days after Pascha. The theme of wisdom which is developed in the Old-Testament readings and the hymnography of this feast may be connected with the tradition on this day, at least during this period, of convening regional synods of bishops, in conformity with the prescriptions of Canon 5 of Nicea.” (The Typikon Decoded, p 253)

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