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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost and ‘Kaamatan’ Festival Celebrations

Pentecost Celebration always falls on a Sunday, fifty days after Easter Sunday (inclusive of Easter Sunday), and today is Pentecost Sunday, 31st May 2009 which also coincides with the final day of Kaamatan Festival Celebration in Sabah, Malaysia. It would appear that there are similarities between the two celebrations.

“Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost when Christ filled the Church with the power of his spirit and sent it out into the world to bring his peace, joy and forgiveness to all mankind.”

The Gospel reading this morning is taken from the holy Gospel according to John 15:26-27; 16:12-15. Also read from HERE.

Jn15:26"When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

Jn16:12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Read from HERE the holy Gospel discussion and HERE

Pentecost Sunday, which marks the end of the Easter season in the Christian calendar, celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles as the climax of the Good News. On this day, all the benefits of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ rush into the Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described as “the Church’s birthday”.”

Pentecost is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, celebrated early enough to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (20:16) and St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (16:8). It supplants the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after the Passover and which celebrated the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai.

Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in the book of Acts, ushering in the beginning of the Church. 50 Days after Jesus' resurrection (and 10 days after Jesus' Ascension), the apostles were gathered together, probably confused and contemplating their future mission and purpose. On the day of Pentecost, a flame rested upon the shoulders of the apostles and they began to speak in tongues (languages), by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus Pentecost is a time for many Catholics and other Christians to celebrate two important realities: the Holy Spirit and the Church.

“Imagine having lived in slavery and suddenly set free.

Imagine being forced to express yourself without words and then given a voice.

Imagine having a haunted past and then it erased, while coupled with a people of royalty having power and respect.

Imagine being separated from the world and unexpectedly the world has been informed how valuable YOU are to the God of the Universe.”

If we can imagine transformation like this, we can know more closely how God’s people can get a glimpse of Pentecost and its place in the Faith Story.

Deep in the history of the Hebrew people, a place called Sinai stands as a mile marker 50 days beyond 450 years of enslavement to Egyptians pharaohs. There, God spoke to Moses on a high mountain shelf with promise, hope and direction - a renewed relationship with him far from merciless memory.

Exodus 19:5 - God told them, “…out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Legend has it that the people listened as God’s voice boomed from the cliffs while speaking to Moses. God spoke not only in Hebrew, but mysteriously his voice was split and transformed into 70 voices. Every nation was then heard and understood what God was saying.

Uniquely, Pentecost came about the time of the 1st harvest of grains. Therefore, in thanks, each year everyone everywhere, rich and poor, went to Jerusalem to give a portion of the harvest to the Lord. And because of their memories of Egypt and God speaking at Sinai, Pentecost became a time of great unity, of great compassion. The farmers would even leave the edges of their crops untouched so the poor could gather food and have enough to carry a portion of their own to Jerusalem to thank the Lord – fatherless, strangers, widows, servants - all were welcome to gather food in any field they chose.

Coincidently, today is also the last day of the month-long “Kaamatan Festival” which is held at Hongkod Koisaan Penampang, Sabah, Malaysia to give thanks to the rice spirit.

Appeasing is done in respect of Bambarayon, Deities, Divinities and Spirits, who may have been hurt by human wrongful, acts. Purification is performed in respect of human and spiritual needs for forgiveness followed by resolutions to make themselves worthy of the gifts of life from God. Restoration is necessary to ensure the health and well being of Bambarayon/Bambaazon, mankind and other spiritual beings. Re-union is realised in respect of human needs to be integrated in body, mind and spirit within the concept of the seven-in-one divinity in humanity, as well as re-union of Bambarayon/Bambaazon with human Sunduan/Sunduvan. Finally Thanksgiving is observed as befitting for all creations to express their gratitude and appreciation for the gifts of life (through Huminodun) and all life supportive system on earth that their Creator lovingly and generously gave them.

To demonstrate the similarity of Pentecost and Harvest Festival, St. Paul had written to the Ephesians as follows:

“This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in the past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel.”

(Ephesians - 3: 3-6)

Traditionally, the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent have been designated "Sundays After Pentecost." However, this has been dropped in the West, although it continues in the East. The date of Pentecost is determined based on the date of Easter, and since Western churches calculate Easter differently than Orthodox Christians, usually Western and Eastern Christians celebrate Pentecost on different dates. Using the Western Easter calculation, the earliest possible date for Pentecost is May 10, and the latest possible date is June 13.

By mere coincidence, the Kaamatan Festival is also celebrated during the whole month of May, with the two-day main celebration culminating on 30th and 31st of May.

Pentecost and Kaamatan Festival celebrations appear to have something in common, that is, thanksgiving. In the context of Kaamatan Festival in Sabah, Malaysia, it is a celebration to give thanks to “Kinoingan” (God) for a bountiful harvest from the previous year. This statement was concurred by Rev. Fr. Nicholas Ong in his homily 2 or 3 years ago at St. Simon’s Church, Likas. On the other hand, we thank God on the descent of the Holy Spirit to the 12 Apostles.

In the olden days, the indigenous peoples of Sabah (then North Borneo) used to celebrate the Kaamatan Festival by having Kaamatan Rites, a pagan ceremony performed by Bobolian or Bobohizan to give thanks and appease the spirit of Padi for another bountiful harvest for the following year.

The indigenous peoples were experiencing famine at one time in the olden days, and in order to overcome this famine, a young girl called Huminodun was ceremoniously sacrificed by cutting her body into pieces and were planted in the fields as though they were seeds and, amongst them grew padi, which became the main staple food of the indigenous peoples. The rice spirit (Huminodun's spirit) called “Bambarayon/Bambaazon” has since been revered ritualistically by the Bobohizans (Priestess) (PIX) in a thanksgiving ceremony which is now called Kaamatan Festival. Henceforth, Kaamatan Festival continued to be celebrated until today albeit in modernity and in a grand scale organized by KDCA.

Related Readings:

The Holy Spirit – God’s Gift.

Church History: Pentecost.



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