996 Brayton Avenue
P.O. Box 113
Somerset, MA 02726
Rev. Jeffrey Cabral, JCL
FEAST OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The original Holy Ghost Feast was held during the reign of Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal, who lived in 1271 to 1336. She was known as a peacemaker and as “The Holy Queen” who was devoted to the Holy Spirit. She built a church dedicated to the name of the Holy Spirit in Lisbon and often demonstrated her devotion to her people and their well-being. There are many stories of the Queen’s piety and service, but the dearest to the Portuguese people of the Azores is the one explaining their devotion to Queen Elizabeth and the Holy Ghost.
In the 13th century, the Azores Islands suffered from many violent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The most seriously hit was the Island of Pico. The people of these Azores Islands could not survive the drought, crop failures, and famine that now plagued them. They gathered together in prayer to the Holy Ghost for help. On the morning of Pentecost Sunday, there was a great rising sun, and the people of these islands saw in the sunrise a ship coming into the Port of Fayal. This ship was laden with necessities of life. The food was distributed among the people of the various islands, and they were very grateful that their prayers had been answered.
When the queen heard of this providence, she organized a solemn procession in honor of the Holy Ghost. Accompanied by her maids she carried her Crown through the streets of Lisbon to the Cathedral, where she left it on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy Ghost had given her people. In addition, she began a tradition of feeding the poor at Pentecost. Each year she chose twelve people to whom she gave a new suit of clothing and personally served them a meal at her table. The people of the Azores vowed that they and their children and their children’s children would commemorate the day by giving thanks to their Queen for the sacrifice she made.
Since then, many Portuguese churches have displayed replicas of her eight-sided crown in remembrance of her goodness and God’s grace. Later, in the 16th century, the church canonized this holy queen in recognition of the miracles that were attributed to her pious life.
The feast of the Holy Ghost is a “universal” celebration throughout the Portuguese-speaking world and it acts as a major vehicle for continued communication among those who share common language and cultural ties.
Nowadays the Feast is celebrated with the greatest brilliance in the Azores, some places in Portugal, many cities in Brazil, and among the many Azorean immigrant communities of New England and California. Some aspects of the Feast have been adapted to new times and new environments, but it maintains everywhere a distinctive “popular” flavor. The main focus is still a celebration of brotherhood and friendship with the coronation of a child as the Emperor/Empress of a new age humanity will live in peace and tranquility.
As in traditional iconography, the Holy Ghost is symbolized by a crown and a dove. There is always food associated with the Feast, and most cycles culminate with a procession at the end of which bread, meat, wine, etc., are distributed among the poor who also participate in the communal banquet.