Wave-Gotik-Treffen a celebration of The Feast of Weeks AKA Shavu’ot and Pentecost

Wave-Gotik-Treffen

As Goths, we have a tradition of every year for Pentecost (Whitsunday, Pfingsten), making pilgrimage to Leipzig, Germany, for a large celebration we call Wave-Gotik-Treffen or The Meeting of the Gothic Wave. We travel from all around the world, meeting in this one spot, dressing in our most elaborate and beautiful outfits, and enjoying picnics, music, and all of the other joys that such a grand gathering of togetherness can bring. Every year, going back to the beginning, Goths from around the world have gathered for Treffen seven weeks after Pascha (Easter).

Shavu’ot – The Feast of Weeks

Seven weeks after Passover (Pesach, Pascha, Holy Week, Yom HaBikkurim, Easter), is the next Biblical holy day ,”The Feast of Weeks”, which in Hebrew is Shavu’ot, and in Greek is Pentecost. In the Bible, Shavu’ot has an agricultural connection, marking the summer harvest of the first fruits; the priest waving the first fruits of the wheat harvest at the Temple in Jerusalem, and people coming from all-over to offer their first fruits at the Temple. Shavu’ot is also associated with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On the first Passover, God physically freed His people from slavery; on Shavuot their freedom was given purpose—they were freed in order to serve God according to the dictates of His Torah.. Likewise for Christians, followers of Yeshua, Passover is when God spiritually freed us from slavery, and Pentecost was when our freedom was given purpose—the Holy Spirit came upon us, filled us, and wrote The Law on our hearts so we could freely serve God.

With the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, Shavu’ot can no longer be celebrated with the waving of the wheat sheaf in the Temple. So how is Shavuot celebrated today?

At the sunset starting Shavu’ot, many gather for all-night study sessions called “Tikkun leil Shavuot” in which they read the giving of the Commandments at Mount Sinai.

In the morning, dressed in festive attire, they converge and dance to songs. Sometimes this convergence happens in fields and flutter above bales of hay, maidens dancing while shouldering baskets laden with fresh grain and fruits, as fluffy chicks scramble around their feet, calves stride past, and mothers proudly parade newborn babes, as people eat cheesecake and other dairy foods, since the Torah is likened to milk and honey. They praise the Provider from whence springs the Bounty, revelling in its wonders and in the sheer joy of living.

The biblical texts of the Book of Ruth, and the Book of Tobit, are associated with Shavuot, and are also read on this day.

The Book of Ruth is a pastoral romance that uniquely represents the collaborative and redemptive friendship of women, and a generous man who follows the commands and will of God above self-interes. Through both Ruth’s dedication to God’s people and Boaz’s dedication to following God’s commandments, the messianic line would be established for Israel.

The Book of Tobit is about a man from the tribe of Naphtali, who, while his tribe has been scattered amongst the nation’s and the majority has abandoned YHVH and Jerusalem for other gods and temples; Tobit has remained faithful to YHVH and travels to Jerusalem for every feast. Tobit is a good and charitable man, but because he is faithful to God, people persecute him. There is another good man Raguel who has a daughter named Sara who is tormented by a demon that keeps killing her husbands on their wedding nights. Tobit, having been struck blind, entrusts his son Tobias to a man, who unbeknownst to them is the angel, Raphael. Raphael instructs Tobias to marry Sara, cast out the demon, and cure his father’s blindness. The Book of Tobit teaches to trust in YHVH, remain faithful to Jerusalem, keep the feasts, stay chaste in fidelity to one’s God and one’s spouse, be patient for the will of God, to persevere through persecution, honour one’s father and mother, look after and be good to the poor and those in need, and to keep all of the commandments.

Ruth is often considered to be an archetype of those who choose to follow YHVH and accept His Torah, just as the Hebrews accepted it at Mount Sinai. The ceremony of confirmation, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, often is held on Shavu’ot. Just as the Israelites accepted the Torah on Shavu’ot, so do confiimants reaffirm their commitment to the covenant on Shavu’ot.

Pentecost – The Feast of Weeks

On this same day, Shavu’ot, Christians celebrate this same holiday by its Greek name Pentecost, commemorating when after the Ascension of Yeshua (Jesus), the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) came down upon the disciples like flames of fire upon their heads, and filled them with the spirit of holiness to go forth and spread the gospel to the nations. Christians celebrate Pentecost with an All-night Vigil on the eve of the feast day, and the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast itself, the churches decorated with greenery and flowers, especially roses to represent spiritually adorning themselves with virtue in reception of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Red banners are often hung from walls or ceilings to symbolize the blowing of the “mighty wind” or “Ruach” and the free movement of the Spirit.

Gothic Cathedrals have a small circular opening in the roof known as a Holy Ghost hole, which symbolises the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the midst of the congregation. On Pentecost, Holy Ghost holes are decorated with flowers, and a dove figure is lowered through them into the church while the appointed reading of the Book of Acts chapter 2, the narrative of Pentecost, is read. At the conclusion of the reading, in the galleries above the congregation, silver trumpets are blown representing the mighty wind of the Ruach, and rose petals are thrown over the congregation, recalling how the spirit lit upon the heads of the disciples like tongues of fire.

Christian converts are traditionally baptised on Pascha, and confirmed in the faith on the Pentecost of the following year, after they have spent that year learning the faith. Children, once they have reached the age of reason and have learned the faith, were traditionally confirmed on Pentecost. When baptised on Pascha, after the person is sprinkled or submerged in water, they are dressed in a white robe and given a candle lit from the paschal candle; when confirmed on Pentecost their head is anointed with chrism oil, they are clothed in a red robe, and their candle is again lit from the paschal candle.

Bringing it all together

These are all glorious expressions of the same holiday. In learning about these beautiful and spiritually rich traditions celebrating this sacred time, we can enrich our own joyful experiences, making it evermore impactful for us.

Leipzig Germany has been a most wonderful, welcoming, and beautiful place for us to gather at on this holy day all these years of our exile, and we love it dearly. Our hearts feel the call to come together on that day in common joy, song and dance. Like the Israelite tribes of old, we hear the call, and each year since the return of its people, Israel grows more lush and green, and the waters return. One day soon, when we have all gathered back to it, Jerusalem will become so beautiful and verdant, the Holy City will shine like emeralds, sapphires, and garnet (carbuncle); and all the tribes will celebrate the raising of the first fruits, and feel the spirit blazing within.

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