“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Acts 2: 1-4 ¹
In our Christian tradition, we celebrate the feast day of Pentecost fifty days following Christ’s Resurrection, the latter which is known as Pascha by Eastern Christians. Pentecost was originally celebrated as a Jewish feast called Shavuot – also known as the “Feast of Weeks” or the “Day of First Fruits”, a celebration of the harvest commanded by God in the book of Leviticus. It is called Pentecost because it is fifty days after Passover. The Hebrew word for Passover is Pesach, and Pascha, the Resurrection Day of Christ is a derivative of it.
In Jewish tradition, Pentecost also memorializes the reception of the Law given by God to the people in Exodus from slavery, when Moses descended Mt. Sinai. God’s first calling to Moses was in the appearance of a burning bush not consumed by fire. The New Testament Pentecost is the descent of the Holy Spirit in the appearance of tongues of fire upon the apostles and all who were gathered in the upper room. They had been instructed by Jesus to wait “for what the Father had promised”.
It is no coincidence fifty days after Christ’s resurrection – and following Christ’s Ascension to Heaven – on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to those present just as Jesus foretold. Those present included not only the apostles, but women disciples of Christ, His Mother Mary, and other disciples.²
In this act of supernatural presence, the Holy Spirit imparted to each the special gifts necessary to build the church Jesus had established. The gifts were immediate: to declare the Gospel with an urgency and understanding in what all who received them were about to do – risk their very lives to preach the love of God to the world.
Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples, the first fruits were realized in the birth of the Church. The new harvest was at that very time 3,000 being transformed according to Scripture.
As Eastern Christians we have the unbroken inheritance from that first New Pentecost. We each received Christ’s promises to us in our baptism and chrismation, our own life-altering transformation. Christ is alive in us and we are exhorted as St. Paul preaches, to “fan into flame” the gift of God given to us.
In the Eastern Churches, we have a beautifully simple traditional prayer to the Holy Spirit we pray throughout the year, and in thanksgiving on the Feast of Pentecost. This is a prayer of petition and acknowledgement of our reliance on God for the graces we receive from the Holy Spirit. As we do so, we remember that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, and we pray to Him for guidance and to seek comfort, consolation, and wisdom.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth
You are everywhere present and fill all things.
Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life,
Come and dwell within us,
Cleanse us of all stain,
And save our souls O Gracious One.
PENTECOST is a major Feast Day in Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Pentecost may be a short period of time on the liturgical calendar celebrated for the week following the Feast Day. But the Holy Spirit is with us at all times. Our journey forward would be incomplete without putting our trust in the Holy Spirit, who guides us gently and quietly, even in times of difficulty. We should make every effort to be aware of the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives and always express gratitude for His Presence in the ways we are blessed.
The Liturgical color for Pentecost in Eastern Churches is always green. This is the only time in the entire liturgical calendar this color is used. Green represents life and the predominant emphasis and the Divine power of the Holy Spirit is as the Giver of Life. In Scripture, Jesus Christ speaks of “living water” and “real food” in reference to the Sacraments that are necessary to life eternal in the Kingdom of God.
The Sacraments of Initiation in the Byzantine Catholic Church are Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Eucharist. Infants and adults being received into Eastern Churches receive all three Sacraments in one ceremony. This was the traditional rite of Initiation in the early Church which Eastern Churches have since retained. On Pentecost Sunday, the faithful appropriately sing a baptismal verse: “All you have been baptized into Christ, have been clothed in Christ.”
The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church and its members. The Holy Spirit is the Giver of gifts that help us as faithful believers grow in grace and in love of God. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Fear of the Lord (adoration and reverential respect), Knowledge, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, Understanding, Wisdom. We receive these gifts when we strive to follow God’s commandments, seek His Will daily, and remain in sanctifying grace.
The action of the Holy Spirit is so powerful. We fail when we take for granted the source of all good and when we fall into the mistaken belief that we are the creators of all of our blessings and our world. Instead, we should remember to call upon and pray to the Holy Spirit to grant us the graces we need not just in our own lives, but in being a “light” and bringing “The Light” to a world of darkness.
“…. I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid upon you.
The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving, and wise.” 2 Timothy 1: 6-7
As members of the Body of Christ the mission God has called us to is, as disciples.
The mission that began with the apostles and disciples
through the Holy Spirit during that first Pentecost did not end.
Our mission is to continue the spirit of Pentecost.
¹ Scriptural Quote credit: Scripture texts on this website are from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. All Rights Reserved.
²According to Scripture, the following were present in the upper room in Jerusalem: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon, Jude (Judas) son of James; also some women (most likely the same women who accompanied Christ at the cross), and Mary the Mother of God; and other disciples.