Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Feast of Pentecost

Before Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven, he taught His disciples,
These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you….Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 14.25-26; 15.7, RSV)

St. Luke records what happened on the Day of Pentecost in his Acts of the Apostles:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2.1-4, RSV).

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church following Christ’s ascension into heaven. This is what the Church sings on the Feast of Pentecost:

Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. Lover of mankind, Glory to Thee.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. The spring of the Spirit hath come to those on earth, dividing supersensuously into fire-bearing rivers, moistening the Apostles and illuminating them. The fire hath become to them a dewy cloud, lighting, and raining flames upon them from whom we received grace by the fire and the water. Verily the Comforter hath come and lighted the world.

Light is the Father; and Light is the Son; Light is the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles in fiery tongues, through which the whole universe was illuminated to worship the holy Trinity.

The Holy Spirit hath ever been, is and ever shall be; for He is wholly without beginning and without end. Yet He is in covenant with the Father and the Son, counted as Life and Life-giver, good by nature and a Fountain of goodness, through whom the Father is known and the Son glorified. And by all it is understood that one power, one rank, one worship are of the Holy Trinity.

In the icon of the Feast of Pentecost (pictured here), the Apostles sit together in perfect unity in a quiet, peaceful, harmonious state of prayer. The unapproachably brilliant glory of God shines down upon them from heaven as the Holy Spirit rests upon each them in flaming tongues of fire. In the darkness stands an old man who represents the World (the Cosmos) who, though crowned in glory, has been imprisoned in a state of darkness and death. In his hand, the World holds twelve scrolls, representing the teachings of the Apostles, the divine Truth by which they will liberate and enlighten the whole World through the radiant presence, unceasing love, and
inexhaustible power of the Holy Spirit.

On this day, let’s especially remember the prayer to the Holy Spirit that is central to the Orthodox Christian way of life:

O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Have a blessed feast day!

Copyright © 2006 by Dana S. Kees. Selections from the Holy Scripture are from the Revised Standard Version as annotated. The other selections quoted here have been taken from the prayers and services of the Holy Orthodox Church. The icon is in the public domain.