Pentecost is one of the most important moments in salvation history
This year Pentecost will take place June 5 (Gregorian Calendar) and June 12 (Julian Calendar). It is one of the most important liturgical feasts and signifies the Easter season’s end. It is also traditionally considered the Church’s birthday. We have St. Luke to thank for most of our knowledge of Pentecost which he describes in the last chapter of his Gospel and at the beginning of his second work, the Acts of the Apostles.
The word Pentecost derives from the Greek for fifty. The feast “always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ten days after his ascension into heaven.” (Source: CNA) The order of events is critical: RESURRECTION, ASCENSION, and PENTECOST.
The Lord appeared to the apostles for forty days after he rose from the dead. (Luke 24:3) The apostles saw, conversed with, ate with, and even touched Jesus during this time! One morning, for example, He makes breakfast for them on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21) After forty days Jesus ascends to the Father (Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:6-12), and Pentecost takes place another ten days after that.
Luke sets the scene in chapter 1 of Acts of the Apostles. The founding members of the Church are staying in Jerusalem and remain devoted to prayer. These include the apostles, some women disciples, the Theotokos, and Jesus’ brothers.
Then in chapter 2 we read, “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. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (Acts 2:1-6)
The descent of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by wind and fire, sparks the Church’s birth and evangelizing mission. In fact, Luke notes that about 3000 people were baptized the same day. (Acts 2:41) Jesus’ promise to send the Advocate is fulfilled (John 16:5-33), and repentance and salvation spread abundantly.
Pentecost has inspired profoundly beautiful art and liturgy over the centuries. For example, Bernini’s stained-glass window, located behind the Chair of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, depicts the Holy Spirit as a beautiful dove hovering amidst fiery illumination.
Also in Rome, just 1.25 miles (2 km) east of the Vatican, stands the ancient Pantheon. The structure was built ca. AD 126 as a pagan temple but was converted to a church by the early 7th century. Each year on Pentecost rose pedals are dropped from the large opening in the ceiling to symbolize the Holy Spirit’s descent. This is called “la pioggia di petali di rosa” which translates to shower or rain of rose petals. (Source: LAJ)
Pentecost is one of the most important moments in salvation history and so is beautifully commemorated in art and liturgy. Luke the Evangelist preserves details about this wonderous event in his second work, the Acts of the Apostles. Let us renew our familiarity with his account and ask God to strengthen us in the Holy Spirit.
By Sean Mclaughlin