The Feast of Pentecost
Already in Old Testament times, we hear of a celebration of Pentecost, which started as a harvest festival. Later to this was added the commemoration of the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were given by Yahweh (God) to Moses to help the Chosen People, the Israelites to remain faithful to the covenant established between Yahweh and their father, Abraham. The Mosaic Law was given so they could lead good and moral lives.
The Christian celebration of Pentecost in the early Church, both East and West, was a commemoration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Just as the Lord had promised His disciples before departing and ascending into Heaven, He would ask the Father to send them another Advocate Who would continue to guard, guide and protect the faithful followers of Christ from all the onslaughts of the evil one.
We honor the third Divine Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Who is a Spirit of Love and Truth. He is God Eternal, one in being with the Father and the Son. He is consubstantial. Here as at the Theophany, the Baptism of the Lord in the River Jordan, God reveals Himself as the Triune God, one God in three Divine Persons.
The account in the event in the life of the Apostles is recorded in Sacred Scriptures, in the acts of the Apostles, 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.” (v. 1-6} In verses 32-33, we read of Peter in public speaking: God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear.”
Pentecost is one of the twelve (12) major feasts of the liturgical year. On this Feast, the Church, both in the East and in the West celebrate the Birth of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the administering of each of the seven (7) sacraments (Sacred Mysteries), we receive sanctifying grace, the operation of the Holy Spirit. The grace imparted strengthens us in our daily lives, helping us to withstand the temptations of the evil one and to keep us firmly rooted in the Faith and on the path to the Heavenly Kingdom, which is the final destination, we pray that we be deemed worthy of one day
In our special prayer in honor of the Holy Spirit, we call Him: “Heavenly King, Giver of Life, Comforter, Spirit of Truth Who is present everywhere.” The Holy Spirit is the source, the Treasury of Blessings and the Giver and Sustainer of Life. The Holy Spirit will cleanse us of all sin, all that stains the soul and impedes us from our God-given call and mission in life. The prayer is a call to save us.
The Icon of Pentecost is a depiction of the Twelve Apostles (12) seated in serenity and composure. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a seal of the New Covenant wrought by Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the icon, the Apostles form a semi-circle, expressing the unity of the Church. We, the many members of the Mystical Body of Christ, comprise one Church. Christ is the invisible head of the Church. We Christians through a worthy reception of the Eucharist are then to bring Christ to others, announcing to them the Good News of salvation.
We all have been created in the image and likeness of God. We have all been endowed with unique and special gifts, charisms and talents. This is so that we fulfill our God-given mission in life. The seven (7) gifts of the Holy Spirit are an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts first found in the Book of Isaiah and later commented in much detail by the patristic fathers. They are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians tells us what a life filled with the Holy Spirit is. In Chapter 13, verses 4-7, St. Paul speaks in terms of what Christian love or charity is: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous. It is not inflated. It is not rude. It does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
The Church enumerates the spiritual and corporal works of mercy as a practical guide to good Christian living. The spiritual works of mercy are: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the deceased. The corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to travelers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.
Heeding the words of Our Lord and Master, we as a group and individually care, show compassion, and manifest our belief through concrete acts of love, mercy and compassion, even to the so-called “least of the brethren.” That means, we tear down the barriers of prejudice and sin and manifest love for those who oppose us, dislike us, persecute us, causing us grief, sorrow, and suffering.
To love those who love us should be rather easy. But to love those who have caused us immeasurable pain, suffering and loss of health, property or good name is not easy. It can only be done by those of us who are steadfast in the faith and have placed Christ God in the center of our lives. This inner spirit of peace, joy and blessed assurance of a future inheritance yet to be fulfilled that give us the strength and the impetus to walk in the footsteps of Christ and remain “faithful and true,” even when manyare not.
In Baptism, we are no longer mere persons of natural descent, but rather we have become children of God, and inheritors of a divine and eternal Kingdom, Heaven, if we but remain faithful to Christ, serve Him in love and truth as we sojourn to this ultimate and final destination.
Rev. D. George Worschak