With The Day of Pentecost we come to the close of the Easter Season’s 50 day ‘feast of feasts’. In Israelite worship this 50th day after the Passover marked the end of the spring harvest and the offering of the ‘first fruits’ of the earth in sacrifice to God. It also was a feast commemorating the giving of Torah (the law/teaching) to Israel at Sinai during their desert wanderings.
The liturgical celebration centers on the risen Christ’s presence with us ‘to end of the age’. Through his promised gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter (Strengthener) ‘writes’ the Great Commandment of love for God and neighbor in our hearts, empowering us to witness to the Good News through our lives in the world.
As we near Pentecost, the colors of the Monastery chapel begin to shift from the whites and golds of Easter to the fiery hues of Pentecost. On the feast of Pentecost, the altar frontal and the celebrants’ vestments will be vibrant red, commemorating the “tongues of fire” that descended on the heads of the disciples who began to speak in other languages ‘the wonderful works of God’.
Since Pentecost is one of the feasts reserved for Holy Baptism, we frequently initiate new Christians through ‘water and the Spirit’, while publicly renewing the Baptismal Covenant ourselves. Another of our customs is to read the Eucharistic lessons in several languages to symbolize the reversal of the confusion of languages at the tower of Babel by the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Suggestions for Prayer and Practice
Scripture presents us with two very different accounts of how Jesus’ disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit: John 20:19-23 and Acts 2:1-21. Read the two accounts and meditate on how they differ. Which of the two experiences would you have preferred to have, and why? What does this reveal about how you experience God’s presence and power with you?
When the disciples receive the Spirit in the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes on them, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Hebrew word for “spirit” means “breath” or “wind.” You might find it meaningful to pray with your own breath this Pentecost. You might pray with the text of hymn 508, “Breathe on me, breath of God.”
The Day of Pentecost is a wake-up call, a chance to invite the Spirit into our life. God is longing to give himself to us as fuel for our spirits. During this season, start each new day with an intentional time of refueling. Find a place at home to be still and attentive. And then open yourself to the Holy Spirit. A good opening prayer might be, “Come Holy Spirit. Fill me with life anew.” As we spend daily time with God, the Spirit is quietly nourishing and replenishing us, preparing us for the day ahead, to play our part in bringing justice, peace and hope into our broken and hurting world.
Praying the Questions
After they received the Holy Spirit, the believers were so aflame with the Spirit that they could not keep still. They simply had to tell others the news of how God’s power had raised Jesus from the dead. There was a fiery urgency in their proclamation, and their message had a powerful, life-changing effect on those who hear it. What can you do to be similarly transformed, to be made fearless and strong and to be filled with a passionate love for the Most High? How can you share word of God’s power in your own life, that it might have that same life-changing effect on those who hear it?
With organized religion steadily declining in our country, with nearly a quarter of the people in the U.S. identifying as having no religious preference, perhaps we could use some stirring up, if we hope to influence our own generation. Are we brave enough to pray for a windstorm like the one the disciples and the crowd experienced on Pentecost? Do we dare ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit on each of us and on the Church with power and might, as God did for these early believers? Do we have the courage to pray God to unleash the Spirit on us? Would we be willing for God to set us aflame with passion for the Gospel? Open the windows of your soul to let the mighty wind rush in. Will you dare to ask?