SUNDAY, MAY 23: Just as Jews marked Shavuot (50 days after Passover) earlier this week—today Christians mark Pentecost, celebrated 50 days after Easter. In fact, traditional accounts hold that it was while the followers of Jesus were participating in Shavuot festivities that the Holy Spirit descended in a miraculous way. Since both Eastern and Western Christians observed Easter (or Pascha) on the same day this year, both traditions will observe Pentecost today. (Wikipedia has more.) Some traditions mark this as the birthday of the Church. (The Orthodox perspective is at OrthodoxWiki.)
The exact location of the original Pentecost is debated, but Christians agree that the Holy Spirit—the third part of the Christian Trinity—came down upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus in the form of a strong wind and “tongues of fire.” With this movement of the Spirit, Christian tradition holds, the Apostles began speaking in foreign languages, so that they could effectively spread the Word of God. (Get the full Catholic perspective from EWTN, a global Catholic network.) St. Basil summed up the Holy Spirit’s role when he said: “Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God ‘Father’ and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.” (Women for Faith and Family has readings for the day and more.) Pentecost has always been a joyful holiday, and while some Italians float rose petals from higher church chambers on this day to commemorate the fiery tongues, the French often blow trumpets to exemplify the sound of the Holy Spirit’s wind.
Pentecost has held its place in a variety of cultures, too: According to legend, King Arthur always gathered his knights for a special feast on the holiday, and William Shakespeare noted Pentecost’s occurrance and rituals in “Romeo and Juliet.” This year, according to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, Christians of all denominations in Toronto, Canada, are being asked to unite in a common day of prayer on Pentecost.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)