SUNDAY, JUNE 12: Don’t worry about seeing red if you’re a Christian today: It’s been 50 days since Easter (Pascha), and for both Eastern and Western Christians, that means today is Pentecost. Feel free to wear plenty of red to church today. In honor of the tongues of fire that descended upon the disciples more than 2,000 years ago, Christian churches drape altars with red cloths, hang red banners and outfit priests and ministers in red vestments. In some Italian congregations—particularly at the Pantheon—thousands of red rose petals descend from the ceiling in a spectacular show that represents the joy of the tongues of fire. (Wikipedia has details.)
According to traditional Christian teachings: When the disciples were instructed by Jesus to spread the Word of God to all nations, they were restricted by language barriers until the day the Holy Spirit came to them as a rushing wind and as tongues of fire, allowing the disciples to speak several different dialects and languages. In the Upper Room on Mount Zion, in the same place where the Last Supper took place, the disciples had been celebrating the Jewish festival of Shavuot when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Peter immediately announced the fulfillment of a prophesy.
Eastern Orthodox Christians consider Pentecost one of the Great Feasts, second only to Pascha; Western Christians regard Pentecost as a time for brass ensembles and great music and, in some places, the reading of Scripture in multiple languages. (Check out the Orthodox Research Institute or the Global Catholic Network for more.) Eastern Christians observe the feast of Pentecost for three days and the afterfeast for one week, although Western Christians no longer solemnize even the Monday following Pentecost. Tomorrow is still a public holiday in many European countries. (Get a European perspective from the BBC.)
Today, hundreds of millions of Christians will duly mark Pentecost and the Global Day of Prayer. (CBN News has an article on the Global Day of Prayer.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.