The Feast of the Pentecost

This Sunday is the feast of Pentecost or Trinity Sunday; the name of Pentecost means the “Fiftieth day” and was so called by the Jews of the old covenant who celebrated the event of the giving of the Law on Sinai, fifty days after the feast of the Passover. Later on, under the new covenant (Christian) era fifty days after His Resurrection God sent forth the Holy Spirit so the Church commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and Apostles of Christ which was seen in the form of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire. The Orthodox Church is the “new covenant” as the old covenant had been ripped up when Christ died on the Cross, symbolized by the veil of the temple being ripped in half.

According to Jewish tradition their Pentecost celebrated the showing forth of the Torah which was dictated to Moses by God. The word “Torah” means “to teach”. On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Pentecost they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.

Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; it also celebrates the establishment of the Church through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Feast is also seen as the culmination of the revelation of the Holy Trinity.

This great Feast of the Church is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on the Sunday and preceded the evening before by the Vigil Service, at which we hear once again since Pascha the prayer “O Heavenly King, the Comforter” …… Immediately following the Sunday Liturgy the Vesper service is conducted that includes the kneeling prayers. These prayers mark the resumption of prostrations and kneeling which has been suspended during the Paschal season. On the Monday following the Feast, the Divine Liturgy is conducted in commemoration of the All-holy and Life-creating and All-powerful Spirit, Who is God, and One of the Trinity, and of one honour and one essence and one glory with the Father and the Son.

Icon of the Feast

The icon of the Feast of Pentecost is known as “The Descent of the Holy Spirit”. It is an icon of bold colours signifying this great event. At the top of the icon is a semicircle with rays coming from it pointing toward the Apostles, and the tongues of fire are seen descending upon each one of them signifying the descent of the Holy Spirit. This all takes place in the upper room where the Disciples of Christ gathered after the Ascension. The Apostles including the Mother of God are shown seated in a semicircle, symbolising the unity of the Church. Included in the group of the Apostles is Saint Paul, who wasn’t in the upper room, but he’s there to represent of the mission of the Church. We also see the four Evangelists-Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-all holding books of the Gospel, while the other Apostles hold scrolls to represent the teaching authority given to them by Christ.

In the centre of the icon below the Apostles, a royal attired figure is depicted in a black arched background. This is a symbolic figure, Cosmos, denoting the created Universe, not including the Creator. He represents mankind living in darkness and sin. However, the figure carries in his open arms, a cloth containing scrolls which represents the teaching of the Apostles, almost in anticipation of the enlightenment to come

The other Icon of the feast is of the Hospitality of Abraham. It depicts the three angels who visited Abraham at the Oak of Mamre – a prefiguring and interpretation the Holy Trinity.