Tradition says that to fulfil the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2: 28-29), the Holy
Spirit descended not only on the twelve chosen Apostles, but also upon all
those who were with them "with one accord in one place " (Acts 2:1), that
is, on the whole Church. This is why in Icons of Pentecost there are
represented Apostles not belonging to the twelve - Apostle Paul (sitting
with Apostle Peter at the head of the circle of Apostles), and among the
seventy, Luke the Evangelist and Mark the Evangelist (Ouspensky and Lossky,
The Meaning of Icons, Rev Ed, SVS, NY, 1982, p208).
And there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire ...
and they were filled with the Holy Spirit
So that by gradual increase ... and progress from glory to glory, the light
of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated ... for this reason it
was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the disciples. He measured
Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him: at the
beginning of the gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making
perfect their powers, being breathed upon them and appearing in fiery
tongues ... You see lights breaking upon us, gradually, and knowledge of
such order of theology, as is better for us to maintain, neither proclaiming
things too suddenly nor yet keeping them hidden to the end ... He said that
all things should be taught us by the Spirit Himself, made clear at a later
time, when, such knowledge would be seasonable and capable of being received
after our Savior's restoration; when it would no longer be received with
incredulity because of its marvelous character. For what greater thing than
this did either He promise, or the Spirit teach ... If He is not to be
worshiped, how can He deify me by baptism?... And indeed from the Spirit
comes our new birth, and from the new birth our new creation, and from the
new creation our deeper knowledge of the dignity of Him from whom it is
derived ... Look at these facts: Christ is born; the Spirit is His
forerunner. He leads Him up. He works miracles; the Spirit accompanies them.
He ascends; the Spirit takes His place (St. Gregory the Theologian, Fifth
Theological Oration, 26-29).
The Promise of Pentecost
"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out,
saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart
will flow rivers of living water."
But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him
would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not
Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said,
"Truly this is the Prophet."
Others said, "This is the Christ", but some said, "Will the Christ come
out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the
seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"
So there was a division among the people because of Him.
Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to
them, "Why have you not brought Him?"
The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!" 47 Then the
Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or
the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is
Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to
them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is
They answered and said to him, "Are you also front Galilee? Search and
look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee" (John 7:37-52).
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life"
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink...
Those who come to the divine preaching and give heed to the faith must
manifest the desire of thirsty people for water, and kindle in themselves a
similar longing; so they will be able, very carefully, to retain what is
said ... For to show that we ought ever to thirst and hunger, He said
'Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness' (Matt.5:6) ...
Elsewhere He calls it, 'eternal life,' but here, 'living water.' He calls
that 'living' which ever works: for the grace of the Spirit, when It has
entered into the mind and has been established, springs up more than any
fountain, does not fail, never becomes empty ... He has represented its
abundance by the expression 'springing' ...Consider the wisdom of Stephen,
the tongue of Peter, the vehemence of Paul: how nothing bore, nothing
withstood them, not the anger of multitudes, not the risings up of tyrants,
not the plots of the devils, not daily deaths, but as rivers borne along
with a great rushing sound, so they went on their way hurrying all things
with them ... When He was about to send them (after the crucifixion) He
said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (John 20:22) ... and then they wrought
miracles (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 51 on John 7).
In Praise of Salvation and Creation
"0 God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my
flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I
have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.
Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My
soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall
praise You with joyfuI lips. When I remember You on my bed. I meditate on
You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the
shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your
tight hand upholds me" (Psalm 63:1-8).
The Holy Spirit provides every gift: He inspires prophecy, perfects the
priesthood, grants wisdom to the illiterate, makes simple fishermen to
become wise theologians, and establishes perfect order in the organization
of the Church. Wherefore, 0 Comforter, equal in nature and majesty with the
Father and the Son, glory to You... (from The Bible and Holy Fathers for
Orthodox ed. J. Manley, Monastery Books, Menlo Park, 1990, pp. 136-9).
In the days of old, pride brought confusion of tongues to the builders of
the tower of Babel, but now the diversity of tongues enlightenend the minds
and gave knowledge for the glory of God. There, God punished infidels for
their sin, while here Christ enlightened fishermen through the Spirit; there
the confusion of tongues was for the sake of vengeance, while here there was
variety so that voices could be joined in unison for the salvation of our
souls (Stichera of Pentecost for Vespers, pp. 891, 894).
Pentecost - The Descent of the Holy Spirit
In the Old Testament Pentecost was the feast which occurred fifty days after
Passover. As the passover feast celebrated the exodus of the Israelites from
the slavery of Egypt, so Pentecost celebrated God's gift of the ten
commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In the new covenant of the Messiah, the passover event takes on its new
meaning as the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection, the "exodus"
of humanity from this sinful world to the Kingdom of God. And in the New
Testament as well, the pentecostal feast is fulfilled and made new by the
coming of the "new law," the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it
filled all the house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them
tongues as of fire, distributed as resting upon each one of them. And they
were all filled with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:1-4)
The Holy Spirit, that Christ had promised to his disciples, came on the day
of Pentecost (see John 14:26, 15:26; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5) The apostles
received "the power from on high", and they began to preach and bear witness
to Jesus as the risen Christ, the King and the Lord. This moment has
traditionally been called the birthday of the Church.
In the liturgical services of the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy
Spirit is celebrated together with the full revelation of the divine
Trinity: Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The fulness of the Godhead is
manifested with the Spirit's coming to humanity, and the Church hymns
celebrate this manifestation as the final act of God's self-disclosure and
self-donation to the world of His creation. For this reason Pentecost Sunday
is also called Trinity Sunday in the Orthodox tradition. Often on this day
the Icon of the Holy Trinity - particularly that of the three angelic
figures who appeared to Abraham, the forefather of the Christian faith - is
placed in the center of the church. This Icon is used with the traditional
pentecostal Icon which shows the tongues of fire hovering over the Virgin
Mary and the Twelve Apostles, the original prototype of the Church, who are
themselves sitting in unity surrounding a symbolic image of "cosmos," the
On Pentecost we have the final fulfillment of the mission of Jesus Christ
and the first beginning of the messianic age of the Kingdom of God
(mystically present in this world in the Church of the Messiah). For this
reason the 50th day stands as the beginning of the era which is beyond the
limitations of this world, fifty being, that number which stands for eternal
and heavenly fulfillment in Jewish and Christian mystical piety: seven times
seven, plus one.
Thus, Pentecost is called an apocalyptic day, which means the day of final
revelation. It is also called an eschatological day, which means the day of
the final and perfect end (in Greek eschaton means the end). For when the
Messiah comes and the Lord's Day is at hand, the "last days" are inaugurated
in which "God declares: ... I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh". This
is the ancient prophecy to which the Apostle Peter refers in the first
sermon of the Christian Church which was preached on the first Sunday of
Pentecost (see Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28-32).
Once again it must be noted that the feast of Pentecost is not simply the
celebration of an event which took place centuries ago. It is the
celebration of what must happen and does happen to us in the Church today.
We all have died and risen with the Messiah-King, and we all have received
His Most Holy Spirit. We are the "temples of the Holy Spirit". God's Spirit
dwells in us (see Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 2-3, 12; 11 Corinthians 3;
Galatians 5; Ephesians 2-3). We, by our own membership in the Church, have
received "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" in the sacrament of
chrismation. Pentecost has happened to us.
The Divine Liturgy of Pentecost recalls our baptism into Christ with the
verse from Galatians again replacing the Thrice-Holy Hymn. Special verses
from the psalms also replace the usual antiphonal psalms of the liturgy. The
epistle and gospel readings tell of the Spirit's coming to humanity. The
kontakion sings of the reversal of Babel as God unites the nations into the
unity of his Spirit. The troparion proclaims the gathering of the whole
universe into God's net through the work of the inspired apostles. The hymns
'O Heavenly King' and 'We have seen the True Light' are sung for the first
time since Easter, calling the Holy Spirit to "come and abide in us", and
proclaiming that "we have received the heavenly Spirit". The church building
is decorated with flowers to show that God's divine Breath comes to renew
all creation as the "life-creating Spirit". The word for Spirit, breath and
wind in Hebrew is ruah.
Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who has revealed the fishermen as most
wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit: through them You did draw
the world into Your net. O Lover of Humanity, Glory to You (Troparion).
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the
nations. But when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to
unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit!
The Great Vespers of Pentecost evening features three long prayers at which
the faithful kneel for the first time since Easter. The Monday after
Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church, and the
Sunday after Pentecost is the feast of All Saints. This is the logical
liturgical sequence since the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in the
faithful by their becoming saints, and this is the very purpose of the
creation and salvation of the world. "Thus says the Lord: Consecrate
yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I your God am holy" (Leviticus
11:44-45; I Peter 1:15-16).
(Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith, Vol. 2, pp. 113-7)
Blessed are You, Christ our God, who have shown the fisherman to be
all-wise, sending upon them the Holy Spirit and through them drawing into
the net of the Gospel all people. Loving Lord, glory to You!
Dismissal Hymn. Sunday of Pentecost
Come people, let us worship God in Three Persons, the Son who abides in the
Father together with the Holy Spirit ... one Power, one Essence, one God,
whom we worship saying: Holy God who has created all things through the Son
and in the Holy Spirit! Holy Mighty, through whom we have known the Father
and the Spirt has come to the world! Holy Immortal, Comforter and Spirit,
who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son. Holy Trinity, glory to
Hymn of Great Vespers. Sunday of Pentecost
The Service of Kneeling, which is the Vespers of the Monday pf the Holy
Spirit, is one of the most solemn acts of worship during the whole
liturgical year. During this service on the day of Pentecost we glorify God
by recounting His great acts of salvation in history. We solemnly kneel
before God recognizing our sinfulness and we earnestly implore Him for
forgiveness. We pray for God's visitation, protection, and renewal through
fresh outpourings of the Spirit. We sing triumphantly, "Who is so great a
God as our God? You alone are the God who does wonders!"
Today all nations beheld wondrous things in the city of David when the Holy
Spirit came down in tongues of fire, as Luke the divine author has clearly
The Holy Spirit is light and life and living source of knowledge, Spirit of
wisdom, Spirit of understanding, righteous, just, perceptive, ruling, and
cleansing from offenses, God and godlike, fire produced from fire, speaking,
working, and distributing gifts ...
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth, present in all places and filling
all things, the treasury of blessings and giver of life: come and abide in
us. Cleanse us from all impurity and save our souls, gracious Lord.
Hymns of Praises. Sunday of Pentecost. Chanted during the Service of
Taken from the Book, A Year of the Lord
Some sayings from the Holy Fathers on the feast of Pentecost ...
("Phasekh" is a reference to Pascha, the "ruach" is the Spirit)
"After this solemnity (Phasekh) we shall also celebrate the Feast of
Weeks, called Pentecost, on which we shall reap as perfect sheaves and
fullest ears that which flowered in spring."
-Didymus of Alexandria
"In spring we have the Phasekh, when I am saved; in summer we have the
Pentecost, when we celebrate the glory of the resurrection after the manner
of the age to come."
- Ambrose of Milan
"...adding day by day the sacred Pentecost, which we regard as
festival upon festival, we shall keep the festival of the ruach who is
already near us through the messiah Yahushua."
- St. Athanasius
"In former times Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai and he
proclaimed the commandments of the sovereign before the people. There the
deity came down to the mountain, here the sacred ruach came to be visible in
cloven tongues of fire."
- St. Augustine
"On that day the Torah was given according to the Old Covenant, on the
same day the sacred ruach came according to the new grace; on that day Moses
received the Tablets of the Torah, on the same day the choir of the apostles
received the ruach coming down, instead of the Tablets which were given to
- St. John Chrysostom
We live for Him. We live because of Him.
Peace and grace.
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