The Holy Feast of Pentecost (June 4)

by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, HIEROTHEOS

Before Christ ascended into Heaven He gave a command to His Disciples to return to Jerusalem after His Ascension and remain there until they were invested with power from Heaven. Thus He gave them the promise that they would receive the Holy Spirit, about which He had spoken during His life.

This promise by Christ to the Disciples was realized fifty days after Pascha and ten days after His Ascension to heaven. Thus in the Church we observe the feast of Pentecost, in which we honor the Holy Trinity, and on the following day we celebrate and glorify the Holy Spirit ("Monday of the Holy Spirit"). So the feast of Pentecost is a feast of the Holy Trinity.

We do not intend to speak exhaustively of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, but we shall emphasize only those events and teachings of Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers which refer to Christ. Therefore we shall place more emphasis on the Christological events referring to the Holy Spirit. And since Christology cannot be understood apart from Trinitarian doctrine, we shall also deal with the dogma about the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The feast of Pentecost is also included in what the Church calls the "Twelve Feasts", because it is the last feast of the Divine Economy. The incarnation of Christ was aimed at victory over death and the coming of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of men. Moreover, it is well known that the purpose of the ecclesiastical and spiritual life is that we should become members of the Body of Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. Those two are inseparably linked together.

The holy hymnographer calls Pentecost the last feast concerning man's reformation and renewal: "Let us believers joyfully celebrate a last feast: it is Pentecost, fulfillment and deadline of a promise". Thus, if the Annunciation to the Theotokos is the beginning of the incarnation of the Logos/Word and the Divine Economy, Pentecost is the end, since it is then that man, through the Holy Spirit, becomes a member of the risen Body of Christ.

We can also place Pentecost, as well as what relates to the Holy Spirit and Christ, in this framework because Christology cannot be understood apart from Pneumatology, nor Pneumatology apart from Christology.

The descent of the Holy Spirit took place on Sunday. And here we see the value of Sunday, for the great feast of the Lord took place on it. According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the creation of the world began on the first day, that is to say on Sunday, for it was then that light was created, the renewal of creation began on Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ; the completion of creation took place on Sunday with descent of the Holy Spirit. The making of creation was done by the Father with the cooperation (Synergy) of the Son and the Holy Spirit, the renewal was done by the Son with the good will of the Father and the cooperation (Synergy) of the Holy Spirit, and the completion of creation was done by the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son.

Of course, in saying these things, we are giving importance to the Persons that played the leading part in the creation, renewal and completion of creation. But finally, as we have been taught and we believe, the energy of the Triune God is theirs in common, and one Person can never be separated and isolated from the others in the Holy Trinity.

The Christian Pentecost in which we celebrated the descent of the Holy Spirit coincides with the Jewish Pentecost. It was on the day when the Jews were celebrating Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended upon the holy Apostles and made them members of the Risen Body of Christ.

Pentecost is the second most important feast of the Jews after the Passover, and they were celebrating Moses' receiving God's Law on Mt. Sinai according to the tradition. Forty days after the first feast of the Passover, Moses had gone up on Mt. Sinai to receive God's Law. But in parallel with that, the Jewish Pentecost was an expression of their thankfulness for the harvest of fruits. Since it coincides with the period of the harvest, they called it a "harvest festival" and they offered the first-fruits in the Temple. The feast of Pentecost, which was celebrated with great splendor by the Jews, was called the Feast of Weeks (see Ex. 34:22; Lev. 23:15-17; Num. 28:26, 31; Deut. 16:9-19).

The brief reference to the Jewish Pentecost indicates that it was the model of the New Testament Pentecost. If Moses received the Law of the Old Testament, on the day of the Christian Pentecost the Disciples received the Holy Spirit and thus experienced the law of the New Testament, the law of Divine grace. If in the Old Testament the unincarnate Logos/Word gave the upper room, and they became members of His Glorious Body. If at the Pentecost of the Old Testament the first-fruits of the harvest were offered, at the Pentecost of the New Testament the first of the rational fruits were offered from the harvest which Christ Himself made, that is to say the Apostles were offered to God.

Of course there is a clear difference between God's revelation on Mt. Sinai and God's revelation in the upper room in Jerusalem. Mt. Sinai "was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole people quaked greatly" (Exodus 19:18). Indeed the commandment had been given that no one should approach the mountain, because he would die: "Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 19:23). But the same thing did not happen on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. The Disciples were filled with joy and transformed: from fearful men they became intrepid and from mortal men they became gods by grace.

The difference between Sinai and the upper room in Jerusalem is seen in the difference between the Law of the Old Testament and the law of the New Testament. In the old time the Law was given on stone tablets, now the law is engraved on the hearts of the Holy Apostles. The Apostle Paul says: "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:3). The descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the prophecy of the Prophets Jeremiah, as the Apostle Paul wrote: "I will put my law in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Hebrews 8:10).

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George