Pentecost--We Celebrate the Birthday of the Church this Sunday
May 13, 2016
The Church seems to specialize in using exotic and mysterious-sounding names that turn out to have very simple explanations. One such word is Pentecost which simply means the fiftieth day. In Jewish tradition, seven weeks after the Passover saw the celebration of the Feast of Weeks, originally a harvest festival but by the time of Christ principally a commemoration of the giving of the Law to Moses. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that it was on this day that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with wind and fire and transformed them from a small group of followers of Jesus into a missionary movement which went out into all the known world.
In medieval times some churches were built with Holy Ghost holes so that on this day doves, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, could be let down on the congregation. More alarmingly, some churches got creative and tossed bits of burning straw through the Holy Ghost hole. Certainly a strong, if frightening, symbol of the tongues of fire that appeared on the heads of the faithful.
Today we will celebrate more sedately with the congregation wearing red in memory of the flames of the Spirit and will adorn our Pentecost cake with flames cut from strawberries.
Although our observance may have moved from alarming to sedate, we are still at one with the faithful two thousand years ago as we pray Vene Sanctus Spiritus, “Come, Holy Spirit!”