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! -Kontakion of Pentecost
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to the Father. Before leaving His apostles, he assured them, saying, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you”
(John 16:7). The Acts of the Holy Apostles tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in “tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them” (Acts 2:3). This coming of the Spirit reverses the disorder, confusion, and disunity of Babel that man’s sin brought into creation and brings the Church–and God’s creation–to unity.
Every year the Church commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit fifty days after Pascha. The vestments worn for the feast of Pentecost are green, which is the color of God’s creation and the color of life. The Spirit breathes breathes life into creation, as the psalm says: “You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 103:30). In the afternoon of Pentecost we celebrate Vespers with the kneeling prayers. As the apostles were gathered in the upper room, so we gathered in the church as a community, the priest facing the people, for the praying of the kneeling prayers. During these prayers we kneel for the first time since Great and Holy Week. This excerpt from one of the kneeling prayers explains why we now return to kneeling:
Christ the Word of the Father, the Only-begotten of God, Who took flesh from the Virgin for the sake of our salvation, suffered of His own Will so that He might redeem us from our sins, and rose from the dead on the third day. We were buried with Him in His death, and He destroyed the power of Death which is the Devil and his wicked demons. Wherefore, we pray without bending our knees at all, and until the completion of Pentecost we stand at prayer, and we sing with the prophet against our enemies, saying: “They are bound and have fallen, but we are risen and stand up” But at the manifesting unto us of the Spirit in tongues of fire, we bend our knees upon the earth, for we are not able to endure the sight of Him, and we confess that through the coming of the Holy Spirit we have been taught the worship of the Life-giving Trinity. We know that God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him ought to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Wherefore, let us pray, crying out and saying: “O Spirit the Paraclete inflame our mind and our heart that we may say in a manner befitting God: ‘Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, the Co-Essential Trinity.’ ”
Below are some pictures from our celebration of the feast.
Thank you to Leslie Smyth for photographing.