The disciples gathered on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection were not keeping their first Pentecost. For them, Pentecost was the fiftieth day after Passover, a feast of the first fruits of the harvest. It was the second most important feast of the year. Today, Jews gather on the eve of the feast to study scripture and the law, and after the feast begins at sundown, spend the day in joyful social gatherings. The meaning of the celebration is the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, so for Christians the connection to the gifts of the Holy Spirit is obvious.

In Sicily and in the Pantheon in Rome, today the descent of the Holy Spirit is enacted with a stunning ritual. Some churches there have an “eye” in the roof open to the sky, called an oculus. After the Gospel today, thousands of rose petals fall from the oculus onto the assembly. Churches and homes are decked in greenery and flowers to express the new life the Holy Spirit brings on this, the “birthday of the church.”

-Rev. James Field

© J. S. Paluch Co.