Malankara World

Pentecost - The Birthday of Church

Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church

A Scriptural Reflection on the Solemnity of Pentecost

by Carl E. Olson


Acts 2:1-11
Psa. 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17
Jn. 20:19-23 or Jn. 14:15-16, 23b-26

In the Old Testament the feast of Pentecost (from the Greek word for “fiftieth”) was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals of Israel, a celebration of the spring harvest that took place fifty days after the offering of first fruits at Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For Christians, Pentecost marks the fruits and harvest of another sort. It is a celebration of a formative event in the history of the early Church—the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the newly birthed Church and the first bold proclamation of the Gospel by Peter, the head apostle, among the Jews.

“The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes.’” (CCC, par. 1076).

This outpouring of the Holy Spirit and manifestation of the Church are described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11. A group of men and women who had been afraid and confused in the dark days following the Crucifixion of Jesus were transformed supernaturally into fearless and passionate evangelists, emboldened by the Helper without whom, Paul writes, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord.’” (1 Cor. 12:3).

United together in anticipation of the gift promised by the Lord, the apostles and disciples experienced a theophany, or visitation by God. The loud noise and fire is similar to what the Israelites experienced at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:16-18), while the sensation of strong, rushing wind is like preceding God’s visit to Elijah on the same mountain (1 Kings. 19:11-12). Fire was a common element in Old Testament theophanies, such as the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the desert (Ex. 13:21-22). Particularly striking is the description found in Psalm 29: “The voice of the Lord strikes with fiery flame” (v 7).

The outward signs seen and heard in the upper room fulfilled the prophecy of John of the Baptist, who declared that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:16). In this way the people of God are purified, empowered, and prepared to go forth and carry out the work begun by the Son of God.

The Christians first witnessed to Jews “from every nation” who either were visiting Jerusalem for the feast or who had moved there from other countries. This miraculous gift of tongues—being able to speak in a multitude of languages—is an undoing of the ancient curse of the Tower of Babel, when “the Lord confused the speech of all the world” (Gen. 11:1-9) because of man’s disobedient attempt to create a perfect society without the aid of God. On Pentecost the one body of the society of the Church was created by the Holy Spirit, uniting Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free persons from every tongue and nation.

It has become common for some Christians to pit the Holy Spirit against “the Church,” as though the Third Person of the Trinity will only be hindered by structure and organization. But that is contrary to what Luke and Paul wrote about the early Church, which was not only animated by the Holy Spirit, but organized by Him as well. There is one body, Paul explained to the Christians at Corinth—a rather rowdy and disorganized group of believers—and that body, the Church, has been formed by baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit.

“What the soul is to the human body,” wrote St. Augustine, “the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church” (CCC, par. 797). The Church is both charismatic and Catholic, a single body of many parts, united in and through the Holy Spirit. Drink deeply, then, of the one Spirit!

Source: Our Sunday Visitor, May 27, 2007

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Amen

Happy Birthday Church!

See Also:

What is the relevance of Pentecost in our Church?
by Fr.Saji K. Mathew

When we think about Holy Spirit the two factors which rush to our mind are Love (agape) and Cooperation (Selfless Unity with identity intact). Both these things are found in perfection in the Holy Trinity. Holy Trinity is the model and source of encouragement for humanity in the contemporary world. We should derive energy to grow in spirit from that divine source.

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
by St Leo the Great

The Majesty of the Holy Ghost is never separate from the Omnipotence of the Father and the Son, and whatever the Divine government accomplishes in the ordering of all things, proceeds from the Providence of the whole Trinity. Therein exists unity of mercy and loving-kindness, unity of judgment and justice: nor is there any division in action where there is no divergence of will. What, therefore, the Father enlightens, the Son enlightens, and the Holy Ghost enlightens: and while there is one Person of the Sent, another of the Sender, and another of the Promiser, both the Unity and the Trinity are at the same time revealed to us, so that the Essence which possesses equality and does not admit of solitariness is understood to belong to the same Substance but not the same Person.

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