Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Does the Church Celebrate Pentecost?

As part of our “Why” series this year, I have chosen to discuss the importance of the Feast of Holy Pentecost and why it is celebrated in the Church. On the surface Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the “birthday” of the Church, but that ignores the truth that the Church is actually a continuation of the Old Testament as the New Israel. The New Testament Church, the Orthodox Church, is not a new institution founded on Pentecost, so it must mean something deeper than just a religious founder’s day.

The Feast of Pentecost is the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit to live within the Church. Shortly before His Passion, Christ promised the Disciples, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16.13-14) Just before His Glorious Ascension back to His Throne in Heaven Jesus said, “I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.”(Luke 24.52) Combined, these both mean Pentecost is fulfillment of God’s promise that He would send a Comforter (another name used for the Holy Spirit), so we could be assured of the Truth being taught in the Church.
Blessed are You, O Christ our God. You
made the fishermen all-wise, by sending down
upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them
You drew the world into Your net. O Lover of
mankind, glory to You.

However, based upon the Apolytikion above, there was a purpose even greater than comfort and truth. While the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, the Church has a mission to draw the world into God’s net, which is the Church. This explains why at the moment of Pentecost the Holy Spirit granted the ability to each of the Apostles to speak various languages so they could spread the Gospel throughout the world without any worries about not being understood.

In a world filled with pain and suffering, Pentecost gives us comfort in knowing the pain is only temporary. In a world filled with many, VERY MANY, interpretations about who God really is, Pentecost gives us comfort knowing the Church has been guided into all Truth by God Himself. We can trust the wisdom of the Church over the centuries, since that wisdom has remained unchanged as first taught by the Holy Apostles. And as Saint Jude said, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1.3)

Pentecost is a celebration of truth, comfort, trust, faith, wisdom, evangelism, the Church, the Saints, and the power of God from one high. Pentecost is a celebration of Orthodoxy.

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