Here’s a “Jeopardy” question for you under the Bible Feast Days category. Name the third most
important festival in Christianity? You have ten seconds. Time’s up. The answer is Pentecost.
Following Easter and then the Nativity (Christmas), this feast day for the Church celebrates the gift
of the Spirit. It follows Ascension Day ten days earlier on Thursday.
With Jesus bidding farewell to his faithful disciples, their gift of the Spirit follows. In Acts 2:1-11,
the event is narrated in detail, describing “tongues of fire resting on their heads” and those who were
there were given utterance in every language and understood what was being said.
The reading continues, but is not included in the Sunday reading, that “all were amazed,”
and some mocked the participants and said, “They are filled with new wine.” Well, exactly! It was a new
kind of wine; the gift of the Spirit.
This passage is rich with symbolism. The fire is a symbol of the “Spirit” as it is preceded by a
“mighty rush of wind” just like the wind that moved across the waters during creation. This is a
second creation, the creation of a new people, inspired by the events of Jesus and Resurrection.
The tongues of fire were adopted by the bishops of the early church as their head gear,
pointed flame shaped hats reminding all believers of their inspiration. We usually celebrate the
day as the birthday of the Church-as the Spirit is available to all people. Sometimes we use red balloons
or have a birthday cake as a coffee hour treat.
Once I picked up fifty helium filled balloons for a Sunday service and proceeded to drive
several miles to the church. I discovered that I couldn’t see out of the car! That was an exciting drive,
but I never did that again! Well, anyway, it’s a joyful day and hopefully filled with a Spirit of Love and blessings.
Fr. Paul Gilbert