Daily Meditations

Wednesday before the Holy Feast of Pentecost

From Pascha to Pentecost, by Protopresbyter Dr. George D. Dragas

The Pentecostal Period. The word, Pentecost means “the fiftieth” and is used to designate the great event of the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Epiphoitesis) upon the Apostles and the Church on the 50th day after the Resurrection of Christ, just ten days after His Ascension into Heaven.

Before His Passion, the Lord spoke to his Disciples about the gift of the Holy Spirit, which they were to receive after the Ascension. The details are preserved in the Gospel of Saint John: “I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will defend you and always be with you” (14:16). He also said, “The Holy Spirit can not come to defend you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you” (16:7). After His Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Disciples, and He said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22). This was a foretaste of the Outpouring (Epiphoitesis) on Pentecost Sunday.

Near the end of Saint Luke’s Gospel, Christ tells His Disciples, “I will send you the One My Father has promised, but you must stay in the city until you are given power from above” (24:49). It is in the Acts of the Apostles, however, that Saint Luke speaks of the fulfillment of this promise: “On the day of Pentecost, all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly, there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind. It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever language the Spirit let them speak” (2:1-4).

Since ancient times, the 50-day period from Pascha to Pentecost has been called Pentecost because what began with the Lord breathing the Holy Spirit on His Disciples was consummated with the full descent of the Spirit upon the Disciples and the whole Church. Thus, the Church was fully born and began to grow.

During this period, all kneeling is prohibited as a tangible confession of the Resurrection of Christ. It is only on the actual day of Pentecost that kneeling is resumed, and is connected with a special kneeling ceremony (akolouthia gonyklesias), which consists of prayers for the gift of the Holy Spirit, hence the name, “Kneeling Day” (tes gonatistes) for Pentecost.

Later on, another week was added to these 50 days in order to celebrate the post-feast (metheorta) of the Feast of Pentecost. Thus, today the period of movable Feasts after Pascha spans eight weeks, to include the Sunday of All Saints (Agion Panton), and is divided into three parts: 1) The 40 post-festal days of Pascha, 2) The Feast of the Ascension, together with its post-festal period, and 3) The Feast of Pentecost together with its own post-festal period. The hymns of this period are contained in the special Pentecostal book, the Pentecostarion.

Pentecost Sunday. The Christian feast of Pentecost corresponds to the Hebrew feast which bears the same name, and in which the first fruits of Israel’s new crops were offered to God (Protogennemata).

The Christian feast commemorates the first fruits of the preaching of the Apostles, which followed the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them on the day of Pentecost, and on account of which the first Christian Church was born and established with three thousand souls. Ever since Pentecost, the Spirit abides in the Church and regulates the Church’s life and growth. The Spirit brings the entire constitution of the Church together as the Body of Christ. As the Comforter (Parakletos), He is the pledge of Christ’s return and final victory with the entire body of the Church.

The celebration of this feast goes back to apostolic times. According to ancient custom, catechumens were baptized on this occasion and therefore, even today, no Trisagion is sung during the Liturgy. Instead, the hymn “Those baptized into Christ, have put on Christ,” is sung. The vespers of this day, following immediately after the Divine Liturgy, is especially notable because of the long kneeling supplication, which is offered after the Entrance. This supplication is the first of several which follow after the feast, having been previously suspended during the Pentecostal Period.

Pentecost is celebrated throughout the week and is returned on the following Saturday. The Monday of the post-festal period is distinguished from the other post-festal days because it is dedicated to the Holy Spirit (Deftera tou Agiou Pneumatos). The services of the day follow the pattern of the preceding Pentecostal Sunday. Fasting is not observed during the week of (after) Pentecost.

The Doxastikon hymn of the day is the well known prayer with which most Church services begin and which is used by many Orthodox Christians as a first Prayer of each day: “Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, present everywhere and filling all things, come and abide in us; cleanse us from every stain and save our souls Gracious Lord.”

~Taken from Mystagogy: The Weblog of John Sanidopoulos, http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/04/from-pascha-to-pentecost.html.