​​St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost Sunday

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Readings at the Liturgy: 1) Acts 2:1-11. 2) 1 Cor 12:3b-13. 3) John 7:37-52, 8:12


My dear parishioners and friends,

            One of the principal festivals of the Old Covenant is the feast of Harvest (Exodus 23 16) which marks two events: Israel’s celebration of the wheat harvest, and God’s giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. This feast takes place fifty days after Pascha/Passover (Leviticus 23:16), hence its Greek name “Pentecost” (Tobit 2:1, Acts 20:16) which means “Fiftieth Day.” As to the harvest, the first theme of Pentecost is the plenty and abundance of the ripe planting. As to the giving of the Law, it was on the 50th day after Israel crossed over the Red Sea and out of Egyptian bondage, that while they were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, almighty God solemnly gave them the Law, His Covenant (cf. Exodus, 19:1). The Old Covenant feast of Pascha/Passover, which recalls the events through which Israel was liberated from Egypt, and the Old Covenant feast of Pentecost, recalling especially the Covenant which God, in wind and storm, inaugurated with His people on Sinai, were the principle festivals of the year. And, as Christians, we continue to celebrate these two great feasts to this day.

            Our Christian celebration of these Israelite feasts proclaims the continuity of the New Covenant with the Old, and the fulfillment in the New Covenant of the signs foreshadowed in the Old. Thus the Christian Pascha/Passover proclaims that Christ is the Lamb of God, through whose blood we are led from sin to grace, from death to life. (As an aside, I might mention that the word “Easter,” by which the English language designates the paschal feast, the most important feast in the Christian calendar, is unfortunate. The word was originally a pagan term co-opted for Christian use. Other languages use some word derived from the Hebrew Pesach, meaning Passover. Thus the New Testament Greek word Pascha, from which are derived the French, Italian, Spanish, etc., names for the feast. But I digress. I can already picture someone, I won’t say who, think-ing, “Enough with the history lesson...)

            During the ambon prayer on Ascension Thursday (which occurred this year on May 21st), the priest prayed “Lord Jesus Christ... make us worthy on the Fiftieth Day to splendidly celebrate the most honourable descent of Your Holy Spirit...” Like its Jewish forerunner, the Christian Pentecost, the 50th day after the pas-chal feast, also celebrates plenty and abundance — not only the re-awakening of the life and green of spring, but the wonderful food God gives us, “the finest wheat... honey from the rock” (ps 81:17), which is the spiritual sustenance of His word and sacraments. In Ukrainian, Pentecost is also called the “Green Holiday” (“Zeleni Svyata”). Green vestments are worn and churches are often decorated with an abundance of greenery, remind-ing us of “the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,” as we say in the Symbol of Faith. The Lord has given us His Spirit, His love, His life. He has given us Himself in abundance. As individuals gathered together we form the Church which is the Temple of God — the New Creation, ultimate and free, which is destined to be called to the Kingdom of Heaven.

            Pentecost is the culmination of the paschal feast. Christ’s preaching of the Kingdom, His death and resurrection, His ascension  into glory — indeed His entire mission — leads to its fulfillment in the outpour-ing of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the inauguration of the New Covenant. That day was the beginning of something entirely new that will continue until the Lord comes again. Pentecost is not simply a past event. It is an ongoing reality that we must experience, receive and live. Yes, it is ongoing because the Spirit’s coming never ceases. It is He who makes the mystery of Christ present. May each of us be open to His coming today and every day. We need our personal Pentecost: we need holiness, we need fire in our heart,  the right words on our lips and conviction in our lives! I miss you all.

 — Father Conrad.